This year, Jamar Brown, a partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP, and a champion of several justice-seeking organizations in Baltimore, stepped in as Chair of OSI’s Advisory Board.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BALTIMORE AND WHAT DO YOU SEE AS ITS BIGGEST CHALLENGES?
I love the community — the in-it-togetherness of Baltimore’s individual neighborhoods and the city as a whole. We are a city in need of local government leaders who, collectively, actually match the vision, promise, and determination of its residents. Our other major challenge remains systemic racial economic inequality in Baltimore. Violent crime, poverty, addiction, and homelessness in our city are symptomatic of systems that created deep economic disparities based on race.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE MOST LASTING IMPACTS OF THE TUMULTUOUS EVENTS OF 2020, INCLUDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THE OUTCRY OVER POLICE VIOLENCE, AND THE FRAUGHT NATIONAL ELECTION?
I hope one impact is that Baltimore begins to emerge as a model for the rest of the country on issues of social justice. We have demonstrated the power to imagine a society that creates and promotes vibrant, equitable com-munities where all of our people thrive. COVID-19 has been the greatest public health crisis in the country’s history. Here in Baltimore, we heeded the advice of medical professionals and supported our fellow residents in weathering the pandemic. When there were outcries over police violence in cities across the nation, including here in Baltimore, we did not see the type of uprisings that occurred in other places, in part, because we—as a city and through the work of OSI and our community partners—have been making the investments necessary to build and repair relationships between police and community since our own uprising following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. And despite the fraught national election, here in Baltimore, because of the work of organizations like OSI grantee Black Girls Vote, we saw record turnout at the polls.
WHAT ROLE CAN OSI, AND THE ADVISORY BOARD IN PARTICULAR, PLAY IN ADVANCING POSITIVE CHANGE IN BALTIMORE IN 2021 AND BEYOND?
OSI will continue to drive social justice movements in Baltimore by enhancing its efforts to direct capital and resources to leaders and organizations in impacted communities and by leveraging the expertise and innovative thinking of its staff and its ability to convene key stakeholders from across disparate constituencies to mobilize communities in Baltimore and throughout Maryland around solutions. The Advisory Board has a key role to play in shaping and articulating OSI’s strategic vision to our community partners and providing diverse perspectives and experiences to better inform OSI’s work, foster innovation, and challenge assumptions.