New Year, New City: The people of Baltimore offer resolutions for the city in 2018

Moving into 2018, I hope that we all resolve to look at things differently. The more I’ve learned about Baltimore’s history, the more I discover how deeply entrenched the problems that we face today are. The stuff we are dealing with was put in the works long ago. We’ve also been using the same patched-together-but-really-falling-apart solutions for almost as long. Now, as things come to a head, it’s time to let go of the things that don’t serve us and try something new. Let’s re-think the roles that police play in our daily lives. Let’s re-examine how all of us have digested racist and sexist policy as a fact of life. What have we simply accepted about this city that we have the power to change? – Lisa Snowden-McCray, editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Beat

A few resolutions I have in mind for the city. 1. Protect yo neck and yo sister and brother. We can protect one another and ourselves. 2. When the bus is crowded let’s all make room by moving to the back of the bus as much as we can. Bus drivers skip folks on the bus stop because people don’t make room despite the plenty of room in the back of the bus. 3. Let’s make giving up your seat for women and our elders a thing again. Just be polite and give up that seat. 4. SUPPORT THE ARTIST. PAY THE ARTIST! Artists need to get paid; freelance ain’t free. 5. When your community needs you SHOW UP. We all fighting poverty and we all need one another to collectively fight the system. 6. Support black businesses. We need our black business to strive. 7. When you see five-O warn a brother. The police ain’t our friends, we can help keep each other out of the system. 8. No need to whip out your pistol, find those sneakers and resolve it on the basketball court. The homicide rate is increasing and at its highest, basketball can resolve so many meaningless beefs. 9. Black Women including Black Trans Women need us, let’s show up for them. Too many Black women are dying and no one is talking about it. – Shannon Wallace, photographer

One issue I really think needs to be addressed is the need for creative spaces that can house some of the underground culture in Baltimore such as the Baltimore club dance community. For example, I would love to see a multipurpose dance studio space that can house workshops for non-traditional dance genres such Baltimore club dance, breakdance, and vogue taught and led by local dancers in the community. I recently attended a dance class taught by Terry Wedington from TSU Dance Crew hosted at the Bmore Fit Studios in the county near Security Mall, and the turn out and community engagement was amazing. Uneek of Bmore Than Dance, a Baltimore club dance competition and battle league organization, hosts annual dance events. The room was filled with parents and the workshop consisted of ages from 7-30, predominately African-American. The experience made me feel like we need more of this in Baltimore City and it needs to be supported by the city. Groups like TSU Dance Crew and Bmore Than Dance have become mentors to young black males literally taking them from the streets and introducing them to dance as a way to express themselves positively. To often the dancers end up dancing in streets and alleys when they should have safe and adequate space to nurture their talents. – TT The Artist, musician, filmmaker

Stop funding big developers and use that money to end homelessness and provide universal housing for all residents. – Sammy Alqasem, Ednor Gardens Resident

I resolve to working toward a Baltimore in 2018 where people—not political machines, not Annapolis bosses—choose their elected leaders and have the power to hold them more fully accountable. – Owen Silverman Andrews, co-chair of the Baltimore City Green Party

We need more attention placed on the youth of Baltimore, who are the future of our city. This includes but is not limited to improving the school system as a whole, as well as improving after-school, arts, and job programs. – Dave Koslowski, owner of Baby’s On Fire

Let’s not pass new criminal laws in Baltimore or push for any in Annapolis despite the incredible violence in our city. A law du jour or an increased sentence isn’t likely to make anyone put down a gun. It may, however, further slow an overworked justice system. There is plenty of time on the books for judges to hand out to those who are “worthy” if courts work fairly and efficiently and prosecutors and cops are effective. And in the area of bail reform—let’s keep going and fund pretrial release options i.e.; new modes of monitoring, treatment, job training, and housing. – Todd Oppenheim, attorney in the felony trial division of the Baltimore City Public Defender’s Office

I resolve that we begin to see the violence crisis as a public health crisis. That we actively work to eliminate lead poisoning across the city. That we work to ensure that our citizens are fed and living in safe housing. That we treat drug use as a symptom of substance use disorder that needs treatment, not a criminal act. And that we join together to address and heal the trauma that so many of our citizens are living within. – Jacq Jones, owner of Sugar and sex educator

Photo by Kyle Pompey

Take the all the money from the BPD and from Plank’s TIF and give it to the 20/20 campaign 🙂 <3 – Sammy DiDonato, activist/organizer

I hope restaurants and music venues work towards more effective accountability structures for sexual harassment and abuse in 2018. I think these institutions need to work toward raising wages and taking better care of their employees so that they can best serve their customers and support growth. – Dylan Ubaldo, musician, chef

Baltimore city needs to dedicate itself to protecting and uplifting the experiences of trans people, women of color, and sex workers. Despite clear evidence that the city has routinely engaged in targeted violence against these communities so many residents remain silent – content to allow the most vulnerable to be sacrificed for the illusion of safety and respectability. We want tangible steps towards the decriminalization of sex work and drugs in Baltimore. Our hope to 2018 is to further the fight for justice and recognition for our trans, POC, and sex worker siblings, and their inalienable rights to safety and dignity. – Christa Daring, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Baltimore

Baltimore’s government agencies, philanthropic sector, businesses, nonprofits, and residents must make Black neighborhoods matter to make Black Lives matter. This requires an honesty about our history. Baltimore’s economy was founded on the slave trading and enslavement of Black Lives. Baltimore has practiced over a century of deeply racist hypersegregation and hyper-displacement. We are now stripping public goods from Black neighborhoods. Until we wrestle with our history and make racial equity a reality, we will not be able to heal from our social ills. – Lawrence Brown, professor at Morgan State University

I’d ask the wealthy elite and government of Baltimore to acknowledge that it’s largely been young and diverse Baltimore residents investing their hearts and souls in our city’s cultural life for decades—while so many other things fell apart—that has made us an internationally applauded region for music and visual art today; I would ask these same groups to take an honest look at their involvement in the arts and resolve that their primary role be resourcing this incredible energy rather than misdirecting, disrupting, or otherwise hindering it. I’d ask everyone to recognize the hard work and financial fragility behind many of the music venues, galleries, theaters, publications, non-profits and collectives, book and record stores—and of course artists, writers, and performers—that help keep our city vital and distinct, and make their engagement with them as regular, as supportive, and as constructive as possible. – Eric Hatch, director of programming at Maryland Film Festival and the Parkway

As we ask that the city and its institutions invest in existing artist-run spaces and projects (related side-resolution: commission a local POC artist or group to replace the Confederate monuments), the artists running those projects must be held accountable and need to consider all aspects of what it means to be a “safe space.” Start by recognizing that your gallery or club or series or development or whatever is not in fact a safe space because such a thing exists only in degrees—and it doesn’t stop at fire codes or even the diversity of your board or staff. You can and should fire or ban people known for racist, sexist, transphobic, anti-sex-worker, or otherwise oppressive behavior, but it’s impossible to fully vet every single person who enters your space. So be on your toes, be empathetic, and be ready to intervene even if it hurts your endeavor in the short-term. You can bet that if you do nothing, it’ll damage your work in the long run, especially given this necessary cultural reckoning we’re experiencing. Don’t claim to be a safe space; work toward becoming a safer space. And apologize and repair when you fuck up. All this makes for better art, anyway, and the rest of the city can benefit and learn from these practices too. – Maura Callahan, deputy editor of the Baltimore Beat

Nearly one third of Baltimoreans rely on walking, transit, and bicycling to get to work, school, healthcare, and social gatherings. We do not own cars. Since the 1940s our city’s historically walkable streets and public spaces have been dangerously reconfigured to serve the needs of speeding cars. Public health indicators show that pedestrians pay the price through asthma, food deserts, inaccessible jobs, open space barriers (like the highways around Druid Hill Park), and death by distracted drivers. For the safety, health, and economic growth of Baltimore City, in 2018 DOT must embrace a complete streets philosophy that equitably rebalances pedestrian, transit, cyclist, and motorist needs. – Graham Coreil Allen, public artist

The city needs to desperately work on dismantling the institutional racism that exists not only amongst police but also within the judicial system and in public schools. Also we need to confront the lack of economic support for black arts communities/institutions and demand more economic support from major arts institutions in Baltimore City. For instance, we need more creative spaces owned and/or managed by native black Baltimore folk, so there needs to be more institutional and government funding to aid that movement. – Abdu Ali, musician

Photo by Shannon Wallace

What value does Baltimore City place on artists, art spaces, and arts districts? Do the arts and culture create economic value, income, and jobs here? In a city where a certain field is thriving, it makes logical sense for our leaders to invest in it, to research the strategies of other small cities with a robust art and culture sector, and figure out how to maximize its potential for success. It is not acceptable for a city to benefit from the labor of artists, to claim itself as a cultural destination, when it invests zero dollars in the arts. It is not acceptable that our official arts districts receive no funding from the city, and that derelict landlords are allowed to continue the practice of land banking in these areas without financial repercussion. Simple changes I’d like to see that would improve Baltimore for everyone: 1. Fiscal penalties levied on those who hold vacant buildings, especially in arts districts, to motivate them to sell or renovate and 2. City funding or low interest loans for building purchase and renovation, especially live-work spaces, with a requirement that buyers live or work in the space for five years. – Cara Ober, editor at BmoreArt

My wish for Baltimore City in 2018: Every city resident should find a way to give back. Be a mentor. Hire a new local employee. Teach someone to read. Donate to a worthy LOCAL charity. Visit an elderly neighbor. Volunteer at your nearest public school. No matter your income or age, everyone can do something to help someone in need. – Kevin Naff, publisher at the Baltimore Beat

Too many pedestrians die on our streets. If dirt bikes ran over them, or drunk drivers, we would all be morally outraged and the city would be locked down, but because it is ordinary drivers of cars, we don’t have the same moral—or legal—outrage. The police who write the tickets drive, the reporters who report on traffic “accidents” drive, and so none of them see it in the same way they would if there were something to differentiate it from them. It would be great to outlaw cars in the city altogether. Or to make all roads toll roads. Or stop subsidizing suburbs to the tune of $100 million lost due to congestion in Maryland last year. But here’s something even we can manage: outlaw turns on red. Yes, you may have to sit in your car just a little longer each day, but you also will be far less likely to run over a pedestrian—which is very much worth it. – Baynard Woods, reporter at The Real News Network

I have a resolution for the public servants of Baltimore City.  For each new bill, ordinance, legislation, etc. that comes before the Baltimore City Council and the Mayor, there should be an attached analysis that shows the impact (positive, negative, both, or neither) that would be had upon the lowest 20% of Baltimore City’s earners.  This analysis, completed by an economist hired by the City’s Office of Legislative Reference, would make clear what the likely effects of the proposed legislation may be on the City’s most vulnerable.  Kind of like a fiscal note, but specifically geared toward those most in need (cause they matter most, duh). – Adam Holofcener, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts (MVLA)

In 2018 I would like to see more teamwork between city hall and the citizens of Baltimore. I think the mayor’s office needs to collaborate more with the Baltimore Ceasefire campaign. I would like to also see more neighborhood outreach from the police force. Maybe the different district police stations can have a “meet your neighbor” day. Meaning the police would go to social hubs like barbershops, supermarkets, boutiques, etc. and create fellowship with the communities they serve. This would help start healthier conversations, and ultimately help with better policing and fostering a safer Baltimore City. – DDm, musician

1. That the city government adopts a policy that all bills, loans, bonds or tax deferred investments must lift up the lives of those in the poorest communities through jobs, housing, and better schools, or they are not worth doing. 2. Instead of spending $17 million on Boston-based Roca to end violence in Baltimore, the city invests that money, and additional funds, with community groups that already working to stem violence and heal and strengthen communities. 3. The city will support community schools so buildings can be used as health clinics, daycare centers, evening classrooms, and community centers. Let’s start there. – Marc Steiner, “The Marc Steiner Show” and Center For Emerging Media

Expand the network of people who are aware of opportunities. Since moving here from Atlanta eight years ago I have been able to make a lane for myself as a creative entrepreneur, and much of this has been because of my network. Though humbled and grateful I can’t help but to think of all those who are as qualified but simply do not have a network that informs them about opportunities. They do not get emails from MICA, or invites to closed Facebook groups that post living salary job opportunities, or have friends in the nonprofit sector who call them up and remind them to apply for a fellowship before the deadline passes. Intentional or not, the dissemination of opportunity is largely reserved to those who have the most, and excludes Baltimore-born-and-raised creators who not only have invested interest in the direction of the city, but also more context, history, and experience to create something that is truly needed. Support the people who know how to support Baltimore. – Malaika Aminata Clements, filmmaker

I don’t need 100 words to express my hopes for Baltimore for the coming year. It’s simple: Please make our city safe for all of its citizens. That’s what I wish. – Alan Hirsch, Donna’s co-owner, Baltimore City Paper co-founder

1. Invest in neighborhoods that need it and stop blindly feeding the white gentrification machine. I get it. We want things to look pretty so people want to move here and generate economic growth. But at whose expense? We need to figure out how to spread the wealth in meaningful ways that better Baltimore as a whole. That would be a real game-changer. 2. Double the number of teachers in Baltimore City Schools. I know this is probably impossible. But . . . reducing class size could solve a lot. 3. Please, please, please find a better solution to public transportation. Pretty please? – Genevieve de Mahy, artistic director at Single Carrot Theatre

Remember when our public benches said, “Baltimore: the City that Reads!?” Well, back in September, first day of school, only homework assignment I gave was: Get a library book for independent reading. My students had two weeks but only nine out of 78 brought in a book! One excuse after another, the main one being, “We owe the library money so we can’t take out any books.” What is a teacher supposed to say to that? My 2018 resolution to Baltimore? Wipe the library database clean and issue brand new library cards to all! Make Baltimore the City that Reads, AGAIN! – Valencia D. Clay, teacher at Baltimore Design School

Photo by Jaisal Noor

Prioritize direct action. It is by far the most effective way to create change and always has been (I say this while also acknowledging that it means asking people to put their bodies in harm’s way and given the state of protest and, well, white cowardice, that means primarily black and brown bodies in harm’s way). That said, the snail’s pace toward change that our mayor and our police commissioner (sub-resolution: fire Kevin Davis; sub-sub resolution: disband the BPD and start over, Camden, NJ-style) and others in power float, all but tells people that it’s only if they get out into the streets, pull out the lockboxes, and consider concepts such as occupation that change will happen. And I would ask our elected officials who are ostensibly with it to join in. Y’all can get arrested, you know; you’ll be OK. And if you are not comfortable with direct action, then sit on the sidelines, but please do not shame or critique or even have an opinion on the people out there doing it and reconsider why you often value property, respectability, and city ordinances over people. – Brandon Soderberg, managing editor of the Baltimore Beat

When I thought about what my resolution for Baltimore is I asked the smartest people I know: my four younger siblings. Two were too cool to answer so my sister (Niara, 15) and second brother (Kiserian, 17) answered. Their biggest concern was “the youth” which makes sense because they are youth. The youth in the city know what they need and we, the adults, often make up excuses to keep ourselves in power and keep the youth in check. It’s not just youth though, Baltimore seems to be a city where the same 20 or so people are all running things. It hasn’t worked in the past so why the hell would it work going forward? Baltimore, if we want change, if we want growth, we gotta get out of the way. – Imani Spence, writer, producer

My resolution for Baltimore is that we make our plans using much bigger imaginations. No more stop-gap solutions, taking a few dollars from here to put there, hoping we can stop violence by putting a few more cops on the street or hearing one more strongly-worded press conference declaring violence must stop. So many Baltimoreans are thinking so much bigger and deeper, and I hope the rest of us listens to those voices, and hears them. And we should listen with Emma Goldman’s insistence in mind: We call things “impractical” because they don’t make sense in terms of the world we have. But the world we have isn’t working. We need all the impractical ideas we can get. – Kate Drabinski, professor at UMBC, writer

Hi! It’s the Baltimore Art Scene here . . . I’ve been feeling fractured and stagnant these days so my resolution for 2018 is to go on a big social media diet and get out of the house as much as possible. I want to have real conversations, you know, IRL. I want to get to know myself on a deeper level, especially the parts I have forgotten about or overlooked. 2017 has been a rough year. It almost broke me so this is the year I focus on reconnecting with my body and practicing radical self-love. I might also get into urban foraging and learn how to pickle stuff. – Christine Ferrera, artist and comedian

In 2018, Baltimore City should dedicate itself to ending violence against all women and girls, especially for Black women in a city that’s 63.3 percent Black and 54.3 percent of that population are Black women. Black women face high rates of intimate partner violence, rape, and homicide. Black girls and women also experience institutionalized racism and sexism; they are disproportionately punished in school, funneled into the criminal justice system after surviving physical or sexual abuse, disproportionately subjected to racial and sexual profiling and police brutality, and incarcerated at rates far exceeding their share of the population. By placing Black women’s issues at the forefront of social and policy movements, we can develop initiatives that will resolve the root causes of unrest that remain in our communities. – Brittany T. Oliver, director of Not Without Black Women

I would like Baltimore’s arts organizations to resolve to hold each other accountable for equitable compensation of their workers and for active pursuit of racial and gender parity in their boards, staff, and other decision-making bodies. I would like each organization to resolve to view internal systemic imbalances through a historical lens without defensiveness, and I would like every artist in Baltimore to refuse to work for free. – Rahne Alexander, artist, musician, writer

My new year’s resolution for Baltimore City is challenging the Threshold Model of Collective Behavior in government, higher education, and nonprofit leadership. Low threshold is required to bring about rapid growth and innovation. The greatest action anyone can take to change your reality is to change your own behavior, not waiting for the world to change around you. Too often, poor decisions are made by toxic group thinking or in fear of stigma. In other words, think for yourself! Your threshold is the number of people who have to do something before you join in. The city has a extremely high threshold that holds even the brightest minds back. Leadership needs outliers or perfectionists. In the words of Malcolm Gladwell, “Someone who puts the responsibility of mastering the task at hand ahead of all social considerations, who would rather be right than liked.” What’s your threshold? – C Harvey, founder of Baltimore’s Gifted and Generation of Dreamers, artist

My resolution for Baltimore would be for its residents to break down barriers of class and race by connecting with people unlike themselves. We all get comfortable in our siloed, known worlds and think we understand the issues of Baltimore. No one understands them all. The only way to get a closer understanding is to listen to those who are living with the problems of the city every day. Isolation and lack of connection are at the heart of a lot of our troubles. – Susan G. Dunn, editor and publisher of the Baltimore Fishbowl

Baltimore resolves to call for a special state millionaires tax that would fund under-resourced public schools. Maryland used to have a millionaires tax and now that there will be large tax breaks at the federal level, it’s time to bring it back. Baltimore also resolves to implement a special three percent land transfer tax for houses that sell for over $750 thousand. Money will be used for the same purpose, funding for public schools. Baltimore also resolves to establish a citizens commission to investigate other means of raising revenue for city schools. The commission will also look at ways to improve the quality of education and services provided by the school system. – Paul Jay, CEO and senior editor of the Real News Network

2017 will be known as the year of Baltimore’s highest ever per capita homicide rate. This has prompted calls for harsher and more aggressive policing. But this is also the year that alternative narratives are becoming mainstream. The Sun rightfully named Ceasefire co-founder Erricka Bridgeford Marylander of the Year for her efforts to bring peace through conflict resolution. But The Sun shamefully excluded important context Bridgeford has discussed with The Beat, The Real News, and others who will listen: We must tackle the root causes of violence. For too long Baltimore has ignored the role of state-sponsored segregation, redlining, and mass incarceration. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio has credited his police policies for the lowest murder crime rate in generations. But criminologists have linked crime and economic conditions. Baltimore youth have the worst economic mobility in the entire country. Just as state policies enacted discriminatory policies that have devastated so many communities, the state must take the lead in correcting this. Let 2018 be the first year of a new path to a better, stronger Baltimore. – Jaisal Noor, producer for the Real News Network

Photo by Reginald Thomas II

We also asked you what resolutions you’d offer for the city of Baltimore—whether it be for city officials, residents,organizations, or the like—and you answered. Here are some of the responses we got by way of our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts…

More Baltimore City students making their way to college, staying to completion. (@BuildingSTEPS)

For the love of all that is holy, can we get thru council to resolve not to pass through budget until we audit the BPD? Even just OT as Pugh promised but didn’t deliver. (@melissa_schober)

Resolve to actually keep campaign promises. Resolve to not only actually complete timely audits, but to make necessary improvements upon seeing the results. (@JamesIHammond)

New Mayor, new Commissioner and New State’s Attorney. (‏@Annamarie6755)

For the citizens: “boldly step into your power.” There things to be done each one has a gift, activate it. (‏@lifeisblog)

Disband the BPD! (@matthewyake)

‏Stop referring overdue water bills to tax lien sales, where the debt is sold to hedge funds and then swiftly inflated many times by penalties and legal charges allowing speculators to snap up homes for pennies on the dollar. (@chanceofraincom)

‏Baltimore judges, in 2018 resolve to stop tearing families apart and ruining lives by making pretrial release more just. The presumption of innocence is not a lofty ideal but a constitutional fact. Privilege should not determine freedom. Presume release, not bail. (@BeattyLaw)

‏Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. Audits. (@teddypasketti)

‏I had a ton of success with my resolution for this year: pick up more garbage! I’d recommend a #30daysofpickinguplitter challenge to anyone. I #riseandpickuplitter daily now. Still thinking about my resolution for 2018 though. (@elipousson)

Fellow citizens, can we all resolve to stop littering and start yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks? (‏@earleyjared)

Improve the fucking transit! Get SERIOUS about investing in rail transit! And force the state to alter the school funding formula to accurately find schools based on ACTUAL City finances as opposed to the city’s on-paper finances. (@KeifyG)

Abolish the police. (@Lavender.coffin)

Abolish the police. (@Gaiastreetart)

Have rec centers that have quality programs for ages 2-102. (@Lovingmycitylife)

Stop voting for the same shit ball ass politicians who continually sell out the city. (@Harmavelli)

Keep producing what you’re producing & take risks. I really love it & it’s inspiring. You found a space in history for authenticity & growth & you’ve chosen to take it. I intend to help you reach that goal! (@Anakyn_j.k._gatsby)

For grassroots organizations, community organizers, peer networks and activists to continually attempt to put pressure on and hold accountable the structure around us that is making decisions for those of us who are lower class and black. Also for those people to be able to hold space for themselves to do self care in the actual sense of the word all year. (@Cmmnctnbrkdwn)

Let’s resolve to hear and try new ideas, moving beyond the conventional wisdom passed down to us from “the great and good” of Baltimore’s political establishment and its non-profit industrial complex. (@briangaither)

More investment in positive outlets for the youth of the city: the arts, rec centers, sports, schools, STEM, and more. The city won’t get better if we don’t invest in the future. And… instead of over developing already gentrified neighborhoods how about we do something about the abandoned houses and neighborhoods in other parts of the city. There are houses held up by braces so they don’t fall on people. (@turtleberry)

I want the academic institutions of Baltimore, and particularly the medical centers (@HopkinsMedicine and @UMMC) to be true partners and sources of healing for black people in the city. (@ZackBergerMDPhD)

Recognize the far-reaching cost of gun violence, especially to young victims, but to every Baltimorean of those lives for the potential for our collective future. Fewer stats and more human costs! (@marthasjones_)

Meaningful investment (emotional as well as financial) in the youth of Baltimore. (Jonathan Jacobs)

In 2018, I want to see the city emerge as the real leader of the region. Openly dismiss any calls from the GBC for shaking down city taxpayers for more money for police and/or the Inner Harbor. Let’s see our communities reenergized with true neighborhood investment. (@morbrem)

My #1 New Year’s resolution for Baltimore City: Our mayor and elected officials need to treat public transportation (BUS! BUS! ) as a public good, not something for poor people, the elderly, and school kids. (@Danielle_Bmore)

Resolve not to double park in front of an available parking spot. (Mark Mongelluzzo)

In 2018 we need to reinstate the free breakfast program, People’s Free Medical Centers (PFMC), Inter youth Institute or Community Schools, SAFE & Free Food Program. In an era where we do not have ANY government working for the people, we need to create it! (@nikifab77)

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