I have had the privilege of serving as the acting director of OSI-Baltimore for several months. While this role has brought a healthy mix of challenges and accomplishments, my overriding feeling is a sense of inspiration and optimism generated by working with the many talented and brilliant individuals and organizations that are moving our city forward. Our thoughtful and knowledgeable staff members work closely with our partners, grantees, and Fellows to develop long-term and strategic approaches to some of the most difficult issues facing our community.
L. Tracy Brown
Our efforts bring real successes that give me hope for the future, despite the many ways that justice and equity are challenged in our current environment. Incarceration rates in Maryland have dropped to their lowest levels since the mid-1980s, a key goal of our Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program. School arrests decreased by 90 percent after school police were trained in restorative practices, a fundamental pillar of our Education and Youth Development program. Our Addiction and Health Equity Program works to save lives by combatting the overdose crisis, including by actively engaging and empowering people who are directly impacted by substance use in advocacy efforts.
I am particularly awed by the tremendous OSI Community Fellows Network, a group of more than 200 individuals who have advanced some of the most innovative, effective ideas to support Baltimore’s underserved populations (see cover story, page 3). In uncertain times, I am reassured that these activists see solutions and act upon them with unparalleled vigor, commitment and selflessness.
My role as acting director has caused me to reflect more deeply on the impact of creative leadership, transformational vision and strategic thinking. These qualities are critical both for an organization such as OSI that is promoting social justice values as well as for governmental leaders who have an obligation to create and maintain a stable and equitable society. Unfortunately, progress in our city has been compromised by the crisis in local elected leadership. Community members have the right to have access to and the commitment of elected officials who leverage their resilient, creative, hardworking constituents to create a safer, equitable, and prosperous city. A stable and responsive government working with an engaged public is essential to meaningful change.
In order to ensure robust community input that results in the elected leaders that Baltimore needs and deserves, in September, OSI-Baltimore launched a new initiative, Blueprint for Baltimore: 2020 and Beyond. It is designed to lift up community voices and support a process to elect competent, accountable, transparent leadership for Baltimore City. As part of the process, OSI is partnering with grassroots community groups to conduct a citywide survey of more than 10,000 residents, and using that data as the basis for a series of Mayoral and City Council forums in the lead-up to the primary election in April, 2020. After the general election in November, OSI and community partners will monitor leadership’s adherence to community priorities and engage business and philanthropic leaders to explore how they can also respond to community priorities (more information on page 19)