Why does Baltimore need a Black Worker Center?

The thriving of low-income Black workers in Baltimore and beyond is critical for equitable access to housing, food, education, health, recreation, transportation. When someone who works for a living, is still unable to afford adequate food, shelter, clothing and medicine, we remain an inequitable society. When those workers congregate into the same racial/ethnic group, we have systematic racism: racism which is not only individualized but embedded deep within the policies and infrastructures of our society. A Black Worker Center can be a base of organizing to address this inequity for black people in Baltimore*.

The ability to work is the first step toward equity. This means that a person has the physical and mental wellness, health, to support them finding employment. The second step is being qualified to work: has the person had the necessary training to compete in the marketplace for a position? The third step is the availability of work. The fourth step is that the place of employment supports the worker so they can stay in the position and thrive. This fourth step brings us back full circle to the first: a thriving person has the ability to work. It’s a cycle that continues and that either allows a healthy and holistic body and mind to thrive, or not: on a cellular, organ, individual, community level.

Cycle of workAbility to work

Our environment supports our ability to work by supporting or physical and mental well being. This includes having healthy food, adequate shelter, regular and affordable access to preventive health care, a safe community, and a life not burdened by the stress of systematic discrimination. For a Black body, none of these conditions for a healthy life is assured. In fact, being Black increases the likelihood that these conditions are diminished and that an ongoing struggle is necessary to assure one or all of these conditions are in place. The historical trauma of slavery and current racism for Black people in America is a risk factor for diminished physical and mental health. This history includes government policies and public:private partnerships resulting in redlining, segregation and abandonment, urban renewal, and serial forced displacement. This historical and current racial oppression have increased the likelihood of low-income Black communities living with increased crime, drug trade, food deserts, diminished infrastructure, inadequate education, housing, transportation, and health services, and abandoned/boarded housing. These environments increase the risk of diminished health and shorter life spans. Low-income jobs which do not allow a family to leave such neighborhoods and laws and policies which continue community rebuilding that segregate and displace residents continue the risk of diminished health, and ability to work.

black.povertyBlack.mortality

Qualified to work

Being qualified to work requires that a person has had the opportunity to receive training that makes them competitive with others seeking similar employment. But if a low-income Black person, growing up in an abandoned and under-invested community has not received adequate education and training, they cannot compete with a person growing up in a neighborhood which allowed access to adequate education and training. If a low-income Black person has been in a community without role models who have succeeded in the market/workplace, they have not benefited from this type of informal-training. If a low-income Black person has received education that is not truthful about the courage, resilience, and accomplishments of Black people, they can/will internalize these wrong perceptions and believe that they cannot strive or achieve great things. And if the communities in which a low-income Black worker lives is not connected to a functional transportation system, they will be challenged to make it to work on time. Access to the workplace qualifies one to work.

Race.unemployment

black.education

Availability of Work

There must be jobs available for low-income workers. Jobs which provide on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and access to education are important to assure that a low-income person can make their way out of a low-income lifestyle. The people hiring for these jobs must be trained in anti-oppression/anti-racism so they will not discriminate against hiring Black workers. Low-income jobs should not be equated to inadequate-income jobs. This means low-income jobs should pay enough to afford a family to: live in healthy neighborhoods, access adequate health care, access nutritious food. If employers in Baltimore will not/cannot pay adequate income to afford a family to live in a healthy neighborhood, a guaranteed basic income may be necessary to assure low-income families can break this cycle of poverty.

Livingwagebaltimore

Supportive Work Environment

Whether a person remains in a position once hired is determined by many factors. Are they promoted the same as other workers? For a Black worker, are they promoted, paid, and treated the same as White workers? Do co-workers or supervisors aggress Black workers with language and behaviors? Are low-income workers treated fairly, provided health insurance, a living wage, regular raises? If the wages paid do not allow a worker to live in healthy neighborhoods then the work environment continues to contribute to diminished health, decreasing the ability to work and live in healthy communities: the inequitable and unhealthy work cycle for low-wage Black workers continue into another generation. If the work environment does not respect the worker, workers will look elsewhere for an income to support themselves and their family. This type of work can be perceived as not a viable option for work. If there is no work, as occurred during the industrial revolution when factory work left cities and large unemployment occurred in communities, hustling begins (Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Black Mental Health Alliance series, 2016). This results in decreased social cohesion and dysfunctional communities.

The generational impact of unfair low-wage work is detrimental to healthy community rebuilding for all workers; specifically detrimental for recovery from historical trauma for Black workers. Black Worker Centers are increasing across the US with Baltimore launching its center (Black workers share about challenges faced working in sub-contracting positions for big corporations) on Martin Luther King Day, January 2017. Baltimore Black Worker Center  (BBWC) is committed to building a Black worker base to address the conditions of workers and to organize to change unfair policies and introduce new policies which support equitable treatment and healthy living, working, and learning conditions for Black workers. If our most vulnerable populations thrive, all of Baltimore will thrive. The reverse is also true. Stay tuned for BBWC’s first report on the history and current status of Black workers in Baltimore.

*Low income work is defined as less than $35,000/year, gross.

# Maps: http://bniajfi.org/

$ Living Wage Table: http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/24510

 

What else has been happening besides the presidential race? The consistency of uneven development across the US

While the presidential race has taken up the airways nationally, locally many cities continue to struggle for equitable and sustainable development. In Boston, Iowa, Baltimore, Seattle, Berkley, residents and activists have been organizing and demanding housing and land rights. Read about tenants struggles for rent control in Berkley and Mississippi’s struggle to prevent rolling back civil rights laws at Verso blog. What else has been happening besides the presidential race?

The PRACTICE of change

TEDxWashingtonSquare: The Cutting Edge of Change, 10.15.16

JOIN US for a day of #PracticingChange as we bring greater awareness to the creative practices, models and essential elements on the cutting edge of change. From gentrification, to transformative residential communities, to meditation and policing, to changing our neural imprinting for justice…change is happening!

WHEN
SAT, OCTOBER 15
9:30 am–5:30 pm

WHERE
New York University, 40 Washington Square South

Livestream at TEDxWashingtonSquare.com

SOME OF OUR NOTABLE SPEAKERS & SPECIAL GUESTS

SHARON SALZBERG – meditation teacher; author; Co-Founder, Insight Meditation Society

ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS – author; activist; Zen priest; Founder, Center for Transformative Change

DAN HARRIS – Co-anchor, ABC News’ Nightline and Good Morning America (weekend edition)

MARISELA GOMEZ – community activist; author; public health professional; physician

SHAUNA SHAPIRO – clinical psychologist; Professor, Santa Clara University, CA

SAM DROEGE – author; Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey

COME EXPLORE with us the innovative ways change is taking place on both the personal and societal levels.

We are looking at cutting edge change from the micro-level within the tiniest neurotransmitters, among the behavior of bees, and in the inner lives of prison inmates, to systemic shifts taking place within the legal profession, health care, technology, politics and the fashion industry. We are drawing from a broad range of thinkers, doers and researchers across multiple disciplines, coming from New York and beyond.

JOIN US!
#PracticingChange

Baltimore government must be accountable to the people of Baltimore, not the rich!

The time is now to act for change. The wealthy persist in owning government and most of us citizens are unaware of how this results in continued hyper-segregation and race and class inequities. Locally we have a billionaire (Kevin Plank of Sagamore LLC) asking the city, state, and federal government to subsidize and guarantee his wealth-building campaign that would continue to segregate our city- a development aimed at constructing 14,000 housing units and amenities for those making more than $100,000 per year, Port Covington. Nationally we see this trend in private ownership of government (neoliberalism) in the form of Republican’s nomination of Donald Trump for presidency of the United States of America. The behavior of both these career capitalists relies on government to support their asset-accumulating trajectory in development. And “we the people” vote for who will be the “government” choosing to subsidize the wealthy. So when government fails to be accountable to the people of the city we have no recourse but to challenge it. It’s important that we recognize that in ignoring our responsibility in monitoring government spending we are nodding our heads in the way they currently spend our tax dollars. I suppose if we are okay with such corporate-welfare activities, then we can vote for Trump and let our city government pay for the infrastructure that would allow Sagamore LLC to gain more wealth. We have a say in all this if we decide we want to change business as usual.
Table. GovtsubsidyBaltimoreTable.footer

Sagamore’s request for government funding toward the development of Port Covington will be before the sub-committee this week. Councilman Carl Stokes will Chair a hearing on City Council Ordinance #16-0669 – the Port Covington Development District on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 5 p.m. The televised hearing will be held in the War Memorial Assembly Hall 1 st floor, 101 N. Gay Street (Lexington Street Entrance). Come ask our city government to explain why continuing to fund segregated developments is a more equitable and sustainable path? How is this type of government subsidy for higher income, professional class, and majority white people in 2016 in a geographic region (redlining) any different from the FHA and VA loans to white people in the 1950s (redlining)? Show them the data and then ask how doing the same thing again and again will result in a different outcome. Ask them how these subsidies might be used to assure affordable housing is built and assure integration and not continued segregation, Ask them to do a racial, social, health, and environmental impact assessment/analysis before they vote on any amount of subsidies for this and any other development in our city.

On Tuesday July 26 join advocates at Red Emma’s to discuss strategies for the July 27 hearing and actions leading up to the city council vote, and after.

Contact your city council representative and president (Bernard Jack Young) to request that the date for the full council vote be delayed until the public is sufficiently knowledgeable about how government subsidies are being used for a hyper-segregated development. There should be a clear agreement on local hiring, living-wage compensation, small business entrepreneurship and micro-loans for small businesses, affordable housing (rental and ownership) and a range of amenities affordable to all. If our public dollars are subsidizing a private project then the public must advise and monitor the private project. Past development projects heavily subsidized by the government, such as the current Johns Hopkins/EBDI/Casey/Forest City in East Baltimore, promised affordable housing and local hiring. Fifteen years later neither city or state representatives of the area will respond to questions about the outcomes of these promises. Neither EBDI or the Annie E. Casey Foundation will respond to such questions. None of these parties who negotiated the development terms will assess the benefit to Hopkins and its powerful partners and the benefit to local residents. After development agreements are voted on by the government, in Baltimore city, there is no recourse to assure accountability and transparency of promised outcomes. Previously set for August 28 the city council meeting to vote on TIFs for Port Covington was moved up to August 8. Question: “why the rush”?

Promise and Disappointment: Baltimore one year after the Uprising

See the original blog at Versobooks here

“All to say, last year’s uprising has created this space for my family to have this conversation. albeit painful, it’s also provided us with the choice to grow from these experiences that go way back beyond the uprising.” Daughter of a storeowner in West Baltimore, April 2016

From a meeting of Baltimore activists during the week of the curfew.

From a meeting of Baltimore activists during the week of the curfew.

It’s been one year since the uprising in Baltimore that followed the arrest, murder, and funeral of Freddie Gray. Mr. Gray died in police custody after a rough arrest and “rough ride”. It’s not the first time a rough ride — in which police leave a handcuffed or footcuffed person deliberately unsecured in the van, resulting in uncontrolled movement and potential injury — has accounted for the injury and death of a black man in Baltimore police custody. Following his arrest on April 12, 2015 and his death on April 19, peaceful protests occurred. After his funeral on April 27, residents of Sandtown-Winchester — Mr. Gray’s community — and others in West Baltimore affected by police brutality rose up in protest. Some protestors became violent, throwing bricks at windows, looting, and setting fire to property. The National Guard was called in, the city was placed under curfew, and tanks rolled around as if it was a war zone.

The tanks in Middle East Baltimore added to existing perceptions about the abandoned and boarded houses and businesses, the trash on the street and in the lots, the desolate look and feel at nighttime: “it’s like Beirut here.” After real estate segregation (both legal and illegal), redlining, deindustrialization, urban renewal, mass incarceration, and gentrification, Middle East Baltimore and other black sections of the city have been subject to disinvestment and left to survive on their own. While nearby universities and private institutions have exploited these same communities with the support of public dollars and public policy.

In the weeks following the night of violence, thousands rallied across the city to protest the legacy of this history. This uprising, and the eyes it focused on the death of yet another black body at the hands of the criminal justice system, brought attention to this long record of segregation and abandonment.

Many have compared it to the 1968 riots that followed Dr. King’s assassination, in which hundreds of businesses across the entire city were vandalized or looted to the tune of approximately $9 million. The people in power were afraid. The National Guard and state sheriffs patrolled the places in which wealth was concentrated or accumulated: Harbor East, Inner Harbor, Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, and the like. Those who sent them there feared that their holdings would be the next target if people felt compelled to correct years of unequal distribution of government favors. The anger of a few had overflowed after years of suppression and repeated injury, disrespect and neglect, and false promises. Indeed, rioting is the voice of those who have not been not listened to.

Like mosquitoes on horse dung, the media — local, national, and international — devoured the sensation of the unrest. Baltimore made news in Jamaica, Canada, Poland, China, Russia, Brazil, the UK, Australia, etc. We were world-famous, we were trending. One year later, what has changed? Did the government address the deeper causes underlying the unrest? That is: mass unemployment, underfunded schools, shuttered recreation centers, poor and inaccessible health care, “affordable housing” filled with rats, mold, and lead managed by slum landlords and speculators — unmonitored and un-reprimanded by government — food deserts, deteriorated infrastructure. Have any substantial changes been made to a criminal justice system that brings injury and death, repeatedly and disproportionately, to black bodies, like Mr. Gray? How have different communities in Baltimore contributed to the process of enacting necessary change at the local level since the killing of Mr. Gray?

Over the past 2 weeks, I spoke with thirty-six different people from various spaces and sectors in Baltimore, and asked: what sticks out to you since the uprising last year? Responses came from organizers on the ground, activists with and without non-profit organizations, academics, students, and residents in working-class black communities like Mr. Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester on the west side, and Middle East Baltimore and McElderry Park on the east side. 78 percent of responders were people of color, 58 percent male.

National Guard posted at Mondawmin Mall

National Guard posted at Mondawmin Mall

Neighborhoods

The overwhelming response from people in neglected neighborhoods (and from those who live elsewhere when asked about these neighborhoods), was that there has been little or no change. Some felt things were worse in these neighborhoods in regard to policing and drug trafficking and -use, unemployment, available stores, and safety:

Nothing changed, worse than before. The violence, the separation, people have become more selfish.

Worse, shooting still going on, problem in house, in the neighborhood, if you know what I mean…things happening right next door and nobody talking.

A shop owner in Sandtown-Winchester responded: “no change, drugs still here…some more foot patrol, since the CVS reopened.” We wondered together why the foot patrol started only after the CVS was reopened: “Who is being protected, corporations or residents”?

read more here

Does policing affect community fragmentation and cohesion?

This action research focused on the observations of local Baltimore residents in some of our more dis-invested and abandoned communities. Residents’ views on policing, community fragmentation, and paths of change are presented.

Enjoy!

Gomez.Policing.ComFrag.PH.Proofedcopy.

Title
Policing, Community Fragmentation, and Public Health: Observations from Baltimore

Journal of Urban Health, (), 1-14 J Urban Health
Reference as: DOI 10.1007/s11524-015-0022-9

Beloved revolution

Living this beloved revolution
Well on its way
Look around
Living community in the midst of violence

IMG_20151231_142849_hdr

The last 365 days?
Streets stained red
blood or chalk?
Some of both?

Children still play
chalk over the blood
reminding us of time
for this, this beloved revolution

Houses stand and fall vacant
Homes loose their bloodline
Bus lines leave their passengers
Black and brown bodies hack rides

Families fall apart
Tired of the war on drugs
And the drugs of war
Is there an end to the fight?

AISQUITH

Evolutive love
Resistance and love
Next 365 and counting
More chalk than blood?

Revolution of love
Demand love
Be love
Beloved revolution

web

#BlackMindsMatter: Baltimore Rising: Summoning the village

The Black Mental Health Alliance presents:
CALL TO ACTION PART 4

Please join the Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA) for part 4 of its innovative model of community engagement and transformative planning designed to infuse mental health strategies and solutions into the current and longstanding challenges facing Baltimore City. This movement is an inclusive approach to community change guided by the wisdom of national thought leaders and local experts. The inclusion of community tours, prior to the presentation, with the involvement of people of all walks of life ensures that the projects and programs that arise are relevant and valuable to the community. With the important contribution of audience input, issue briefs will be developed and using the model described by Dr. Mindy Fullilove, the group will determine what the community is “for”, align resources, and through a creative, collaborative process, design a way to make a mark to foster the implementation of positive community change.
“Walk the city. Tell stories. Find the remarkable places.”
~Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove

Thursday, August 20, 2015
COMMUNITY WALK
2:00PM Coppin State Univ.
corner of North Ave. and Warwick

Friday, August 21, 2015
LECTURE, LOCAL PANEL DISCUSSION, Q&A
Time: 1:00PM to 4:00PM
Where: Coppin State University
Health and Human Services Bldg, Room 103
2500 West North Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21216

BMHA.BlackMindsMatter