September is, appropriately enough, Attendance Awareness Month and a good time to talk about how attendance is a portal to many other issues involving Baltimore City students, families and schools. Nearly 85% of our students qualify for free and reduced meals, which is an indicator for poverty; and we can’t discount the attendant barriers and burdens that accompany modern poverty in America.
We each have roles to play in the work ahead, work that will not end until we all understand and own our country’s full history of genocide, slavery and the exploitation of oppressed people—a history that often is hidden behind a false narrative of liberty and justice.
The Open Society Institute-Baltimore endorses the closure of the Baltimore City Detention Center, a notorious facility that has, for decades, posed a serious risk to detainees, staff, family members and the broader Baltimore community. As the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services moves forward to end this shameful chapter in the state’s history, it is imperative that state and City stakeholders work together to leverage this unique opportunity to reduce unnecessary incarceration safely and to reinvest the savings to improve community safety.
There’s a whole body of research around restorative practices. The premise is that people are happier, more productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them. In my ninth year now as a City principal, I have learned that when teachers and administrators give students voice—allowing them to speak up and for themselves—a culture develops that is conducive to learning.
During the Uprising in Baltimore, police said more than 27 pharmacies and two methadone clinics were looted for pain medications and other prescription drugs. City officials estimate that, as a result of looting, there are now more than 175,000 doses of prescription pain medications available for black market purchase.
If your only image of yoga involves White women in Lululemon garb, then you don’t know the Baltimore-based non-profit Holistic Life Foundation (HLF). Most often, you’ll find HLF founders Ali Smith, Atman Smith, and Andres Gonzalez teaching yoga to African-American youth in a public school gym. Most of these students are exposed to significant trauma—fallout from growing up in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods.
The poisonous notion of white supremacy is the root from which many of our experiences of American culture grows. It is what successive generations of black Americans have risked their lives to eradicate. It is the refuge from fair competition that has unjustly privileged white Americans for two and a half centuries.
When Baltimore City erupted on the afternoon of Freddie Gray’s funeral, many adults froze in front of their television screens. The imagery of high school students hurling bricks and bottles at police in riot gear was, to many, stunning, shocking, astonishing. I was not astonished. Instead, I was saddened, because I was watching evidence of something I’d long known: We’d failed our students.