Baltimore Rallies & Protests in Response to Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

Baltimore Bloc
bmoreferg25pm protest on the day after the Darren Wilson Grand Jury decision. March starts at 6pm from City Hall.

Indictment or not, Baltimore Bloc will march in solidarity with the Family of Michael Brown, the People of Ferguson, and all victims of police violence across the nation and around the world. The march will begin at War Memorial Plaza / in front of Baltimore City Hall (100 North Holliday Street). Come early – dress in layers! The march route will be announced when we’re about to start marching at 6PM.

More info here:

Baltimore People’s Power Assembly and Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Baltimore Chapter

4pm march starting at McKeldin Square (on Pratt and Light Streets) immediately after the Grand Jury announces its decision.

Join us for a massive protest immediately following the announcement of the Ferguson Grand Jury. We will gather at 4 P.M. McKeldin Square, Pratt & Light Streets, downtown Baltimore (same location as the Trayvon Martin protests) after the Grand Jury announces its decision

We will protest regardless of the decision. We will be marching from downtown, past the Federal building where we will call on the Justice Department to indict killer police and end at the Horse Shoe Casino illustrating the City’s missed placed priorities including the closing of Baltimore schools.

CDBG is a Critical Lifeline for Our Community

By Rachel Libelo
Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator, YWCA Greater Baltimore

To end the government shutdown, Congress will have to pass a Continuing Resolution that extends funding levels from the last fiscal year long enough to agree on what the funding levels for this upcoming year should be. During these negotiations, one of the spending bills in question will be the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) bill, which includes funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and other programs that support services for people struggling with poverty and homelessness. Countless organizations across the country rely on CDBG funds to provide lifesaving services such as emergency and transitional housing for homeless families, economic assistance programs, and services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

At the YWCA Greater Baltimore, CDBG funding helps provide permanent housing and therapeutic services for chronically homeless women with disabilities. For residents like Sherrie, the YWCA’s program offers the stability needed to realize lifelong dreams. Sherrie’s dream is to support the healing of others. She came to the YWCA with a history of severe mental illness, a chronic health condition, and many traumatic experiences. Sherrie became homeless after she reported gang activity on her block, and her home was firebombed in retaliation. “You forget that you are valuable and worthwhile,” Sherrie tells of her experience with homelessness. “You lose hope and you lose a little mentally.”

Since arriving at the YWCA in 2011, Sherrie’s primary goal has been to increase her ability to live independently and be financially self-sufficient— not only for her own sake, but also so that she would be able to give back to the community that supported her during tough times. Shortly after moving in, Sherrie went back to school to earn a medical assistant certificate. She successfully earned her certification, along with a perfect attendance record and 4.0 grade point average, but Sherrie didn’t stop there. When she learned about an opportunity to apply for a full scholarship to the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing, she took it. Sherrie was not at all optimistic about her chances, but submitted an essay telling her personal story and explained why she wanted to do better for herself and others. She had long wanted to become an RN, but her struggles with poverty and her disabilities seemed to have put a nursing degree beyond her reach. Now that has changed— Sherrie was accepted by the University of Maryland’s nursing program and approved for the scholarship. “I was given a new lease on life,” she says. “I have grown in so many ways and I am still making progress.”

Life-altering achievements like Sherrie’s are possible because of vital funding sources like the Community Development Block Grant. Since the program began in 1974, CDBG has funded critical community and neighborhood development needs across the country, becoming integral to the budgets of thousands of programs such as those the YWCA operates. Over the years, it has made significant differences in the lives of people across the nation by funding economic development, affordable housing programs, and anti-poverty initiatives.

According to the national CDBG Coalition, between 2005 and 2012, the grant program has created or retained 302,622 jobs and funded public improvements that benefited over 30 million low- and moderate- income individuals nationwide, including but not limited to senior centers, child care centers, health clinics, and shelters for homeless veterans and survivors of domestic violence.

Despite the positive changes we have seen as a result of CDBG funded programs, Congress is considering devastating cuts for the next fiscal year. CDBG has already suffered cuts of over $1 billion since 2010, making it increasingly difficult for the YWCA to keep its programs running. Further cuts will continue to have detrimental effects on services that help to meet the needs of vulnerable residents in Baltimore and across the nation.

The YWCA is honored to support women like Sherrie in their efforts to escape the cycle of poverty and homelessness— a cycle that prevents so many people from achieving their full potential. Not all residents have the same trajectories as Sherrie, but all have a great deal to contribute to our community and economy if we are willing as a society to invest in their strengths. Congress has a powerful opportunity to be an ally in this effort by making funding for CDBG and other homeless assistance grants a priority in the 2014 budget. As Sherrie says, “In a country as great as the United States, we need to take care of our own.”

Implicit Bias and Trayvon’s Legacy

Tara Andrews, Esq.

Tara Andrews, Esq.

By Tara Andrews, Esq.
Board President, YWCA Greater Baltimore

The racial implications of Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal are undeniable and are commanding a much-needed response from thinking people. The public debate thus far has focused on overt racism. I contend, however, that overt racism alone didn’t kill Trayvon Martin. Implicit bias was a key accomplice in Trayvon’s death.

Implicit bias is a subtle and more pervasive form of bias that people hold against others simply because they belong to a particular group, defined by race or other immutable factors. As opposed to overt acts of discrimination, implicit bias takes the form of unconscious attitudes and motivations that are deep-rooted, automatic and invisible to the person who holds them. Consequently, people are not even aware that their actions are biased. To them, their actions are rational and justified.

Implicit bias also renders us blind to the other group’s legitimacy and value. It’s not that we see them and hate them. We see them as people unlike ourselves, as “the other,” which colors how we interpret what they do and say. We may not even register their presence—until their presence triggers our unconscious assumptions about who is valid or legitimate in a particular context.

Implicit bias was hard at work on February 26, 2012. That night, Trayvon Martin was a typical teenager, huddled underneath a hoodie in drizzly weather, chatting on his cell phone with his girlfriend, on the way back to his auntie’s house. That same night, before and after the shot was fired, George Zimmerman was a man acting out of his implicit biases. We ask how Zimmerman could stalk and kill an unarmed child, and then claim self-defense.  The chilling answer is that Zimmerman never saw Trayvon the child. He saw only “the other,” someone with no legitimate reasons of his own to be where he was, when he was.

Implicit bias continued to work even as the facts struggled to come to light. The investigation into Trayvon’s death was delayed and diminished because the police and prosecuting authorities were never fully able to see beyond what Zimmerman saw. The witnesses to Trayvon’s death, as well as the jury at Zimmerman’s trial, heard and saw what they did through their own implicit biases. Zimmerman’s defense strategy piped to these biases, and the prosecution was ill-equipped to stop the music.

The injustice done to Trayvon is not an isolated incident. Every day on the streets of Baltimore, good-hearted, morally-upright white people never see the real Trayvons. Implicit bias blinds them to these Trayvons’ value and legitimacy. In this regard, every black boy and young black man is indeed Trayvon Martin, and their lives are as much at risk as Trayvon’s was that night.

The risk extends beyond the streets into classrooms and courts, emergency rooms and corporate suites. People of color are perceived as “the other,” and exiled to a place outside the “circle of concern” that whites inhabit by default. That this exclusion is unintentional, automatic and unexamined underscores the danger and urgency of the matter.

Overt racism alone didn’t kill Trayvon Martin. Implicit bias helped to kill Trayvon, and will help kill hundreds, even thousands more Trayvons until this nation summons the courage to acknowledge, confront and disempower implicit bias.

This is where Trayvon’s death does not have to be in vain. Like Emmitt Till and the four little girls in Birmingham, Trayvon’s death has struck a discordant chord within the white community. Many whites are extremely disturbed by Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. They struggle to explain to their children what has happened, because they don’t fully understand it themselves.

Repressing or soothing this confusion and discomfort would be a deadly mistake. Now is the time for white people to give voice to it and for people of color to engage with them in hard, soul-searching and ultimately life-saving conversations. We cannot undo what happened in Florida, but we can take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen in Baltimore and beyond. Through open, honest, and courageous communication, we can bring implicit biases to the surface and disarm them. We have the power to make this Trayvon’s legacy—one family, one neighborhood, one church, one workplace and one classroom at a time.