Role of public health institutions in public health justice

PDF of slides from talk at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

…In these times of historical and current accounting of the effect of anchor institutions in community, at home and abroad, how do we speak truth to power and forge new alliances toward justice? As the field of public health grapples with the social, political, and economic determinants of health, how has a powerful institution like JHU been influential in determining neighborhood health in East Baltimore? Has the development of the institution (and others like it) contributed to the growing wealth and health gap in East Baltimore (and elsewhere)?

Come join us for a discussion with Dr. Marisela Gomez this Wednesday, April 1st at 12pm in Room E6159 for a challenging discussion critical to the past, present, and future of health equity in Baltimore and beyond.

The history of prestigious institutions and their power to exploit those most vulnerable to grow power is vast. To be truthful participants in changing this history we must account for this history and repair it. Transparency begins to hold accountable the past transgressions and find solutions beyond what our fragile human nature has succumbed to thus far. Inequitable health outcomes, arrest rates, educational achievement, income and housing value are symptoms of inequitable communities, of power and privilege. Bridging within and across all our systems-community and economic development, education, criminal, housing, recreation- of society is a large task. How do we forge a path towards equity, while assuring everyone is at the table, and contributing?

Establishing values of inclusivity, accountability, transparency,and reflection/reflexivity in all processes is important. These values must infuse and be embedded in the tools of planning/policy development, practice/praxis, evaluation, public relations/media. And most, most importantly, WE THE PEOPLE, must be involved in all steps of the process toward justice…


If interested in any slides of presentation, send a contact.

Contemplating peaceful and skillful means to justice,

Audience feedback on ‘Planning to Stay’ in Baltimore

Hello folks,

IMG-20140320-01382At the presentation with Mindy Fullilove and myself last week Thursday March 13,(held at Red Emma’s and co-sponsored by Red Emma’s and Baltimore Racial Justice Action) the focus on ‘planning to stay’ in our cities and the elements of urban restoration were discussed (featured in her latest book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities). Participants were invited to stand up and take the pledge of ‘planning to stay’ by turning to their neighbor and speaking this out loud. Folks were then asked to write down on a piece of paper the things they wanted to change and add to Baltimore to make it a place they would want to stay. There were 75 responses from approximately 150 people in the audience. The categories of what should be added included better schools, housing for all incomes, employment that sustains families, better transportation, increased safety, diversity, solidarity, recreation centers, arts, political engagement and competence, and increased co-mingling of our sorted out city in all its areas of living.

The categories of what should be changed were similar with an additional 3 responses that the vitality and culture of the city should remain the same. Individual responses are here: What would you change/add in Baltimore.

A recording of the presentation and discussion is here: Presentation

This was such a thoughtful, comprehensive, and spontaneous contribution of what parts of Baltimore want to see happen for them to enjoy and celebrate their city, making it a more equitable and sustainable city for all to enjoy. We are contemplating sending a letter to the editor of one of the periodicals with a summary of your responses. Our voice as part of envisioning and implementing a democratic process-a revolutionary step- of claiming, changing, and maintaining the city is vital for us who all plan to stay and participate in making Baltimore a city we are all proud to call home, today and tomorrow for the old and the new!

Thank you for participating!!

Join the discussion about bringing ‘community’ into community rebuilding: how would you do it?

at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library-
Today, Tuesday at 6:30pm, February 25, 2014

Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America

Enoch Pratt Free Library Black History Month Book event

Interview: Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, WYPR

Audio of presentation/discussion; Q&A starts at 45 mins, discussion starts at 61 mins

Audience discussion/suggestions in regard community rebuilding for better outcomes: Audience disucssion Pratt Library.2.25.14

PDF of presentation: Send a contact request!

Redevelopment policies and implications for health

Excerpt from Introduction of ‘Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore’:

Health Outcomes
Socioeconomic and political oppression of African American people throughout the history of America has directly resulted in the creation of neighborhoods of urban decay and poverty in the 21st century, which in turn affects the health of individuals living in these neighborhoods. The unequal and discriminatory laws and policies resulted in disinvestment and marginalization of communities in which majority African American lived leading to unhealthy physical environments of unsanitary, abandoned, and run-down streets, schools, parks, health clinics, recreation centers, stores, and houses, and high crime. The consequences or effects of living in such disinvested neighborhood, help to determine exposure to different levels of stress faced daily by individuals living, playing, working and learning in these communities as well the internal and external resources available to address these stressors in a healthy way.
The effect of having a low-paying job or no job, being African American or part of a racial minority, and education below high school level independently and together affects the health of an individual. These socioeconomic factors or social determinants increase the likelihood of an individual having a variety of physical and mental illnesses and a shorter lifespan.
The neighborhood effects and social and economic characteristics of individuals living in East Baltimore, together and individually, resulted in East Baltimore being characterized as one of the least healthy communities in America.
Community rebuilding efforts must therefore assess the communities’ health history and assure that the processes of rebuilding are participatory and not hierarchical as has been the intention and practice of EBDI and its partners. Rebuilding with input and direction from those living in the community can begin to change the historic oppressions that have directly and indirectly contributed to creating unhealthy communities. Assessment of the health impact, as well as the economic, social, educational, environmental, and political impact, on the people affected by community rebuilding processes must be included in an analysis of “benefit for whom.”
For those who organize and challenge the powerful stakeholders for more equitable rebuilding processes, the consequent health impact of increased stress must be assessed in light of the already existent stress resulting from living in abandoned and disempowered communities. These types of analyses must be incorporated into the strategies for rebuilding communities like Middle East Baltimore in order to address the historic damage and narrow the gap of unequal benefit to the stakeholders involved today. Such comprehensive analyses will begin to address the power imbalances which serve to widen the growing disparity in health between communities with differing degree of resources and which are separated by race and class.

For more specific discussion of the effects of unfair development as a social determinant of health and potential mechanisms for poor health outcome see chapter 9, ‘Poverty of health’.

This link ( Development and health) provides a PDF of a presentation at Morgan State University on October 22, 2013 highlighting the health effects from the racist and classist development policies and practices that have shaped our cities in America.

Enjoy and organize!!

Morgan State University

How do current redevelopment policies affect the health of communities: the people and place?

Join us for a discussion on displacement and redevelopment from a public health perspective!

Where: Morgan State University, MSU Communications Building, Ruth T. Sheffey Lecture Hall, CC101
When: October 22, 2013 6:00 PM

This link ( Development and health) provides a PDF of a presentation at Morgan State University on October 22, 2013 highlighting the health effects from the racist and classist development policies and practices that have shaped our cities in America.

Book presentations and discussion!

Join me for two upcoming events:

Baltimore Book Festival
September 29, 2013 3:00 – 4:00 PM at Red Emma’s Radical Book Fair Pavilion
Charles and Monument, Mt. Vernon Baltimore
Baltimore Book Festival>

Recording of talk

Baltimore Dialogue book talk
September 30, 2013 9:30am – 11:00 am
Amazing Grace Lutheran Church ~ 2424 McElderry Street Baltimore, MD 21205
Baltimore Book Club>

Study Circle Pamphlet: Race and class determine ‘who gets the land’

Dear friends,

The link below will allow access to a web version of a pamphlet developed for study circles addressing community organizing and community rebuilding in Middle East and East Baltimore. The ‘points of reflections’ on the last pages uses the book as a resource.
There is also a print version of this pamphlet which will print into a 2-sided pamphlet, front to back, and can be stapled for convenience. Please be in touch with me if you would like access to the print version.

Please use as a tool on this path of changing the status quo of rebuilding disinvested and abandoned communities for the white and middle and upper classes while neglecting low income and historic communities of color-and the acute and long-term trauma caused by these oppressive and discriminatory practices.

In spirit!


Rebuilding Middle East Baltimore:
Race and class determine ‘who gets the land’
Marisela B Gomez

Images: Groundbreaking for Hopkins student housing during 2 rebuilding projects in East Baltimore (1956 Broadway Redevelopment Project, black and white photo; 2001-current Johns Hopkins and EBDI Development Project, color photo). In both, more than 800 households, of low income and African American people, were displaced to make room for Johns Hopkins expansion. The legacy of this history of power imbalance continues today, in the people and the spaces of East Baltimore.

Race and class determine ‘who gets the land’ PDF/slides of April 1st public talk


This dropbox link should allow you to download and/or print the powerpt presentation from April 1, 2013 public talk at MICA on displacement and resistance in Middle East Baltimore.