Although many of its founders have passed away, the organization they helped create–Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD)—is still going strong 35 years after being forged as a community umbrella of leadership and support.
The core of Baltimore’s movers and shakers gathered recently at the Enoch Pratt Library to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the broad-based community power organization.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), state Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, state Sen. Bill Ferguson, state Attorney General Doug Gansler and Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes were among the many politicians and corporate leaders present who helped honor the organization’s now-deceased founders Rev. Vernon Dobson, Rev. Marion Bascom, Monsignor Clare O’Dwyer and Rev. Wendell Phillips.
“In the past 35 years, BUILD has been the most community engaged and organizing group in the city passing the first living wage ordinance in the country, rebuilding the Sandtown community and currently rebuilding the East Oliver community,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, clergy co-chair emeritus of BUILD. “We helped with the Child First Authority, the largest after school initiative in the city, and the trust fund ordinance, which helped rebuild blighted communities.”
Miles was among those whose love of Baltimore and tireless contributions to the betterment of the city were celebrated during the ceremony. BUILD also recognized the late Irene Mallory, who served on the strategy team of build for 20 years, who died in February 2013 during the event. According to the BUILD website, Mallory served as a pillar of the organization and was an amazing person who led from the background.
The event also included an evening of speakers including author and historian Taylor Branch, who highlighted the many past and present victories of BUILD in the community.
During the celebration, BUILD also celebrated the historic $1.1 billion appropriation to shore up the crumbling infrastructure of Baltimore City Schools. The award is the first phase in a total $2.4 billion fund that will be given to improve Baltimore’s schools.
Hall said the fight for funding for schools helped to ensure that the Baltimore’s funds, which he said so often are directed to high-profile projects in downtown Baltimore are now being steered to the neighborhoods of average income residents.
“We believe the $2.4 billion and the ability to modernize the school buildings and the ability to give students the confidence to see we care about their schools will be transformative,” said Ojeda Hall, new lead organizer for BUILD. “But it’s a catalyst for ongoing education reform.”
Hall said additional funds will help to ensure Baltimore City Schools remain competitive and meet the educational and extracurricular needs of students.
As for its next 35 years, BUILD is continuing to partner with different organizations throughout the city. Hall said they are excited to bring on their newest partners, The Intersection, a student-led community organizing organization.
“The next initiative is a massive listening campaign,” said Hall. “The mission is to know the city a deeper than grassroots level. It’s been interesting listening to the city and see what they need and what the issues are.”