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Engage Baltimore

Moving Forward

A Day of Reflection and Progress as Baltimore Heals

The Bloomberg School will host Engage Baltimore: A Day of Reflection and Progress on May 8.

The event will feature speakers from the greater Baltimore community, presentations and performances. Key topics include the recent unrest in Baltimore sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, the city’s deep-rooted systemic inequities and innovative public health solutions to address challenges facing the Baltimore community.

The day will also provide an opportunity for students, staff, faculty and community groups to discuss the School’s role in facilitating meaningful change in the city.

The morning's activities on May 8 will be shown live online from approximately 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The full-day program continues a school-wide conversation that began at an April 29 town hall forum at which faculty, staff and students affirmed the School’s commitment to Baltimore as it works together with others to understand the fallout from and solutions to the recent riots and protests.

Speakers at the town hall held up a public health lens to the impoverished, blighted Baltimore that shaped Freddie Gray’s short life and the lives of many who recently took to city streets out of anger and frustration, following days of peaceful protests.

“Why did Baltimore burn?” asked Debra Furr-Holden, PhD, an associate professor in Mental Health. “How did Freddie Gray land us as the hotspot on CNN?”

Although police brutality is a troubling problem in Baltimore, the answer, she says, is much more complex. Decades of poverty, sub-standard education, food deserts and other social inequities fueled the unrest that swept through Baltimore in the past week.

It comes down to gaping health disparities, she said. Case in point: Residents of Baltimore’s affluent Roland Park can expect to live 20 years longer than individuals who reside in Hollins Market, an inner-city community about five miles away.

“People who live in the other Baltimore where Freddie Gray came from, on that day they had just had enough,” Holden suggests, referring to the riots, looting and fires that broke out on April 27. “The glaring, staggering disparities that face this city, based solely on where you live, bubbled over. And that’s why Baltimore City burned on Monday.”

Many from the overflow crowd of students and faculty advocated for harnessing the quiet power that is inherent in listening and offering support. How do we build off the needs and desires of the community, asked an alum of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, while urging her public health colleagues to think critically about how they go about identifying those needs and desires. “We are the ‘experts,’ but how do we humble ourselves and say, ‘We’re here—what do you need?’”    --Jackie Powder