MLK Day of Service, 2021: In Baltimore, 3 Exemplars Of Community Service
January 18, 2021 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday established by the US Congress in 1983 to honor the life and work of the slain civil rights leader and, in the words of this year's presidential proclamation, to "encourage all Americans to recommit themselves to Dr. King’s dream by engaging in acts of service to others, to their community, and to our Nation."
Midday marks this year's MLK Day of Service by focusing on the work of three local individuals for whom every day is a day of service.
Tom speaks first with J.C. Faulk, a diversity and inclusion consultant who was named a 2016 Community Fellow by Open Society Institute-Baltimore for his Circle of Voices project, an innovative effort to open dialogues between disparate communities. Faulk is also the founder of BMore Community Food, which is helping underserved communities weather the COVID-19 storm by re- distributing and donating surplus, healthful food to families on Baltimore's West Side and across the city.
Tom's next guest is Dr. Marisela Gomez. She is a physician, public health expert and the author of Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America (2013). Dr. Gomez is also one of the co-founders of VOLAR, the acronym for Village of Love and Resistance, an organization promoting a new cooperative model for economic development that is bringing land and property ownership to marginalized communities in Baltimore’s East Side.
Tom's final guest today is Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, the Pastor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Highlandtown, and an active member of BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development. His Catholic ministry at Sacred Heart, like his previous ministries in New York, Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, and Philadelphia, is grounded in community organizing and activism. The Right Reverend Lewandowski's parish includes a LatinX community that has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, and whose residents have had difficulties accessing traditional sources of relief.
All of Midday's MLK Day of Service guests today join us on Zoom.
Tom took a few moments in today's program to acknowledge the untimely passing Sunday of a man whose service to his community was legendary:
"A word about incredibly sad news for our city. Dante Barksdale, the outreach coordinator for Safe Streets, was shot to death near the Douglas Homes in east Baltimore yesterday. I do not know the circumstances that led to Dante’s murder. I do know that as a “violence interrupter,” Dante dedicated the last ten years of his life to de-escalating disputes and intervening in situations where he convinced people who were considering violence to consider an alternative. He repeatedly placed himself in dangerous situations, using his skill, intelligence and compassion to show people a better way; a safer way; a way forward.
He was trying to make Baltimore better. He refused to give up on young people who had, in some instances, given up on themselves. Dante knew the pressures and stresses that people in communities of color experience, and how those challenges can sometimes lead to bad decision-making. He knew about this because of his own life experience, and because of his empathy and his love. His loss is profoundly sad. His presence and leadership will be sorely missed. His murder is a horrible reminder of the challenges we face as a city.
I last spoke with Dante here on Midday in August. A link to that conversation is here. Dante Barksdale was 46 years old."
-- Tom Hall, host, Midday