In case you haven’t heard, Baltimore has been making national news headlines again. Mention “Healthy Holly” to anyone who lives here, and they’ll describe FBI raids, large payments for missing books, and a mayor who tried to dodge accountability under the guise of sickness. Ask folks from out of town and they’ll likely quip that this is “business as usual” for Baltimore.
But this scandal does not define Baltimore. It’s a part of us, sure – we can’t deny that Catherine Pugh was indeed our mayor and that many of the players involved are, in fact, prominent Baltimore institutions – and Baltimore is so much more than our politicians and their shenanigans. At Fusion, we support numerous partners around our city who are genuinely nourishing the health and well-being of our communities.
We Support Our Schools
Many Fusion organizations partner with Baltimore City Public Schools to provide after-school activities, career training, and other important life skills. We also work with folks who are addressing issues that have taken hold in the heart of the school system itself.
The Baltimore Movement of Rank and File Educators supports our teachers by organizing for a stronger teachers union that is focused on social justice and promoting the greater good. Teachers are the backbone of our educational system, and BMORE is fighting for their physical, emotional, and professional well being. They “work to counteract Baltimore’s history of structural racism” by elevating the voices of educators and leaders of color, and “amplify the power of the people through relationship building and providing educators the tools to organize their schools and communities.”
Orita’s Cross Freedom School is “an African-centered youth educational program” that focuses on re-centering learning – both academic and experiential – to better reflect the Black Experience. They teach self-love by studying the communities of ancestors in Africa, and how those cultures have grown and deepened through the experiences of Black people the world over. In this way, they strive to counteract the way that “public school systems can’t and won’t teach our children about their history and culture.”
We Promote Healthy Lifestyles
While the alliterative “Healthy Holly” is fun to say, it’s been reported that the books are sloppy and fail their readers when it comes to substantive lifestyle lessons. At Fusion, we partner with a number of programs who are actively engaging communities in health education. These folks are more than bold words on a page; they are hitting neighborhood streets and making food and fitness informative and fun.
Women of Distinction, Peaceful Warriors teaches young people and their families skills “that enhance their mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional health.” They promote both emotional and physical wellness by teaching mindfulness and meditation techniques, and offer workshops for folks to learn more about food choices and healthy eating.
Ashley’s Garden Team Redemption is a space for youth to get moving and release pent-up energy through kickboxing. Featured in the PBS documentary Charm City, Team Redemption focuses on young people in Baltimore who have experienced trauma, and supports them in navigating those experiences by teaching movement and healthy coping techniques.
We Provide Access to Fresh, Locally Grown Food Options
It’s been said that “Vegetables Are Not Just Green” and that “Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow.” We Fusioneers have seen as much with our own eyes through our partnerships with a multitude of community farms around Baltimore.
Black Yield Institute’s stated mission is “cultivating self-determination through Black land & food sovereignty.” They are reclaiming all stages of food production, “from seed to waste (and beyond)” and creating a space for people of African descent to learn about and influence “all aspects of our food systems, including Black food politics, economics, agriculture, culinary practices, community, wellness and knowledge creation.”
Black Church Food Security Network empowers Black churches throughout Baltimore to grow and sell their own produce. They elevate the leadership of “those most directly affected by food inequity,” provide resources and tools – including seeds and soil – to interested churches, and offer farmers market opportunities to Black farmers and growers.
Whitelock Community Farm “create[s] educational, skill building, and leadership development opportunities” through farming on their converted vacant lot in Reservoir Hill. They not only provide healthy food options, they also engage the community and Baltimore in general in conversations regarding “food access, neighborhood development, and environmental justice.”
Boone Street Farm and the Baltimore Free Farm both maintain community gardens where neighbors can grow their own food. By engaging folks in the entire process of food production, these farms are fostering awareness of and excitement for fresh, locally-grown meal options.
We Even Serve Organizations That Address Education, Health, and Food Access All At Once
Tubman House empowers residents of Sandtown-Winchester and the neighboring communities “to create healthy, whole, and stable communities,” and fights for these Baltimoreans to “have access to education, food, healthcare, and land.” They run the Fannie Lou Hamer – Sundiata Acoli Farm, where community members not only learn to grow their own food – including how to navigate “environmental hazards” found in neglected Baltimore neighborhoods – but also learn healthy ways to cook and enjoy that food. They facilitate the Ella Baker-Robert Williams Freedom School, distribute school supplies, and offer homework help. And they are building the People’s Playground, “transforming a city lot in Sandtown-Winchester into a recreation area for neighborhood youth.”
In Baltimore, it’s our people – our families, friends, neighbors, schoolmates, and coworkers – who are the soul of our city. Together, it is our power that will nourish our spirit and sustain our communities. While Catherine Pugh has garnered national attention for using a supposed health and education initiative to line her own pockets, our Fusion partners are on the ground providing the actual knowledge and services that Healthy Holly couldn’t deliver. Through collaborative action, community engagement, and genuine love and care, we are doing the hard work to make Baltimore a healthier, brighter city.