Blueprint for Baltimore: 2020 and Beyond
In the fall of 2019, OSI launched the Blueprint for Baltimore project, an attempt to lift up the priorities of Baltimore’s marginalized communities and ensure that our city’s prospective leaders are held accountable to them. OSI partnered with five community-based organizations to conduct an on-the-ground survey, share the results widely, and hold a series of public forums where candidates in the 2020 elections would hear community concerns and explain how they would respond to them if elected.
The project evolved from the Solutions Summit in 2016, when OSI convened communities around Baltimore to talk about priorities in the areas of jobs, criminal justice, and behavioral health. That process culminated in a summit at the War Memorial Building, where more than 700 people voted on a final 16-point action plan that was presented to newly elected Mayor Catherine Pugh. Pugh accepted the plan and shared her own policy proposals in response. Several of the items in the action plan, like the creation of an online platform to identify drug treatment slots, became reality in the ensuing years.
Looking ahead to the 2020 elections, OSI and its community partners, Baltimore Votes, Black Girls Vote, CASA, the No Boundaries Coalition, and Organizing Black, wanted to take a more data-driven approach. Each of the community partners held survey-design workshops where Baltimore residents identified the most pressing areas they wanted the survey to address. The partners also recruited Data Fellows, who would conduct the survey with door-to-door canvassing and at community spaces and public events.
The result was the Blueprint for Baltimore Survey Report, which compiled the responses of more than 5,000 Baltimore residents from all 55 Community Statistical Areas (CSAs), including many that are rarely represented in significant numbers in traditional surveys. We were able to record these communities’ priorities because trusted community-based organizations conducted the survey and will take the lead on how the data, also available online at Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance’s Blueprint for Baltimore Data Portal, is used.
In February, 2020, OSI hosted a mayoral forum where moderators asked candidates how they would address community priorities identified in the Blueprint for Baltimore data. A similar forum was planned for City Council President candidates, but because of the COVID pandemic, moderators conducted remote interviews based on the Blueprint data. A third forum, co-sponsored by the Stoop Storytelling Series, also moved online.
In the months after the Blueprint data was made public, advocates have used it to push for policy changes aligned with community priorities. OSI will continue to work with community partners to identify ways the data can be leveraged to make government more accountable and we are already exploring more surveys to build on our work in 2019.
Top, participants in Blueprint for Baltimore Data Fellow Training; Bottom, A No Boundaries Coalition Data Fellow helps a city resident complete the survey at Lexington Market
Talking About Race
For more than ten years, OSI has hosted important, often difficult conversations about race and society. In 2019, we hosted three events in the series:
February 13: Former Washington Post senior editor Steve Luxenberg, author of Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation, talked with Judge Robert Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court— from 1996 to 2013 (the first African-American to hold the position) about the current-day relevance of Plessy v. Ferguson through the eyes of the people caught up in the case.
March 25: Dr. Beverly Tatum, educator, administrator, and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? talked with Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises about the continued relevance of this book 20 years after it was first published and the role race plays in schools today.
October 15: Poet, essayist and national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice Reginald Dwayne Betts talked about his latest poetry collection, Felon, with 2015 OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow Lady Brion.
OSI’s Leadership Council is an eclectic and engaged group of people who share a commitment and a passion for Baltimore—and who actively want to be part of the solutions for its future. It was established to widen the network of people who know about the issues that OSI addresses and the work that we do, and who serve as ambassadors. The Council meets for quarterly sessions to learn more about OSI’s work. These were the topics and guests in 2019:
February 27: A conversation about LQBTQ inclusion in schools and beyond with Jabari Lyles, LQBTQ Liaison in the Mayor’s Office and Board Chair (and former executive director) of GLSEN Maryland, Mark Procopio, executive director of FreeState Justice, and Karen Webber, director of OSI’s Education and Youth Development program.
May 10: A conversation with Ganesha Martin, who had recently been appointed director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and Tara Huffman, director of OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program.
September 18: A conversation with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, who had been appointed in February, and Scott Nolen, director of OSI’s Addiction and Health Equity Program.
Dr. Letitia Dzirasa (center) meets with OSI-Baltimore’s Leadership Council.
December 10: Preview of the 2020 Legislative session with Delegate Brooke Lierman, Delegate Shelly Hettleman, Shamoyia Gardiner of Advocates for Children and Youth, and Scott Nolen, director of OSI’s Addiction and Health Equity Program.
To inquire about joining OSI’s Leadership Council, email Evan Serpick, email@example.com
Del. Shelly Hettleman, left; Del. Brooke Lierman, right, with Shamoyia Gardiner of Advocates for Children and Youth.
April 26: OSI, the Mayor’s Office of African-American Male Engagement, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum hosted actor/producer Michael K. Williams, who memorably played Omar Little in “The Wire,” for a screening and discussion of “Raised in the System,” a documentary about the juvenile justice system that Williams produced and stars in. After the screening, Williams participated in a panel discussion that included Felicia Porter, Snoop from the “The Wire,” and Williams’ nephew, Dominic Dupont, both of whom appeared in the film, and OSI Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program Director Tara Huffman, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and others.
June 11: OSI celebrated and said farewell to founding Director Diana Morris and thanked her for 21 years of service to Open Society Foundations and the people of Baltimore. Among those offering tributes to Diana were Open Society Foundations President Emeritus Aryeh Neier, Former Vice President and Director Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs Gara LaMarche, Executive Director of Open Society-U.S. Tom Perriello, OSI-Baltimore Advisory Board Chair William C. Clarke, III, Advisory Board members Andre M. Davis, Joseph T. Jones, Jr. and Nupur Parekh Flynn, and OSI-Baltimore Deputy Director L. Tracy Brown.
OSI-Baltimore Advisory Board Member Nupur Parekh Flynn, Andre Davis, and Diana Morris
June through September: OSI co-sponsored a powerful exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art, “Slavery, The Prison Industrial Complex: Photographs by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick,” which documents life in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, known as “The Farm.” On September 5, OSI and the BMA hosted a panel discussion on issues surrounding mass incarceration with prison rights advocate Norris Henderson, founder of Voice of the Experienced, and Baltimore native Monica Cooper of the Maryland Justice Project and the driving force behind Baltimore’s “Ban the Box” legislation. The event was moderated by Annie Anderson of the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. Tara Huffman, director of OSI-Baltimore’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program gave opening remarks.
Chandra McCormick. Men Going to Work in the Fields of Angola, 2004. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist. © Chandra McCormick
2019 Surge Grants
In 2019, Open Society-US invested $25 million in multiyear grants to build power among local organizations led by, and accountable to, people of color. Following are the grants from that investment that were made in Baltimore in 2019.
Baltimore Safe Haven
$35,000 over one year to provide general support.
Black Girls Vote 4 HER, Inc.
$30,000 over one year to support nonpartisan voter engagement.
Sex Workers Outreach Project
$25,000 over one year to reduce the stigma and dehumanization associated with sex work and to increase power and collaboration among sex workers.
Youth Empowered Society
$85,000 over 18 months to provide drop-in services, leadership development and other supports to prevent and eliminate youth homelessness in Baltimore.
Restorative City / Violence Prevention
Fund for Educational Excellence
$250,000 over two years to enhance the reach, knowledge and skills of Safe Street staff to more effectively and efficiently engage the community in restoration, and enhance the effectiveness of Safe Street’s violence prevention strategy.