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News & Press: ABAG's Baltimore Business Journal Column

ABAG's BBJ Column: Let’s Sweep Away Our Hurts, Fears About the City

Tuesday, June 9, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz
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June 9, 2015

By Celeste Amato, President, Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers

I am sure that like me, many of you felt suspended in time watching events that you had hoped to never see in Baltimore again. Watching the loss of hard won investments and the terrible impact on already vulnerable communities and people left me feeling helpless, angry and profoundly sad.

Yet in all of the anger and violence that overtook our city, there were also amazing moments of unity. And, for all the mistrust, the distance and disparities between us — in the middle of streets covered in glass and debris — we started to gather together, black and white, and we just started cleaning up.

I have to believe that we can reach across the divisions between us and begin cleaning up the legacy of structural racism too. That may seem too simple, but what if we actually made it that simple — at least to get us started? Many of us, black and white, are ready to reach across that divide and risk a little of ourselves to confront some hard truths.

Over these past weeks we’ve talked a lot about how to engage disconnected youth but I would challenge us to start right now with friends and colleagues. Let’s give ourselves permission to share our personal hurts, fears and misconceptions and begin to sweep them away.

The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and its members are uniquely positioned to be a lasting witness to this moment and a powerful voice to help transform it into a movement — a sustained conversation that we do not allow to wane.

This is a time for us to come together, to share what we know and acknowledge what we don’t know about solving the persistent disparities that challenge not just our city, but our state and our country.

My hope is that our city becomes a catalyst to drive the hard conversations that begin to set us all free and moving forward together.

The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers has been reaching out to public sector partners to determine how we can be most helpful, to meet immediate and long-term needs.

Our funders have also been reaching out to their grantees to assess the needs of those critical service providers on the ground in affected areas. Funders like the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Open Society Institute-Baltimore already have plans to accelerate grantmaking to assist organizations and their capacity to reach as many affected community members as possible.

Associated Black Charities — a longtime champion of the need for a deeper understanding of the structural barriers that have produced economic and health disparities along racial lines — will be working with neighborhood organizations and nonprofits to facilitate conversations about "institutional and structural racism.”

There have also been funds established to assist our community that are supported by a wide variety of individuals, businesses and funders:

The Baltimore Community Foundation has established the Fund for Rebuilding Baltimore, to help repair the physical and emotional damage that has been done and strengthen our community for the future.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore is collecting funds for immediate service to the neighborhoods affected most deeply by the recent unrest. They are working with area churches, community centers and civic organizations to ensure that the funds are distributed where they are most needed. One hundred percent of all funds collected will be given to assist in the restoration and recovery.

The United Way of Central Maryland has established the Maryland Unites Fund to help restore stability to our communities. All of the donations will go toward hum

The Open Society-Institute Baltimore has established the Baltimore Justice Fund in response to the recent unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.

Celeste Amato is president of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

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