A Visit from Robert Lee

From Just Us to JusticeBy Grey Maggiano

One hundred years ago, to have any family of General Robert E. Lee visit Memorial Church in Bolton Hill would have been a momentous occasion. Hundreds likely would have gathered to be close to the defender of the South, and to celebrate all those who “fought for a cause that was right.”

So it was with not a little irony that I had the pleasure to welcome the Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV, descendant of the Confederate general, to Memorial Church to discuss undoing white supremacy, taking down monuments to the Confederacy and changing the narrative around race in our city.

On Sunday evening of November 26, the Rev. Lee spoke, in a discussion moderated by Pastor Montrell Haygood of the Garden Church, about his personal journey to disavowing the Confederacy and white supremacy, and about “What is Next?” for him and for us. 

The watershed moment, for him, was the rally in Charlottesville and in particular the death of Heather Heyer. He felt he could no longer stay silent and needed to speak out. He appeared at the MTV Music Awards in August, at the side of Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, and spoke in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in favor of taking down statues of Robert E. Lee and other prominent figures of the Confederacy.

Afterward, a significant number of his parishioners expressed their opposition to his statements and requested he step down.

Rev. Lee did not expect to be forced to resign from his Church for supporting Black Lives Matter, and it is still painful to him to see so many people that he loves and cares for not understand what is meant by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rev. Lee offered some helpful reflections on the issue of monuments and racism — relating a story from the Book of Acts, where Paul is thrown in jail because he wants to bring a new way of viewing the world that would involve tearing down old statues. The caution, of course, is that those statues never came down; Paul’s “new way” was never really embraced in Ephesus. Our challenge is that while the monuments have come down we haven’t really changed the narrative around race here in Baltimore.

Pastor Haygood offered his own perspective as a black pastor at a purpose-built multi-racial church, reminding us that this work isn’t easy. They have issues not only regarding race, but also class and political beliefs, that make it hard to keep the congregation together. What has been most life-giving for him is the recognition that we don’t have to agree 100% to be in a community, we just have to agree that we need to be in community.

Rob reminded us that not everyone has to go on The View or MTV to make a difference, and that by developing authentic relationships with our neighbors, especially those of a different race, creed, identity or political persuasion, we can do a lot to craft a different way of dealing with race.

Neighbors from Bolton Hill and around the city shared their own stories of pain and hope around the issue of racism in Baltimore. To conclude the event, I asked The Rev. Lee the change he would like to see in Baltimore if he were to return in five years.

He said, “I would like to see the same investment that is put into the Inner Harbor and white communities be invested in black communities. I’d like to see re-development without gentrification. And I’d like to see people more openly and honestly having conversations about systemic racism here in the city.”

A tall order, but I believe Baltimore is up to meeting these challenges, and that our small corner of inner West Baltimore can lead the way.

Watch a recording of most of the evening’s conversation on YouTube here

Creativity Goes Wild at Great Pumpkin Party

By Chas Phillips

On a gorgeous October day in Bolton Hill, children and neighbors alike gathered at the Kappa Alpha Psi Youth and Community Center for the second annual Great Pumpkin Party. MRIA’s Social Action Task Force and Kappa Alpha Psi organized the party to provide a community-based Halloween event for the neighborhood.

Tiny witches, Supermen, princesses, clowns, vampires, dolphins, and pop-culture wizards slipped in and out of the array of donated costumes, while MICA volunteers applied their spooky artistic ability to dozens of faces. Creativity was also on display in the wide assortment of pumpkins decorated and proudly schlepped home by the party’s attendees.

Enthusiastic kids ran from the costume exchange tent to the pumpkin-decorating station before receiving the final touches at the face-painting booth. Thanks to generous donations, volunteers, and sponsors, everything at this Halloween celebration was enjoyed free of charge.

Dwell on the Past to Make a Better Future

From Just Us to JusticeBy Grey Maggiano

One of the most frequent responses I get when I  tell stories about the history of racism in Baltimore or in Bolton Hill is, “Let’s not dwell on the past.” This is usually spoken by well-meaning white people, usually over the age of 50, who don’t think it necessary to spend a lot of time talking about what life was like “back then.” 

Unfortunately, this attitude ignores the fact that our history continues to influence our present reality. As MICA student Zion Douglass said so eloquently at last month’s Community Conversation on the Confederate monuments, history is a “subtle” but constant reminder that black people are not welcome here.

I frequently remind people that just because you don’t remember the past in a particular way, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. Black people in their seventies or eighties who grew up in West Baltimore are aware of this history, and they have shared it with their children, and their grandchildren.

So when an organization or institution—whether it’s a church like Memorial Episcopal, a neighborhood group like MRIA, a school like MICA, or any other community group—asks, why more people of color don’t belong to their group, part of the answer lies in our history. Because there was a time when black people were not welcome in our churches, in our community associations, or even on our streets.  

Early 1900's meeting announcement of Mt. Royal Protection Association
Early 1900s announcement from the Mt. Royal Protection Association.

In fact, at an early 1900’s meeting of the Mt. Royal Protection Association, a group of local pastors, including a pastor from Memorial, spoke about the need to keep the neighborhood segregated to prevent inter-marriage between blacks and whites. Maybe a reason some people of color are leery about our institutions is because historically, they have had good reason to be.

Last year, at the conclusion of our Confronting Racism Stations of the Cross, a neighbor remarked to me that she had always been a bit uneasy living in Bolton Hill, and that the process of methodically proceeding through the neighborhood, uncovering these hidden truths, speaking them out loud and pledging to not commit those sins again was a powerful and healing moment for her. Perhaps that is true for others. Perhaps it could be true for you as well.

We should tell our truths boldly. Readily uncover the history of racism, and segregation and Jim Crow in Baltimore and in our community of Bolton Hill. We should do so not as a form of eternal self-flagellation for the sins of the past, but in order to better understand how our community, our institutions, our streets became what they are today.

One way to actively participate is to join the Service of Reconciliation on Saturday, November 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Memorial Episcopal Church. This will be the final stop in the Trail of Souls Pilgrimage, an annual program put on by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland that calls attention to the Church’s role in supporting slavery, segregation and Jim Crow in Maryland.

Memorial Episcopal in Bolton Hill will be the final stop on the pilgrimage, and the program will conclude with a service of reconciliation led by Bishop Eugene Sutton, the first African American Bishop of Maryland. It will include the St. James’ Gospel Choir and feature a talk given by Dr. Ray Winbush, the Director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. This service is open to anyone in the community who would like to participate.  

Let’s dwell a bit on the past, on purpose, to create a better present and better futures for all.

Register here for the Trail of Souls Pilgrimage, Saturday, November 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Meet at the Diocesan Center, 4 East University Parkway, Baltimore.

Toilet Paper Drive and Bake Sale Score for Samaritan Community

Steve Howard at the Samaritan's Table at the Festival
Steve Howard at the Samaritan’s Table at the Festival

By Emily Reichart

The Samaritan Community, a Bolton-Hill based human services 501c(3) non-profit organization, thanks the neighborhood for all of its support at this year’s Festival on the Hill. Together, we collected 150 rolls of toilet paper, an important necessity and our most-requested item at our pantry. We also raised over $200 for our programs and services through our Festival bake sale.

Samaritan Community has been a proud member of the Bolton Hill community for 40 years. For more information about us and how we help those who are struggling, visit our website online or our Facebook page.

Thank you again from all of us at Samaritan Community!

Great Pumpkin Party On Its Way October 28

On Saturday October 28 from 1-3 pm, everyone—especially kids from 1 to 92—is invited to The Great Pumpkin Party, organized by MRIA’s Social Task Force (SATF), in collaboration with Kappa Alpha Psi. The service fraternity has generously offered to host the event again at their Youth and Community Center, 1207 Eutaw Place.

There will be face painting, a costume swap, music, hijinks, and of course, pumpkin decorating. Best of all, everything is free, including the pumpkins!

 

Last year’s Pumpkin Party

Donations are needed to make the Party successful. If you’d like to help out, please drop off your supplies at 1500 Bolton Street, on the corner with Mosher. During business hours Monday-Friday, deliver to CPA Joe Palumbo’s office (front door on Bolton St.). Evenings and weekends, bring to Peter & Susan Van Buren’s (side door on Mosher St.), but call first to make sure they are home, 410-383-7820.

Party organizers can use all of the following:

  • gently used Halloween costumes
  • old sheets or clothes that can be used to make costumes
  • pumpkin-decorating supplies, such as stickers, markers, pipe cleaners, and glue (no knives or cutting will be involved)
  • decorations
  • and money for all the things that aren’t donated.

If you are interested in volunteering for the event, please email Jessica Wyatt at jhwyatt@gmail.com.

Reconciling the Truth About Bolton Hill’s Monumental Past

From Just Us to Justice

By Grey Maggiano

On May 2nd, 1903, more than 700 people gathered on a platform erected on Mt. Royal Avenue to celebrate the commemoration of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument—the first of four Confederate monuments erected in Baltimore. Hundreds more people gathered around the platform and on the parade route, which left from Mt Vernon Square and marched to Bolton Hill. The marchers, dressed in full Confederate military dress, made sure to stop at 814 Cathedral Street, the home of General Lawrason Riggs, where a member of his family waved a Confederate battle flag from one of the upper windows to rousing cheers from the procession. 

Among those celebrating this event were many Bolton Hill residents. One was the Rev. William Meade Dame, rector of Memorial Episcopal Church. Another was Mrs. D. Giraud Wright, the President of the Daughters of the Confederacy, who lived on Park Ave. Newspaper accounts of the event gave the impression that much of the city turned out for the celebration.

During the opening prayer, the Rev. Dame reminded the crowd of the righteousness of the cause of the Confederacy and how the men being honored today “shed such luster on their name and race.”

Those who witnessed the spectacle might be forgiven for thinking the South had won the war and that slavery was still the law of the land.

This typical celebration of the “Lost Cause” movement defined the Confederacy as a heroic struggle for states’ rights against an overbearing government. It also occurred during a time of increasing racial tensions in the city of Baltimore. In 1903, Democrats in Maryland began their campaign to disenfranchise black voters through a series of proposed constitutional amendments. These failed, but in 1910, Baltimore passed the most restrictive housing ordinance in the country. Many of the local activists supporting these efforts were Bolton Hill residents. We should not forget these facts.

General Howard, the keynote speaker at the commemoration of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument, said it was being erected “in the last days of the actors of the war”—that is, as the last of the Confederate soldiers were passing away—in the hopes that “in ages to come men and women who pass will say, ‘it is a worthy tribute from noble women to brave men.'” In all my research on this era of our city’s and our neighborhood’s history, I have been struck by the fact that there is almost no mention of slavery, the black residents of Baltimore, or the issue of race in general when it comes to the Civil War. It seems that in the interest of “reconciliation” between the North and South, reconciliation for slavery and the evils done to black bodies and minds was set aside and never taken up again.

Now that the city of Baltimore has taken down the all four monuments, the question that ought to be asked is: What next? Is the plinth left on Mt. Royal Ave. left empty? Does it become a platform for MICA students and other artists to express themselves? Should another statue be erected in its place? What conversations—if any—should be had with the Daughters of the Confederacy and the descendants of those who erected the statue in the first place? 

While many feel great relief that these statues have finally come down, many others, I suspect, may be surprised or even taken aback by the City’s actions. Very few, I suspect, are aware of the origins of these statues, their ties to the Lost Cause movement and the strong white supremacist overtones that surrounded their installations. I suspect many may still wonder why it was necessary to remove these statues at all.

Perhaps we, as a community, need to dedicate ourselves to our own neighborhood truth and reconciliation process. We need to tell—and hear—the truth about Bolton Hill’s own history of racism and support for segregation, and then have some honest conversation, not only about removing statues, but about the current realities of race and racism in our neighborhood, schools and universities here in Bolton Hill. How to people of color continue to be affected by these realities?

To this end, we’ll be hosting further discussion about Memorial Episcopal Church and the role it has played in Bolton Hill’s racial history on Wednesday, September 27, at 7 pm. We hope you’ll attend and help continue our neighborhood’s truth and reconciliation process.

Helfenbein Elected to Board of No Boundaries Coalition

Rob Helfenbein
Newly elected NBC board member Rob Helfenbein.

At their most recent meeting, Bolton Hill neighbor Rob Helfenbein was elected to the board of No Boundaries Coalition. Several other Bolton Hill residents, including Rob, received Volunteer Awards for their work with the organization.

Of his award, Rob said, “I am humbled to be among a group of community folks who give much more of their time than me.” As a board member, he hopes to further their work on eliminating food deserts, ensuring the enforcing the Department of Justice consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department to reduce police brutality against citizens, and increasing voter registration in advance of the 2018 and 2020 elections.

He said he especially hopes to contribute to their youth initiatives and “bring conversations about Baltimore City Schools into the mix.” And of course, he hopes to continue working to break down the boundaries between neighborhoods like Sandtown/Upton and Bolton Hill.

“I could not be more impressed with this organization,” Helfenbein said. “No Boundaries Coalition is one of the most organized and well-run community organizations I’ve ever seen and their impact is only growing in the city.”

Jayne Chartrand's meeting notes
Notes from a recent NBC meeting taken by MICA grad Jayne Chartrand.

Michael Booth and Peter Van Buren also received awards, along with residents from neighborhoods throughout the 21217 zip code served by No Boundaries Coalition, for their work for the organization.

In recent weeks, NBC sponsored a Community Forum in partnership with Coppin State’s Criminal Justice and Urban Studies Departments on Thursday, July 6 and facilitated by NBC’s co-director, Ray Kelly, to get community feedback on the DOJ consent decree.

Kelly also was one of 100 community leaders invited to participate in the 6th annual conference of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice in Oakland, CA in June, where he shared NBC’s efforts to transform the Criminal Justice system through education, advocacy and legislation. 

NBC also was asked by the National Organization of Retired State Troopers (NORST) and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) to participate in a precedent-setting panel discussion on June 29 on the responsibility of black police officers to their community.

NBC also recently celebrated the graduation of two founding youth members of the Baltimore Youth Organizing Project (BYOP). One has received a full scholarship to MICA, and the other will be attending Howard University. BYOP was pivotal in pressuring the Mayor into restoring after-school and community-school funding. BYOP was first to the name the 25% cut to in the Mayors preliminary budget and helped organize over 600 youth and concerned residents from across the city to attend a City Council meeting on June 7th.

As part of their work on eliminating food deserts, No Boundaries Coalition is happy to announce the reopening of Fresh at the Avenue (1700 Pennsylvania Avenue) on July 22, with a Grand Reopening Celebration slated for Saturday, July 29.

Please support this fresh food market in West Baltimore! And please contact the No Boundaries Coalition or attend a meeting to help be part of the solution to the myriad problems facing the city. With effective organizing, says Rob Helfenbein, No Boundaries Coalition is helping to create “an amazing, positive community.“ 

Crispus Attucks Rec Center Reopens

Mayor Pugh addressing the crowd at the reopening event
Kids and rec center employees work on craft projects while Mayor Pugh addresses the crowd at the reopening event

Expanded from a post at Promise Heights.

After being shut down for 5 years, the Crispus Attucks Recreation Center officially reopened to the public on June 22, 2017. Councilman Eric T. Costello, University of Maryland School of Social Work Dean Richard P. Barth and Mayor Catherine E. Pugh spoke at the reopening event.

Ever since the center was closed by Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, local neighborhood organizations have been lobbying to have it reopened, especially after the uprising following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

“Today would not be possible without the spirit of collaboration among the Department of Parks and Recreation, the University of Maryland School of Social Work, Promise Heights, community associations, and the families who called this neighborhood time and time again to come together, to be together, to work together,” Pugh said.

Kids enjoying the rec center

The recreation center is located behind Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School and will be a site for the Baltimore City Recreation & Parks summer program, Camp Baltimore. In session from June 19 to August 25, the camp provides a full range of programing all summer long, including swimming, outdoor education, arts and crafts, academic enrichment, field trips, and other fun activities for neighborhood children.

The name of the rec center honors Crispus Attucks, a dockworker of Wampanoag and African descent who is believed to be the first person killed in the American Revolution at the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770.

Coming to Grips with our History

By Grey Maggiano

When you move to Bolton Hill, an unspoken question lingers in your mind for the first few months, maybe even years, that you live here.

“How does this place exist?”

This question takes different forms. How does a neighbor get to be so friendly? Do people really sit on their stoops and talk to each other? Do moms and dads really go out of their way to watch kids, pick up dinner, play in the park, organize activities? And as a new resident with two young children I am happy to say the answer to all of those questions is “Yes!” Bolton Hill really is a special place. A unique community that exists sometimes as a village in and of itself, where neighbors really will let you borrow a quart of milk (or more likely a six-pack of beer).

But there is another side of this question that sits a bit lower, and is a bit more uncomfortable. “How does this place exist?”—when neighborhoods on every side have been ravaged by drugs, crime, white (and black) flight and the dereliction of the city? How have these homes stayed so well preserved? How do people feel safe on the streets? How is it that the shops are devoid of bullet-proof glass, that the parks safe and green and well kept?

A challenging reality for all of us who live here is that the answer to that question is rooted in a history of racism, Lost Cause pro-Confederate movements, pro-segregation movements, neighborhood covenants, urban renewal and even today, the New Jim Crow that Michelle Alexander writes so eloquently about.

As a priest and as Pastor at Memorial Episcopal Church, I am keenly aware of this reality because for many years, members of our parish propagated this way of thinking and acted to keep the neighborhood “white.” I am also keenly aware of the importance of telling the truth about our history in order to chart a new course for the future of Bolton Hill, and perhaps for greater inner-West Baltimore.

This past January, Memorial Church began exploring the history of racism within our parish. At the time, I had no idea how far the tentacles would reach. But as we uncovered more and more stories we realized that the story of racism at Memorial is also the story of racism in Bolton Hill and to some extent, the greater Mt. Royal District—which originally extended from Dolphin to Druid Hill Park and from Mt. Royal to Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The continued shaving-off of pieces of that neighborhood until we got “Bolton Hill”—a name only adopted in twentieth century—was part of an effort to keep the so-called “neighborhood” white.

A few of you may be asking, “Why are we talking about race? In a community newsletter?”

Perhaps it’s because that’s where these conversations should start—not with big, national-level ideals floated among strangers, but among people who live next door to each other, see each other in the parks and on the sidewalks and at the grocery store. 

The only way our national dialogue around race will get any better is if we can tell the truth about our past and have honest conversations about our future with the people who live closest to us. And those conversations should begin here, because even though we have a historic pattern of segregation and racism in this part of Baltimore, our neighborhood is also one of the most diverse in the city.

Our neighborhood is 57% white, 32% black and close to 7% Asian. We have teachers, police officers, professors, professionals, doctors, lawyers, artists, students, musicians. Gay and straight. Religious and less so. Within our bounds we have three fixed-income senior housing buildings, a small number of fixed-income apartments, and a variety of homes ranging in value from $200,000 to close to a million dollars. We have student apartments and luxury apartments. Starter homes and the palatial mansions of Park Avenue.

This spring, during Lent, Memorial Episcopal led neighborhood residents on a Confronting Racism—Stations of the Cross Walk. It proved to be a cathartic moment for church members and neighbors who participated. Not because we suddenly “prayed racism away,” but because we were able to put words to the unspeakable actions of the past that inform who we are today, and in so doing, begin to unravel a new way of moving forward. 

But we still work to do. Five-year-old black children get profiled playing in the park. MICA students are followed or stopped by police for walking home. If I am talking with a member of the Samaritan Community, neighbors will frequently check in as they walk by, asking if I am “ok.” More than a few African American neighbors express feeling like they don’t fully belong here.

So our work continues and the conversation continues, within the parish and within the neighborhood.

I hope you will consider joining in this work.

SATF and NBC Updates: Parties, Cleanups, and Reopening of Fresh at the Avenue

Stoop Party for the Schools

Although May’s Stoop Party with a Purpose organized by MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) was cancelled due to weather, donations continued to be collected for three neighborhood schools. A total of $732 was donated by many generous neighbors and will be distributed to our neighborhood schools, Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary, Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle, and Midtown Academy.

Along with a check for $244, each school received 5 reams of copier paper. Ms. Elliot at Eutaw-Marshburn summed up the sentiment for all the schools saying, “The SATF is the best!”

This dumpster was empty before the start of the June 3rd Cleanup

My Block My Hood Cleanups

As always, No Boundary Coalition‘s (NBC) 10th annual Boundary Block Party on June 3 was a huge success. Before the party started, NBC’s safety committee kicked off the summer’s My Block My Hood program by partnering with the Nehemiah Homeowners to clean up the 1300 block of N. Stockton St. at Presstman St.

Members of the SATF joined the work crew, and together they rapidly filled a large dumpster with debris, satisfying everyone with the results.

More My Block My Hood cleanups are planned for Saturday, July 22 at Parrish & Riggs Sts., Saturday, August 5 at Druid Hill Ave., and Tuesday, August 8 at Legends Park, located at Laurens and Fremont. All volunteers are welcome. Tools, work gloves, and refreshments are provided.

The SATF plans to join the August 5 cleanup as a group, while the August 8 event will be a focus for Memorial Episcopal Church, as the site is close to a store run by some of their members.

Please consider joining in this effort. Many hands make light work.

Fresh staff and volunteers

Grand Reopening for Fresh at the Avenue

For the past few months, Fresh at The Avenue in the Pennsylvania Ave. marketplace has been closed for renovations, which include new display tables and much more.

NBC announced that the stall will have a soft reopening on Saturday, July 22 with the grand reopening celebration set for Saturday, July 29. The celebration will spill outdoors into the parking lot surrounding the market, with a jazz band, food vendors and more.

The store is open every Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, and volunteers are always needed. If interested, contact Rebecca Nagle at freshatnoboundaries@gmail.com.

Neighbors Unite at Boundary Block Party

By David Nyweide

Most of us think of our neighbors as being the people we see in Bolton Hill. We pass each other on our way to work, say hi while walking the dog, or chat at a coffee shop around the corner. We sometimes forget that Bolton Hill is part of a larger quilt of neighborhoods in Central West Baltimore. 

Just to the west across Eutaw Place, three neighborhoods—Marble Hill, Druid Heights, and Madison Park—encompass just about the same geographic area as Bolton Hill have housing stock of the same vintage, style, and proportions.

Why don’t we consider those west of us our neighbors? One reason is simple: because we infrequently interact with people who live on the other side of Eutaw Place. The less frequently we interact, the less likely for any relationship to develop, or even to start. 

So what stops us from interacting with each other?

The American Community Survey provides an illuminating portrait of the differences that hinder interaction between residents in Bolton Hill and other near-west neighborhoods. Based on demographic data from 2011-2015, the survey shows large and consistent disparities between Bolton Hill, Marble Hill and the combined neighborhoods of Druid Heights and Madison Park according to race, education level, household income, unemployment rates, rates of home ownership, home value and numbers of vacant properties.

American Community Survey chart
Chart adapted from the American Community Survey showing economic and racial disparities between Bolton Hill and other 21217 neighborhoods.

Although these neighborhoods are in the same area of the city, these differences show a pattern of separation that’s hard to break, especially since people tend to live where they resemble their neighbors. 

You can start to break the cycle by simply getting to know your neighbors to the west of Bolton Hill. The No Boundaries Coalition started with this purpose, providing opportunities to interact with neighbors who share the same interests in and desires for our corner of the city. We all want good schools for our children. Access to healthy, affordable food. Safe streets and police accountability.

If you share these interests, come and join your neighbors at the Boundary Block Party on Saturday, June 3. Hosted by the No Boundaries Coalition, in partnership with Jubilee Arts, the Boundary Block Party celebrates everything positive happening in Central West Baltimore.

No Boundaries meeting
No Boundaries Coalition meeting at St. Peter Claver Church.

If you’re interested in really getting to know more of your neighbors, attend a monthly No Boundaries Coalition meeting the second Tuesdays of the month at St. Peter Claver Church on Pennsylvania Avenue Triangle Park. You’ll meet people who live, work, or worship in this part of the city and are advocating together for strengthened safety, better fresh food access, more voting, and youth empowerment. 

Working on shared interests with residents from the full Central West Baltimore community reminds you that your neighbors are not limited to Bolton Hill alone.

Tenth Annual Boundary Block Party on June 3

2016's Boundary Block PartyCelebrate the community that unites us, rather than the boundaries that separate us, by joining the fun at the 10th Annual Boundary Block Party, Saturday June 3, from 1 to 4 pm at the Upton Triangle, the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Presstman Street.

Organized by No Boundaries Coalition and Jubilee Arts, you can follow the event and RSVP on Facebook to show your support.

The Boundary Block Party brings together residents of Central West Baltimore as one community, including the neighborhoods of Bolton Hill, Marble Hill, Reservoir Hill, Upton, Sandtown, and Madison Park, and Druid Heights.

Started in 2008, the first Block Party was held on the Eutaw St. median south of McMechen, the unofficial but generally accepted boundary separating Bolton Hill from Madison Park and Marble Hill. From the start, the block party set out to encourage more open involvement between the whole 21217 community.

Boundary Block Party
Lively entertainment is guaranteed

Over the years, it has grown bigger and moved just a few blocks west to the Upton Triangle at the boundary of the Upton, Druid Heights and Sandtown-Winchester neighborhoods.

And the fun has grown too, with live entertainment, music to dance to, grilled food to eat, a community resource fair, and art activities for families. The live entertainment will include Twilighters Marching Band, Brown Memorial Choir, Soulful Sisters, and Dynamic Force, along with others.

Fresh on the Avenue will even be moving their store’s stalls to the park to setup a full outdoor produce market with a large selection of locally grown and organic items.

As they did last year, MRIA’s Social Action Task Force will be organizing a group walk from Bolton Hill over to the Party. This year, they’re meeting at Linden Gazebo at 9:45 am for a morning walk to join the clean up of Upton Park in preparation for the Block Party. Kids and adults welcome – just bring work gloves if you have them.

Plan to make a whole day of it, as Boltonstock 2017 starts afterward at 5 pm—the official after party.

SATF June Activities

MRIA’s Social Action Task Force encourage you to join them at several events in June.

On Friday, June 2 from 4–7 pm, a Stop Gun Violence Rally will be held at the Mondawmin Mall parking lot . This is part of the National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and organizers encourage everyone to show their support by wearing orange.

Then on Saturday morning, June 3, join the SATF for a park cleanup and a party.

They’ll be meeting at 9:45 am near the Linden gazebo (1700 block of Linden Ave.) and will make the 10-block stroll to Upton Triangle Park at Presstman St. and Pennsylvania Ave. There, they’ll join other volunteers for the first My Block My Hood cleanup of the summer in preparation for the Boundary Block Party. See the Facebook event for more information and to RSVP.

After the cleanup, stay for the fun at the Boundary Block Party from 1–4 pm, and then walk back to Bolton Hill’s Sumpter Park for Boltonstock from 5–10 pm.

At Boltonstock, remember to stop by the SATF table to donate money and/or copier paper for distribution to three neighborhood schools, Eutaw-Marshburn, Midtown Academy and Mt. Royal. This is the makeup for May’s Stoop Party, which was cancelled due to bad weather. Cash, credit card and check donations can be accepted at the booth. Please make checks payable to MRIA and put “SATF School Fund” in the memo.

Register for Summer Classes at Jubilee Arts

In the Studio at Jubilee Arts
Studio at Jubilee Arts

Since 2009, Jubilee Arts has been providing arts classes and more to the residents of the Sandtown-Winchester, Upton and surrounding neighborhoods in Baltimore, Maryland. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, an area with a rich history of African-American culture, the organization is bringing the arts back to life in this west Baltimore community.

Through partnerships with area artists, writers, and dancers, including the Maryland Institute College of Art and Baltimore Clayworks, Jubilee Arts offers children’s, adult and multi-generational classes in dance, visual arts, creative writing and ceramics.

This year, Jubilee Arts offers the following summer classes. Click the links for more details. Register for classes here, and find specific schedule, dates, cost, class details here.

Youth age 6–11, 3:30–5:00 pm
Mondays: Ballet
Tuesdays: Fashion/Sewing
Wednesdays: Capoeira
Thursdays: Ceramics
Plus: Weekly Explore Bmore Field Trips Wednesday mornings

Youth age 13–18, 3–4:30 pm
Wednesdays: Portfolio Drawing

Adults, 6–7:30 pm
Mondays: Line Dance
Tuesdays: Sewing
Thursdays: Hand Dance

Seniors, 10 am–12:00 pm
Tuesdays: Creative Crafts
Wednesdays: Ceramics

Volunteers Needed

As Jubilee ramps up for summer classes, they are also looking for teaching assistants. Please consider volunteering for one of the Youth (age 6–11) classes, or to serve food from 4:30–5:30 pm Monday through Friday.

Plus for the Youth in Business program, they are looking for volunteers to accompany students to sales events on evenings and weekends, including support transporting inventory and supervision while they sell their art products around the city.

If interested, email volunteer coordinator Xanthe Key at volunteercoordinator@intersectionofchange.org.

Jubilee Arts is part of the larger community development work of Intersection Of Change (formerly Newborn Holistic Ministries).

Two Years After Baltimore Uprising, BYOP Cultivates New Leaders

BYOP on Pugh
BYOP member Diamon demanding accountability from Mayor Catherine Pugh. Photo courtesy of @UNBOUND_RCK.

By David Nyweide

Freddie Gray died two years ago, sparking demonstrations that came to be known as the Baltimore Uprising. What’s happened since?

Here’s just one example of positive change.

The Baltimore Youth Organizing Project (BYOP) was established in October 2015, born of a desire to empower youth in West Baltimore in the wake of the Baltimore Uprising. Through their involvement in BYOP, youth have learned the principles and techniques of community organizing, conducted a listening campaign to hear about issues important to their peers, ratified a youth city agenda, and organized forums with political candidates and elected officials.

BYOP is a collaboration between Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) and the No Boundaries Coalition (NBC). Reverend Tim Hughes Williams at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church helped launch BYOP, and the church provided starter funding for modest stipends for eight youths who attended regular meetings and met with more than 400 young people in the community. Rev. Hughes Williams continues to work with BYOP members along with Rebecca Nagle of NBC and Gwen Brown of BUILD. He’s also looking for opportunities for youth affiliated with Brown Memorial to become involved.

“It has been inspiring to work with young people who have an intuitive, firsthand understanding of how the city needs to change to meet the needs of its youth,” said Rev. Hughes Williams. “BYOP has been a vehicle to teach them to tell their stories powerfully and hold elected officials accountable for their decisions. After the Baltimore Uprising, this has felt like essential and satisfying work.”

The BYOP youth agenda was ratified at a meeting of almost 100 youth in January 2016. It advocates for funding from the city and public-private partnerships that would support after-school programming, recreation centers, and youth employment—all of which help keep youth off the streets and develop their potential to contribute to the life of the city.

In March 2016, BUILD hosted an Accountability Forum at Coppin State University to hear the mayoral candidates’ positions on the BUILD One Baltimore Agenda: a city for youth, a city for jobs, a city that is safe. BYOP was able to present its youth agenda as part of this event. Approximately 200 youth sat on stage with six of the mayoral candidates, and 600 adults sat in the audience. Every candidate, including our current mayor Catherine Pugh, committed to the BUILD One Baltimore Agenda.

At the end of 2016, BYOP graduated its first class of eight young people. Now headed by Samirah Franklin—a member of that first class—BYOP is one part of NBC’s work in Central West Baltimore.

In its second year of organizing, BYOP has focused on holding Mayor Pugh accountable to her promises as a candidate. On April 4, 2017, Trinity Baptist Church (at McMechen and McCulloh) hosted about 150 adults and youth to hear the BYOP youth publicly ask Mayor Pugh for two specific commitments:

  1. Create 250 year-round youth jobs within the city and the corporate community in her first year in office; and
  2. Maintain current levels of funding for afterschool and community school programs in the 2018 budget.

The mayor agreed to help create 250 new year-round jobs for youth, but equivocated about after-school funding. In fact, her preliminary 2018 city budget cut afterschool and community school funding by 25 percent, or roughly $2.4 million.

BYOP is now fighting to restore the funding, with the help of BUILD, NBC, and the Child First Authority. They are calling on both the Mayor and City Council to acknowledge the cut and restore the funds.

“In the aftermath of our city burning, Baltimore’s elected officials made a promise to us, the youth of the city,” explained BYOP’s Lead Youth Organizer Franklin. “It’s only been two years, and we are cut. We call on the Mayor and City Council to keep their promise to us and restore afterschool and community school funding to its current level of $9.2 million.” 

BYOP also plans to continue listening to residents and providing youth workshops on community organizing. These activities help develop the voice and power of more and more youth to hold their elected officials accountable and effect the changes they desire in their communities.

To find out how you can support the young people of BYOP and their efforts to build power for Baltimore City youth, contact Samirah Franklin at samirahfranklin@gmail.com

Memorial Episcopal Walks on Good Friday to Repent Racism

By Rev. Grey Maggiano

Plans for Unveiling
Daughters of the Confederacy Announces Program
April 24th, 1903

Mrs. D. Giraud Wright (1632 Park Ave.), President of the Maryland Daughters, announced
at social meeting of the Baltimore Chapter …The Strains of Dixie will mark the formal
opening of the program, and following this the invocation by the Rev. William M.
Dame (Rector, Memorial Episcopal Church), Chaplain of the Maryland Daughters
of the Confederacy.”

Station 2: site of the former segregated Bolton St. Recreation Center
Participants visit the former site of the segregated Bolton St. Recreation Center, Station 2 on the Repenting for Racism walk.

Almost 114 years ago to the day, most of Bolton Hill—some 700 people stood on the stage alone!— turned out for the dedication of the Daughters of the Confederacy Monument on Mt. Royal Avenue. Leading the proceedings were the then-Rector of Memorial Episcopal Church and the President of the Daughters of the Confederacy, a longtime Park Ave. resident.

This monument was one of the fourteen stops on Memorial Church’s Repenting for Racism: Stations of the Cross Walk last month, which was held on Good Friday.

After a long period of research and truth-telling, Memorial Members selected fourteen sites around the neighborhood that call attention to both our parish’s and our neighborhood’s legacy of racism. These included:

  • The former site of the segregated Bolton Hill Recreation Center on the east side of the 1300 block of Bolton Street;
  • 1212 Bolton Street, which was purchased by a black Baptist pastor who was forcibly evicted by unhappy neighbors; and
  • Memorial Church’s own parish hall, in which blackface minstrel shows were staged to entertain the neighborhood for many years.
Stations of the Cross walk
Visiting the “stations of the cross” of Bolton Hill’s past, April 14, 2017.

When people ask me why we need to do these kinds of things— why we need to “drudge up” this ugly history, and remind ourselves of the painful past— I point to stories like this. Or I tell of the strong neighborhood activism supporting segregated housing, or my ancestor’s letter to the editor urging the restriction of the right to vote for “the Negroe.” 

We need to do these kinds of things because they are not ancient history. They didn’t just happen before the Civil War, or in the 1800s, but in the mid-twentieth century. Current parishioners and neighbors were alive when many of these events took place. And, though most Bolton Hill residents didn’t live here then, there are many, many neighbors, churches and institutions across Eutaw Place who do remember.

The reality is that we have asymmetrical access to information and asymmetrical notions of history. While Bolton Hillers celebrate the very diverse, very inclusive neighborhood we see between Mt. Royal and Eutaw, and Dolphin and North Ave., neighbors on the other sides of these boundaries remember a not-too-distant past when to walk through Bolton Hill as a person of color guaranteed a visit from the police. 

Perhaps you, like me, have asked why Bolton Hill retains its reputation as a predominantly white, wealthy neighborhood when the actual numbers suggest it is much more economically and racially diverse? Or why your institution or organization, like our church, has trouble developing relationships with organizations west of Eutaw Place? Or perhaps you have wondered why urban renewal, redlining, and segregation didn’t have the same effect in Bolton Hill as it did in Reservoir Hill, Upton, or Penn North?

Memorial Church’s research shows that the answer to all of these questions lies in our own history.

They say that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. Whether or not that is true in this case, our lack of knowledge of the past makes it very hard to dialogue with those who continue to feel its impact.

We hope that by bringing these truths to light, we can help all of our neighbors, black and white, rich and poor, longtime residents and new arrivals, to understand both the problematic history of these few city blocks, and to band together to set out a different future— for our Church, for our neighborhood, and perhaps for our whole city.

For more information please visit Memorial Episcopal online, and see this related article about the Repenting Racism walk in the Washington Post.

Stoop Party for the Schools on May 13

Stoop Party for schools5/12/17 – Due to the prediction of really lousy weather on Saturday, the Social Action Task Force has sadly decided to cancel this year’s Stoop Party with a Purpose. Please help us spread the word so that our friends do not brave the rain for nothing.

We encourage neighbors to bring donations to Boltonstock on June 3, and drop them off at the SATF table. Cash, credit card and check donations can be accepted at the booth. Please make checks payable to “MRIA”, and put “SATF School Fund” in the memo.

We all like a good party. And we all like to do good. The SATF’s Parties with a Purpose combine these to double the fun.

Get your share of double delight by coming out for this year’s first Stoop Party with a Purpose on Saturday, May 13, 11 am to 1 pm, at the Gazebo in the 1700 block of Linden Avenue (between Sav-a-Lot and Sumpter Park). RSVP on Facebook.

Mingle with your neighbors while enjoying wine, beer, soft drinks, and the ever-popular Bloody Mary Bar. The event is free, but donations are encouraged. 100% of all donations go to support our neighborhood schools as they face a critical budget deficit.

Linden Gazebo
Linden St. gazebo.

Donations will be shared among three schools: Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary, Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle, and Midtown Academy. Each school has selected a special program that will be supported by the donations. Midtown, for example, will use the funds to support their CREW morning sharing and learning activity for students in grades 6-8.

Organizers suggest a donation of at least $10/person or a ream of paper. (Or both!) Believe it or not, paper supplies cost each school about $10,000 per year. The goal is to build a paper tower by the gazebo.

Representatives from all three schools will be on hand to talk about their programs, along with Karen DeCamp, Baltimore Education Coalition’s Director of Neighborhood Programs. She will update partygoers on BEC’s efforts to find longterm solutions for school funding.

“Facing Change”: MICA Exhibit Examines Development’s Effects on East Baltimore

MICA and AlternateROOTS, an arts activism organization based in Atlanta, present “Facing Change: Portraits and Narratives of the Shifting Cultural Landscape in East Baltimore,” a special pop-up exhibition by MFA Community Arts student Ben Hamburger.

Sponsored by the college’s Office of Community Engagement and Day at the Market, a community outreach program based at the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore campus, the exhibition will be on view at the historic Northeast Market, 2101 E. Monument St., on Saturday, April 1 and Wednesday, April 5 from 10 am–2:30 pm, as well as at “Grad Show III” at MICA’s Decker Gallery, 1303 W. Mt. Royal Ave., on Friday, April 21, 5–8 pm.

The exhibition is a socially engaged art project that brings together different perspectives on the contentious issue of community development in East Baltimore, and aims to confront the difficult realities of rapid urban development and raise awareness about a range of impacts on diverse stakeholders.

Hamburger’s portraits use salvaged formstone debris and audio narratives to honor residents of the community and share their stories about the area’s past, present and future. Their stories provoke viewers to think critically about the sense of place, home and the meaning of development.

Listen online to stories from community members featured in the exhibition.

A painter, socially engaged artist and educator from Silver Spring, Ben Hamburger is currently completing his M.F.A. in Community Arts at MICA. This project is a component of his thesis work.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center Embarks on Major Capital Campaign

By Morganne Ruhnke, Development and Event Coordinator at St. Francis Neighborhood Center

Did you know that more than 1,200 children in the Reservoir Hill area live in poverty? St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) is responding to this need with educational and enrichment programs to uplift children and their families—making more than 40,000 individual contacts with Reservoir Hill residents every year.

Reservoir Hill kids on honor roll
Smiles of Success

 

SFNC is a community-based, non-profit organization committed to ending generational poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement, and strengthening connections to the community. It was founded in 1963 as an outreach center for two local churches, and is the oldest enrichment center of its kind in Baltimore City. SFNC founder Father Tom Composto was a Jesuit priest who moved into the facility in the 1960s. He stayed there for the remainder of his life, devoting himself to the poor.  

Father Tom, also known as the Pope of Whitelock Street, would stand at the corner of Whitelock and Linden and challenge drug dealers to do something better with their lives. After he passed away in 2010, SFNC Board and staff have carried on his passion and vision, with programs and projects that serve the community that Father Tom so dearly loved.

The Center offers a computer lab and a community library that is free of charge to the neighborhood. They offer adult literacy and job readiness programs. They hold community yoga sessions on Wednesday evenings, and Narcotics Anonymous meets there three evenings a week. Every Monday, friends from Corpus Christi Church distribute free groceries to anyone who lives in the 21217 area. Many other partner groups use the Center for their meetings and also provide services that benefit the community.

SFNC’s award-winning flagship programs for youth have received national recognition. The Power Project is a free after-school program, with fifty “prodigies”—youth—currently enrolled. The Summer of Service Excursion (SOSE) is held for eight weeks from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm during the summer months and is the longest running summer program in the City. SOSE participants focus on topics including education, art, STEM, and character building.

Ethan's poem
Poem describing the “St. Francis Way.”

Every summer, the Center coordinates with its many longstanding partners to host the day-long Reservoir Hill Resource Fair & Festival at the corner of Whitelock and Linden. The festival brings together this vibrant, diverse community and features a grocery and bookbag giveaway, food trucks, local art, and live music. Save the date for Saturday, August 5, 2017—and if you are interested in getting involved as a vendor, volunteer, or supporter, contact Morganne Ruhnke at mruhnke@stfranciscenter.org.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center
Consider donating so that even more children can join the fun

The Center is currently embarking on a major capital campaign, “Count on Me.” This community-driven campaign addresses the pressing need to serve more children. More than 30 kids are already on the waiting list for the youth programs, and with the merger of Westside Elementary and John Eager Howard School, the number of children in need will soon triple. We want them all to have a positive place to attend educational and enrichment activities after school and are excited about our plans for growth. To learn more, contact Angela Wheeler at awheeler@stfranciscenter.org.

SFNC occupies a historic, four-story townhouse, and while we love our location, we are limited in our ability to serve more children and to provide programming to fulfill ever-evolving community needs. Our total goal is to raise $4 million in two years to add classrooms, an art studio, a kitchen/cafe, greening projects, multipurpose space, and expand our media lab and library. Once complete, we expect to serve more than 200 children in our education programs, an 100% increase in capacity.

We invite you to be a part of this transformational change. Can we count on you to join us in achieving this milestone for Reservoir Hill and West Baltimore?

How you can you help:

  • Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated and help us get one step closer to serve more of the community.  To donate and learn more about the center check out our website at www.stfranciscenter.org.
  • We are always looking for people to host fundraisers, serve as mentors and tutors, and help us with special events and daily operations.  To get involved, please contact us at volunteer@stfranciscenter.org.

Find out more on the St. Francis Neighborhood Center website.

Tri-Church Education Series Asks You to Listen in Lent

Listening with the heartAs in years past, three neighborhood churches – Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Memorial Episcopal Church and Corpus Christi Catholic Church – will jointly sponsor the Bolton Hill Tri-Church Education Series.

During the Lenten season, the series features topics of interest to the church congregations and the broader community.

This year’s series, “Listening in Lent,” is especially timely. Speakers from some of the Baltimore communities most affected by recent political changes will be invited to address the group. They will consider this question: “In light of the current political environment, what response would you like to see from the Christian community?” Each session will have time for questions and group discussion.

Guest speakers will include members of the predominantly African-American Community of West Baltimore, represented by the No Boundaries Coalition (3/8), the immigrant and refugee community (3/22), the Jewish community (3/29), and the Islamic community (4/5).

By forming connections and learning from these groups, our community can better provide the appropriate and needed responses demanded by our current situation. The series is open to anyone interested in making Baltimore a more dynamic and inclusive place.

The Series will be held on four Wednesdays, March 8, March 22, March 29, and April 5. Each session will begin with a light supper at 6:30 pm, followed by the education portion at 7 pm. The series takes place in the Education Building at Brown Memorial.