This week we commemorate the birthday and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of my first childhood memories is of sitting in the kitchen of my grandparents’ west Baltimore home watching my family react to the breaking news of Dr. King’s assassination. I was only 3-years-old, but their reaction, and the fires, which destroyed blocks not far from our home, made me certain that something had gone terribly wrong.
The driving issues of the American Civil Rights Movement were voting, economics, education, housing and transportation. Five decades later inequity persists in these same areas: Baltimore’s new multimillion dollar waterfront housing contrasted with blocks of dilapidated and abandoned housing where no one should have to live. Today the disparity between the city’s wealthiest and the poorest is in many ways greater than in the 1960s.
I propose we establish the Baltimore Intercollegiate University-Community Partnership (BIUP), a formal partnership of the city’s government, academic institutions, major foundations and businesses. BIUP would draw upon our city’s largely untapped resource of faculty and students in local institutions, and play an integral role in helping to identify and implement solutions for issues of concern to Baltimore.
BIUP would offer Scholars for a New Baltimore, a coveted, prestigious internship and training program for City Schools’ high school students, undergraduate and graduate students and graduates of local colleges and universities to work in partnership with local residents to help Baltimore address chronic issues of injustice. BIUP would foster a synergy among city agencies, local faculty and students, and a broader pool of community residents to address issues, develop a marketing plan to attract industry and redevelop neighborhoods in the city. BIUP would use local talent to establish a formal training program for community building, infuse creative and innovative new energy into solving the city’s persistent social, economic, and housing issues and build a better Baltimore while attracting talented young people to make Baltimore their home.