Worried about the impact of the stricter youth curfew law passed by the Baltimore City Council, the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP decided to take action. The NAACP Branch is building a coalition of community organizations and businesses to create a “database of the resources” that provide mentorships, jobs, housing, and other necessary services to youth and o ther members of the Baltimore City community.
At a meeting of community activists and leaders in June, Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore City Chapter, recalled her childhood in Cherry Hill. “When I was little, even in Cherry Hill in West Baltimore, if you threw a stone at someone’s car or you were running across somebody’s grass, if my mother wasn’t out front the next door neighbor could tell me ‘don’t do that,'” Hill-Aston said. “And it was okay for her to do that … What we have to do is find things and ways to support people when they need help.”
The initiative is being supported by a wide array of enterprises, from former military and private businesses to entertainment industry insiders and labor unions. Ronald Holcombe, a state officer for the American Legion in Baltimore City, helps run Boys State, an annual summer camp in Maryland that teaches civics. “I’m very involved with trying to financially help the youth, get them educated, just teach them the new things of life and how to be a citizen of this country,” Holcombe said.
Holcombe would like to see more information about military programs and careers in the schools, believing that for many young people, especially those who in trouble, military discipline will get them on the path to being productive citizens.
Anita Foster is a filmmaker and playwright, and operates Being Me LLC Productions. With a number of other artists and entertainment industry insiders she created Hip Hop for the Homeless, an annual food drive and fundraiser for shelters and other organizations who work with the homeless. “What’s important is bringing back the unity in the community starting with the youth, and building different strategies and outlets, [and] resources … providing more recreational activities and educational programs to enhance our youths’ minds [and] to build our future leaders,” Foster said, speaking on the importance of the initiative.
In addition to Hip Hop for the Homeless, Foster is adding her program for high school juniors and seniors to the database. The program, called ‘Motivation to Success,’ provides what Foster termed a “hard blueprint” for youth graduating from high school – making sure they can complete an employment application and working to secure employment before they finish school.
Glen Middleton, president of the Baltimore City branch of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union, said, “I bought into it [the database initiative] right away when Tessa called me up, because we want to do a mentorship program and then help to fund raise to provide money, to provide different events for [youth] to go to.”
At the June meeting, Hill-Aston suggested quarterly meetings, acknowledging the reality of everyone’s busy schedule, in order to develop the resource database. Those gathered, however, felt the initiative was too important and set a monthly meeting schedule.
Hill-Aston said she expects a first version of the database to be ready by early August.