Five Lessons Learned with the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows
By Didi Goldenhar
A city’s narrative about itself can suppress or bolster its aspirations and achievements.
It’s a November morning at Upton’s Avenue Market. Just beyond the ample produce stands and sounds of breakfast at Mary’s Kitchen and Just Juice, twenty OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows take their first steps in the large meeting space, responding to verbal cues from Brian Francoise, alumni Fellow:
“Imagine we’re standing on a map of Baltimore,” he says. “Here to the west – Upton, Sandtown-Winchester, Druid Heights. East to Belair-Edison, Highlandtown. To the north— Better Waverly, Original and New Northwood. South to Cherry Hill. Southwest to Irvington and Pigtown. Okay – Show us where you live!”
People turn, bump into each other, laugh then locate their neighborhoods in this city often dubbed “Smalltimore.” The occasion is Peer Coaching Day, 2018. Ten new Fellows have been matched with ten alumni Fellows to share their projects, from what’s meaningful and delightful to the inevitable doubts and downturns that arise when planting new ideas on the frontiers of social change.
As a group, these twenty Fellows represent a dynamic fractal of the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows Network. Since 1998, OSI-Baltimore has supported over 200 Fellows whose projects range from micro-solutions at the neighborhood level to systems-based initiatives serving citywide constituencies. As OSI-Baltimore’s founding director Diana Morris once said, “A city’s narrative about itself can suppress or bolster its aspirations and achievements.” The Fellows’ creativity and the utility of their projects contributes a vibrant counter-narrative to a city typically portrayed as fractious and bleak. As positive role models, grassroots activists, on-the-ground experts, and outspoken community advocates, the Fellows continue to replenish local leadership and strengthen Baltimore’s social fabric.
Peer Coaching Day was launched in 2018 as part of Orientation Week as new Fellows begin their 18-month journey. Maya Kosok welcomes the cohort to “this Network where we’re all here to fight the good fight.” When Maya received her fellowship in 2011, she was already fluent in network-building as founder of the Baltimore Farm Alliance, which helped urban farmers secure resources ranging from marketing to large farm equipment. These days, she grows more than eighty varieties of flowers and feeds her passion for community at her Hillen Homestead Urban Farm. Brian Francoise, who led the mapping exercise, is a theater artist and educator whose 2014 fellowship project, Sister Neighborhood Arts Program, used theater to bridge Original Northwood and Northwood, two historically segregated Northeast Baltimore neighborhoods. He now practices “civic arts” at Lakeland Elementary and Middle School, a community hub for students and families. Dietician and 2001 Fellow Wanda Best brought the term “food insecurity” into the local discourse while mapping local food systems and health disparities during her fellowship. As she likes to say, “When I got my fellowship, it was for life!” Today, as Executive Director of the Upton Planning Committee, she is hosting Peer Coaching Day at Avenue Market. For some Fellows, this is their first visit to Upton, four miles from Baltimore’s sparkling waterfront and less than one mile from the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where a young African-American man, Freddie Gray, died in police custody in 2015, leading to a civil uprising in the city.
“Upton has not received a lot of love over the past forty years,” Wanda says, referring to redlining and other discriminatory policies that have led to high unemployment and low income among its 8,000 residents and thirty blocks. But Wanda also shares the glory of Upton in the early 20th century, when the neighborhood was home to an affluent African-American population. This is where W.E.B. DuBois attended church, where Thurgood Marshall and Eubie Blake lived, and where U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings lived until his recent death. She holds Upton up as the community that recently fought to keep a major bus line, where the Avenue Bakery hosts jazz concerts in its courtyard, and where meetings for its 2026 Master Plan are standing room only.
“I’m finally beginning to see Upton turn,” says Best, who’s lived here for thirty years. “My contribution is moving fluidly through all economic levels and with all kinds of people. I sleep in-between the excitement. That’s why I like the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows. We’re all like that. We wear each other out.”
Today, Wanda is more than ready to be a mentor and bring 2019 Fellow Shelley Halstead into the fold. The timing is ripe. In recent years, Upton has attracted more than 3.5 million dollars to revitalize its commercial and historic districts and it was recently designated as a Black Arts and Culture District. Shelley left a Federal legal job to launch Black Women Build, which provides training in construction skills and opportunity for home ownership in Upton and adjacent Druid Heights. She envisions the project as a model of sustainable growth in a disinvested community. “We are building community, wealth, and knowledge together by turning shells into safe, clean, well-built housing,” she says.
“You can’t get through law school without mentoring,” says Halstead. She is eager to learn from Best, with whom she has been matched as part of the OSI Fellowship Program’s Peer Coaching Day. “But this is peer coaching, with more of a reciprocal mindset.”
Miriam Avins, 2007 Fellow and founder of Baltimore Greenspace, agrees. “This exchange is better for everyone. I wasted so much time during my fellowship trying to look good rather than being vulnerable.” She listens closely as biologist and 2019 Fellow Eric Fishel describes how his Foodparks project will convert vacant lots into mixed-use parks with native edible plants and also offer education and jobs for local residents. He admits that, as a white person working in African-American neighborhoods, he is on a new learning curve. Miriam, who brings more than fifteen years of experience to community-managed open space, will be his sounding board. She also will connect him to like-minded Fellows, including Eric Jackson (2017) whose Building Black Land and Food Practice organizes residents to create community-oriented food solutions, in partnership with the Black Yield Institute.
By day’s end, each coaching pair has scheduled a weekly or monthly check-in and exchanged invitations to project events, family dinners, and church. For Maya, Brian, and Wanda, these gestures illustrate the “culture of support” they want to cultivate throughout the Fellows Network.
The Fellows Network – A Vision for Transforming the City
Pamela King, founding director of OSI-Baltimore Community Fellowships, established the Community Fellowships Program in 1998 with the vision of creating a corps of social activists and entrepreneurs “who would combine idealism, pragmatism, and innovation to revitalize Baltimore’s underserved communities.”
In 2013, Pamela and Diana Morris hypothesized about the potential of the Fellows Network, then in its fifteenth year. As Pamela later recalled, “We wanted to explore the idea of increasing the effectiveness of the Fellows to improve social and economic conditions and deepen the foundation’s knowledge of how to achieve sustainable change here in Baltimore.”
The foundation invited Marianne Hughes, founding executive director of the Interaction Institute for Social Change, to introduce the theory and practice of network weaving to OSI staff and board. The following year, Marianne and her consulting team were engaged to analyze the program through a comprehensive survey and interviews with Fellows, OSI staff, board members, and city stakeholders.
The resulting white paper, Strength in Numbers, told a compelling story about the Fellows, showcasing OSI’s “open valve” approach for identifying talented citizens from all walks of life in Baltimore. The social network maps displayed intricate webs of relationship among Fellows, within and across issues and neighborhoods. Interviews with local stakeholders highlighted the Fellows’ influence and impact, including rising graduation rates and declining numbers of juvenile incarceration; expanded land use for urban farms and community gardens; city streets made new by bike paths and vibrant murals; thousands of children and youth engaged in the arts, media, and mentoring, and layers of protection for refugees, immigrants, the homeless, working poor, and survivors of domestic abuse, among many innovative projects.
The foundation decided to move forward with the consulting team’s key recommendations – network leadership training, regular convenings, and formation of a Fellows strategy group. Now, after five years, the foundation and the Fellows have deepened their understanding of how networks flourish and what feeds their potential for lasting change.
LESSON #1: To build collective power, invest in network training, structure, and strategy.
The language of networks permeates the nonprofit sector. Indeed, the continuous rebirth of American democracy is about collective action, from the abolitionists and Civil Rights movement to Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. Networks bound by common vision and purpose motivate individuals and groups to take to the streets. However, without structure, networks dissipate quickly. Turning demonstrations into movements requires training, organizing, and strategy.
Types of Networks
Stages of Network Development
Network leadership training was OSI-Baltimore’s first investment. During Orientation Week, new Fellows spend a day with Marianne Hughes, learning the fundamentals of network theory. Her core lesson is that “relationships are the unit of change and the measure of success in networks. Your collective strength is in your diversity and your social capital is the fretwork.”
The Fellows learn about types of networks – connectivity, alignment, and action. At the twenty-year mark, the Fellows Network is a connectivity network in which relationships weave continuously and information flows freely. In terms of network evolution, the Fellows Network is a hub-and-spoke network in which the Foundation serves as the primary hub.
Strategy was the foundation’s next investment. In 2017, Pamela King assembled a Strategic Advisory Group—later renamed Fellows Advisory Board— selecting ten alumni Fellows who had been identified as “Connectors” – those cited most frequently as “work partners” and “trusted advisors” by their peers in the social network analysis. Connectors bring unquenchable appetite for “closing triangles” – network-speak for opening doors and making introductions. Facilitated by Marianne Hughes, the Strategic Advisory Group would serve as the “center-holding force” and meet quarterly over the next two years, receiving modest stipends for their service. Their mandate was to develop strategies for weaving relationships and to articulate a vision of citywide impact, aligning Fellows across issues and neighborhoods.
During their first year together, the Strategic Advisory Group crafted two pathways. Elevate and Amplify would raise the Network’s public profile and generate excitement. Gather, Learn, and Grow would build community, nurture peer learning, and integrate new Fellows into the Network.
As for structure, OSI-Baltimore would serve as the hub or “backbone organization” to scaffold the work of the Strategic Advisory Group. Pamela and her program associate Katy Caldwell managed communications, coordinated meetings, and convened larger Network gatherings. Evan Serpick, OSI’s director of strategic communications, identified opportunities for public relations and media coverage. The Network Newsletter, published by the foundation, served as a clearinghouse for local, regional, and national resources while the Fellows’ listserv provided an online venue for peer advice and activism, as when veteran organizer Betty Robinson called on Fellows to rally workers’ rights at the downtown luxury hotels and David Hornbeck, a seasoned education leader, called on the Network to advocate for new state guidelines for K-12 school funding.
In 2017, the foundation launched Alumni Action Grants which invited proposals from three Fellows (at least) for collaborations dedicated to network weaving or specific social justice issues. Several partnerships had already been launched, including “Mi Dinero, Mi Destino,” a financial literacy workshop for the Latino community, co-created by 2013 Fellow Lanaea Featherstone, whose fellowship project helped Latino families bridge the economic divide (a mission she now pursues at her eponymous foundation) and 2014 Fellow Agatha So, whose fellowship guided Latino Immigrants seeking homeownership.
LESSON #2: For network-building, convening is the glue—especially in a city like Baltimore.
From the program’s early days, Pamela King recognized the adhesive value of bringing Fellows together. Over the 18-month period, each new cohort meets for monthly gatherings to learn from each other and share progress on projects. Starting in 2015, the foundation fortified this investment with annual Network convenings where Fellows break bread, counsel each other, and brainstorm ideas for collaboration.
One tipping point was the 2016 Summit on Maryland’s Eastern Shore attended by thirty “Connectors” who percolated ideas about how they might tap into each other’s skills and spheres of activity to craft policy and build power. The Connectors gathered again in 2017 to deepen relationships and build commitment. High points included storytelling about what called them to social justice and the creation of a mural, led by Shawn James whose Mural Masters fellowship project in 2003 had provided young people with business skills. For Shawn, the collaboration required for making a mural was an apt metaphor for weaving the Fellows as a Network: “We need to make our lines intersect more often instead of running parallel.”
The desire for a like-minded family of change agents was palpable. Brian Gerardo, whose 2015 fellowship supported his Baltimore Dance Crews Project, which uses hip-hop to help young people navigate the wider world, is now program manager at Business Volunteers of Maryland. “As a lifelong Baltimorean, I want a strong network of Fellows who are rooted here,” he said. “We need people on the same wavelength. We won’t move the needle unless we work together.”
For 2002 Fellow Jacqueline Robarge, who launched Power Inside, a grassroots network for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, relationships are resources. “When this process began, I didn’t think of myself as a network person,” she said. “The concepts seemed a bit removed from me. But I’m a survivor. Survivors and people without resources handed to them have to be clever. Relationships are a way to move in the world and build power.”
Social network theory teaches that networks typically default to one of two patterns: “Birds of a feather fly together” and “Those close by, form a tie.” In other words, people gravitate to those who seem similar or because they live nearby. The Baltimore Farm Alliance is a good example of the first trend. In Spring, 2019, the Filbert Street Community Garden, launched by 2011 Fellow Jason Reed, was about to be displaced by the Department of Public Works, with plans to install a water filtration system. The Farm Alliance mobilized quickly. A petition demanding community ownership of the site after years of environmental injustice in South Baltimore, quickly garnered 1100 signatures. The value of the second trend is showcased every day in Upton as Wanda Best works closely with Halstead, 2012 Fellow Lawrence Brown, 2014 Fellow Dwayne Johnson, 2015 Fellow Lady Brion, and other Fellows on housing, education, youth development, arts and culture, and public health issues.
For broader systemic change, people need to stretch beyond similar “feathers” and “those close by” to weave ties across neighborhoods and issues. Patrice Hutton, a 2012 Fellow, recognized this challenge when budget cuts to the student bus pass program threatened attendance at her afterschool program, Writers in Baltimore Schools. She brought her concerns to a City Council meeting. “I never thought of myself as a public transportation advocate,” Patrice said, “but speaking up was better than trying to raise money for private transportation. However, if we had reached out to all the Fellows in education and environmental sustainability, we would have made an even stronger case. I’m beginning to see how our issues connect. If my kids don’t have transportation, they won’t show up. If they live in a food desert, they’ll miss school more often. What we’re trying to do with the Fellows now is create networks of empathy.”
Lawrence Brown, whose 2012 project, You’re the Quarterback: Gameplan for Life, used the football team as an organizing tool to help men secure jobs in central Baltimore, teaches public health at Morgan State University and is a renowned advocate for housing equity. He cites OSI convenings as the most important benefit of his Fellowship. “Because of our hyper segregated reality in Baltimore, we don’t meet anyone out of our circles. Without my cohort, I would not have met [2012 Fellow] David Hornbeck, a respected elder in public education, or known about [2012 Fellow] Lauren Goodsmith’s counseling work with refugees.”
As Marianne Hughes frequently reminded the group, the impact and resilience of a network is determined by the depth of relationships among its members and its density; that is, people criss-crossing neighborhoods and issues to connect with each other. This is why convenings matter. The interpersonal work is the work. One outstanding example is the collaboration between 2009 Fellow Sarah Hemminger and 2016 Fellow J.C. Faulk. Sarah directs THREAD which surrounds underperforming high school students with a “family” of mentors. J.C. directs Circles of Voices which facilitates conversations about the impact of racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and other forms of bias. Together, they designed and launched dinners throughout the city of Baltimore, engaging more than 1000 people and helping, as J.C. says, “to diminish the impact of -isms.”
LESSON #3: Networks need to see themselves – and the bigger picture.
For the Strategy Advisory Group, the idea of mapping became a resonant theme. When designing Network Summits, they reviewed the social network maps to identify the Connectors among them. They pored over lists of Fellows organized by issue area, imagining how to connect people with similar or complementary passions and projects.
The Fellows also explored the larger “map” or context for their work, to understand how the “macro” view might inform strategy for organizing around “micro” targets for change. At one meeting of the Strategy Advisory Group, Lawrence Brown presented his slide deck, “The Black Butterfly — Why We Must Make Black Neighborhoods Matter,” adapted from his forthcoming book. Through maps, newspaper articles, and census data, Lawrence tracked Baltimore’s history of residential segregation, from 1910 when the city enacted the nation’s first Comprehensive Racial Zoning Law, to the present day. He showed how two spatial geographies emerged from these policies – the White L and the Black Butterfly – leading to the current state of “Baltimore Apartheid”:
“White neighborhoods accumulate structured advantages while Black neighborhoods accumulate structured disadvantages,” he said. “Subsequently, huge investments in policing and incarceration impose social control and address social pathologies caused by those same decades of disinvestment and displacement.”
White neighborhoods accumulate structured advantages while Black neighborhoods accumulate structured disadvantages.
Brown underscored restorative justice as the guiding principle for developing solutions. By way of example, he introduced Equity Baltimore’s online PowerMap tool which displays current community data across seven metrics, including housing, health, transportation access, and education readiness. He pointed to tangible policies in development, like Baltimore’s Clean Air Actan d Housing First, both arising from local mobilization and advocacy. “Progress is being made,” he said, “There is a path to equity. Empathy is not equity, helping is not equity. Equity is about repair, restore, and heal.”
At another meeting, Lanaea Featherstone presented Baltimore’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on global goals passed by the United Nations in 2015. Baltimore’s seventeen SDGs goals address urgent challenges around economic equity, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion, with local indicators and partnerships among government agencies, foundations, higher education, nonprofits, and business entities.
As a professional journalist and founder of the Featherstone Foundation, which advances economic outcomes of immigrant families, Featherstone brought multiple hats to her presentation, infused with her enthusiasm about the Fellows. “We are a carefully selected group of thought leaders and newsmakers in Baltimore. We are everywhere! Let’s harness our collective power as leaders to make Baltimore thrive.”
The Strategic Advisory Group discussed the benefits and risks of aligning the Fellows Network with the Baltimore SDGs. Should they join this existing coalition and create a unified force for social and economic equity? Or would the Network be “shoehorned” into a top-down initiative, with little say over methodology or metrics? The group ultimately decided not to align with the Baltimore SDGs.
The quality of these events is measured by the quality of our attention to each other. People show up in places where they feel good.
Pamela King calmly took the long view. “There will be a coming-together of the trickle-up – like happy hours and peer coaching – and the trickle-down from options like the SDGs, before the Network decides to join a city effort or move collectively on its own. We don’t know yet when the bottom and the top will meet.”
Her comment underscores the delicate balance at play between foundation staff and the Network. As Diana Morris observed, “As a former community organizer, Pam has the wisdom to know that people have to do this work in their own time and their own way. She has the patience and the discipline to let that happen, knowing it will speed up and slow down as the group works through the ideas.”
LESSON #4: Engage the healthy tension in social justice networks – between weaving relationships and taking action.
In March 2019, the Strategic Advisory Group reflected on their two years of working together. Elevate and Amplify the Network had resulted in a new logo and a tip-sheet for incoming Fellows about how to describe their OSI affiliation in interviews and presentations. Gather, Learn, and Grow Together had created new spaces for connection and learning. Informal events like happy hours at 2015 Fellow Dave Eassa’s art studio and with Dwayne Hess at Clay Pots had “built the habit of wanting to show up,” just as Brian Francoise had anticipated. “The quality of these events is measured by the quality of our attention to each other. People show up in places where they feel good.”
Dwayne noticed how the Peer Coaching Initiative and Closing the Circle, a ritual of transition to complete Fellows’ 18-month fellowship, “reframes the invitation to new Fellows, from joining a cohort to being part of a Network. I now see how offering the Network immediately could make a long-term difference.” From her seat in the OSI offices, Katy Caldwell noticed that current Fellows seemed “ahead” in their projects which she attributed to peer coaching. She spotlighted the progress of 2019 Fellow Ava Pipitone and her project HostHome, an online platform to address housing instability in the transgender community. As a peer mentor, 2016 Fellow Melissa Badeker of Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap might seem an unconventional match. However, as Ava pursues early stage venture funding, she benefits from Melissa as a role model and how she operates as a “resource hound” to find and repurpose school supplies.
What about the larger goal of lifting a collective voice and building political influence? The Network seemed ready to evolve from a connectivity network – with sturdy relationships across issues, neighborhoods, and generations – to an alignment network with a common vision and set of goals. At the same time, the Strategic Advisors found themselves in the push-pull between taking action and the weaving underneath, a tension common to many social justice networks. Some cautioned against being too results-oriented and favored the “organic gestation” of trust-building as the foundation for mobilizing the Network. Others emphasized their responsibility as “actors and implementers” who must move beyond the theoretical, sharpen their goals, and craft a scope of work with tangible measures for success.
Another debate centered on their internal structure. After two years of facilitation and network training with Marianne Hughes, the group seemed ready to step into their own leadership and wanted to invite more Fellows into their “energizing conversations.” This generated thoughtful discussion and debate. Some opted for one Fellow to take the helm and maintain momentum and accountability between meetings. Others sought to preserve the group’s collaborative grassroots structure. After one such conversation, Wanda Best commented, “Did you see us squirming? We know how to do our own thing, but now we have more responsibility. We’re getting caught up in the messy.”
The process of weaving and cohering is messy, especially given the many hats the Fellows already wear as organizational leaders, activists, professors, artists, small business owners, partners, and parents. Maya Kosok drew on her experience at the Baltimore Farm Alliance, when she stepped down as executive director. “There will be growing pains,” she said. “The urban farmers had to step up and take ownership instead of outsourcing to me. But we seem ready to step up.”
LESSON #5: Go deep before broad. Right action emerges from trusting relationships.
By late spring 2019, the Strategic Advisory Group moved toward self-governance, reconvening as the Fellows Advisory Board (FAB), led by its first co-chairs, Lanaea Featherstone and Dwayne Hess. Their mandate would be to “articulate and communicate a vision of impact for the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows Network and to serve as weavers and connectors within the Network and across the city.”
Far-Reaching Fellows: All of the organizations represented on the opposite page were founded by OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows.
The group acknowledged that their vision of a “healthy, equitable Baltimore” might take twenty-five years or more, given the history of structural segregation, forced displacement, economic destruction, and other forms of oppression. To approach that vision, the FAB crafted a Roadmap for 2020, drawing on the work already in progress and proposing an emergent strategy for growing the Network’s collective voice and capacity:
The first strategy – Elevate the Network – will promote recognition of the Fellows Network in the media, government sector, and grant making community, by highlighting Network stories that validate the Fellows’ work and positive contributions to the City.
The second strategy – Deepen Connections – will grow relationships among the Fellows and encourage collaboration, from happy hours and potluck dinners to storytelling workshops and wellness activities. This work will be supported by a visual, interactive database categorized by cohort, issue, and other useful filters.
The third strategy – Support Incoming Fellows — will provide peer coaching and connections to tangible resources within the Network, starting with the welcoming event and through the Closing Circle at the end of the 18-month fellowship, to knit each new cohort into the larger Network.
The fourth strategy – Build a More Equitable Baltimore – will leverage the collective power of Network members for grassroots change, using affinity groups organized around such issues as education, racial justice, housing, health care, and investment in the city. By focusing on issues rather than constituencies, Fellows will share solutions across disciplines, foster collective learning, and mobilize from the grassroots to the ballot box. In 2020, the Network will select its first issue and encourage as many Fellows as possible to participate.
We are always moving forward. Don’t give up when you have something to give. Don’t be afraid to admit you are less than perfect. OSI is a family of connections.
CONCLUSION – By Their Own Agency, A Network Emerges
In October 2018, at the celebration marking OSIBaltimore’s 20th anniversary, OSF President Patrick Gaspard spoke of his deep affinity for Baltimore, “where Frederick Douglass learned to read and write in defiance of the slave codes, escaped bondage and set his path. This is where my American story takes hold. When the excluded weave their own way into the quilt … through their own agency.” Through their own agency. This sense of agency is much in evidence on a glorious Spring day in 2019 as the Fellows of the 2017 Cohort gather for the Closing Circle.
The event is hosted by 2009 Fellow Dwayne Hess at Claypots: A Place to Grow, a gathering place he started twenty years ago “to form meaningful community” on West Pratt Street in Southwest Baltimore. Most days, Claypots hums with the energy of GED classes, computer workshops, coffee houses and support groups. In a brownstone renovated by mostly volunteer labor, the rooms glow in the afternoon light – mauve, turquoise, yellow, green – punctuated by paintings and kanga cloths. The atmosphere is festive. The Fellows arrive, accompanied by partners, children, and friends.
Babies crawl toward bouquets of bright tulips just picked by Maya Kosok at her Hillen Homestead Farm as a gift for each Fellow.
To begin, 2017 Fellow Amy Bliss Tenney leads the Hope Choir of Nations, comprised of refugees and asylum seekers. This is one of several groups, including Congolese children and Bhutanese teenagers, to whom Amy has provided classes and music therapy while also training other music therapists. “I have come this far. We have come this far,” reprises their original song. “Sometimes easy, sometimes hard.”
Each Fellow steps to the front and reflects on his or her experience. Eric Jackson on the community-owned food initiatives in Poppleton and Cherry Hill. Matthew Burke on giving away 5,000 pounds of rescued food every week. Munib Lohrasbi on bringing his advocacy for disability rights to Maryland’s correctional facilities. Shantelle Roberts on her distribution of nearly 7500 portable box-like cribs, designed to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Alex Long on how his boxing program that helps young people “take those reactionary emotions and channel them into something positive.” Artist Kim Loper speaks about giving young people a stake in economic development by making T-shirts, greeting cards, jewelry and other items for sale. Ryan Flanagan traces the “fateful steps” from the upholstery trade to creating a community land trust in Remington that would “de-commodify housing.”
The Closing Circle also includes an opening – a welcome into the OSI-Baltimore Fellows Network, delivered by Shawn James who describes his early days before creating Mural Masters, “afraid of heights, sitting on a scaffold,” an artist who wanted his voice to be heard. He speaks to the special alchemy of the Fellowship, where “passion and ignorance become effective agents for achievement. But what makes a successful program venture is that people can see themselves in you.” He acknowledges the obstacles and self-doubt, how all OSI Fellows question whether what they do is having an impact.
“But we are always moving forward. Don’t give up when you have something to give. Don’t be afraid to admit you are less than perfect. OSI is a family of connections.
To build off one another, to lean on, to learn from, and to teach.”
To build off one another, to lean on, to learn from, and to teach. As the OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows Network moves forward, this is a deeply felt and nutrient instruction. In the next chapter, as the Network shapes policy, nudges systems, reframes practice, and generates resources, they will show how Baltimore can be done differently, by transforming their beloved city from the bottom up.