The world we inhabited in 2019 seems like a totally different place from the one we inhabit now. The COVID-19 crisis and the mass protests for change in response to police killings have re-shaped our lives and shifted our perspectives on a wide range of things, including public safety, community health, work, and education. They have also opened up new opportunities for change and revealed new understandings of what it is possible to achieve.
Open Society Institute-Baltimore has seen and responded to many changes over the course of its 22-year history. The organization has always strived to be responsive to the people of Baltimore, to amplify the voices of marginalized communities, and to identify emerging opportunities to advance human rights and progressive change. In 2019, OSI saw some of the most significant changes in the organization’s history, which prepared us well to meet the challenges of 2020 — some of which we anticipated and some we most certainly did not.
In early 2019, in response to ongoing and emboldened threats to open society in the United States, including more overt bigotry in the public discourse and autocratic tendencies in the federal government, Open Society Foundations reorganized its US-based work as Open Society U.S., integrating and aligning the Baltimore office with offices in New York and in Washington D.C. By streamlining resources, increasing collaboration, and integrating our diverse perspectives, OS-US will be better situated to meet this challenging moment in US history.
As part of that reorganization, OSF made the decision to renew its investment in Baltimore, and in doing so, underscored the organization’s commitment to the intensive place-based philanthropy we do here, while also giving us greater financial security. As a result, OSI-Baltimore staff will not need to invest nearly as much time and resources to fundraising as we had in the past and can focus more on collaborative efforts with other funders as well as public, private, and grassroots partners.
In June, OSI experienced one of its most significant changes when founding director Diana Morris stepped down after more than 20 years at the helm. We are all so grateful that Deputy Director Tracy Brown was able to step in as interim director during this period and expertly lead the organization through these changes.
Since I joined the organization in January, 2020, I have been endlessly impressed with the thoughtfulness, insight, and passion that the organization’s staff brings to its work. Through these momentous changes, my colleagues’ commitment to dismantling racism, listening to community voices, and holding leaders accountable has never wavered.
As I write this, Baltimore and the rest of the country continue to grapple with a global pandemic and an ongoing fight for racial justice. I’m confident that my colleagues and I, working with our many local and national partners, will meet this moment and move towards a stronger, more just city and country.