The founder of West Baltimore’s Penn North Kids Safe Zone, which emerged from the chaos of the city’s April 2015 uprising, has severed ties with the organization.
Ericka Alston-Buck founded the recreation center and safe gathering space in the 1600 block of N. Carey St. near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, the epicenter of unrest following the death of Freddie Gray.
“I stepped away from Penn North because personally and professionally my time was up,” Alston-Buck said. She said she plans to implement other programs for children of color throughout the city.
Alston-Buck stepped down on Jan. 26, according to Essence Smith, director of the Kids Safe Zone. Her departure initially sparked confusion as to whether or not the recreation center would remain open, but signs posted at the location confirmed that the center had not shuttered.
“We are still open, we are not moving, we are not closing,” Smith said. “We are still here for the children of Sandtown-Winchester.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh stated that she will meet with the Department of Parks and Recreation to discuss opportunities for young people living in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Neither the mayor nor the Baltimore City Department of Parks and Recreation could be reached for comment specifically on Alston-Buck’s departure.