By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Staff Writer
An Upton/Druid Hill nonprofit organization is revitalizing the properties of one of Baltimore’s most influential Black families.
Beloved Community Services Corporation, led by Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, acquired Clarence M. Mitchell Jr.’s family home, located at 1324 Druid Hill Ave., and the law office of his wife, Juanita Jackson Mitchell at 1239 Druid Hill Ave. in December 2022.
Both of the properties were vacant and in severe disrepair. Restoration of the family home is set to be complete in the coming months and will be put on the market for new homebuyers. The latter will break ground this summer and be redeveloped into a legal services hub.
“It’s important to preserve that home because it’s the fabric of this community. I came back to Baltimore after being away, and it was sad to see the abandoned parts of West Baltimore that’s why I’m encouraging Alvin Hathaway and others,” said Michael Mitchell Sr., former Maryland state senator and son of the Mitchells.
“It’s a revival of Druid Hill Avenue, and I’m glad to see that.”
Hathaway grew up in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood just a few blocks from the Mitchell’s family home. He often played with Michael, the youngest of the Mitchell sons.
The Mitchell home had a powerful presence in the neighborhood, and he recalled his neighbors gushing about the celebrated people that would come there, like Jackie Robinson and Wilma Rudolph.
“I was proud and deeply honored that our organization was bestowed with the opportunity to bring this story back to life. When you think about the contribution of the Mitchell family to civil rights, it’s of national meaning and national importance,” said Hathaway.
Their home should be a place that reflects how that family lived.”
Hathaway established the Beloved Community Services Corporation back in 2008 because he wanted to restore Upton/Druid Heights, which was once the heart of the local civil rights movement and an affluent Black community and revive the area’s rich history.
Over the years, the nonprofit organization has run programming centered on bridging the digital divide, reducing health disparities, enhancing education and employment opportunities. More recently, Beloved Community Services Corporation has focused its efforts on renovating vacant properties.
Its first project was the restoration of the Henry Highland Garnet School where Justice Thurgood Marshall was a student. The $14 million renovation is expected to be completed in December.
In April, Rep. Kweisi Mfume (Md.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) awarded $1.75 million to Beloved Community Services Corporation for the revitalization of Juanita Jackson Mitchell’s law office, which has been vacant for more than 20 years.
When the project is complete, it will provide legal and social services to Upton/Druid Heights residents, and it will become home to the Rebuild, Overcome and Rise (ROAR) Center, which is managed by the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
The center provides legal and mental health services to victims impacted by violence and crime.
“Juanita Jackson Mitchell, being the first African-American female to graduate from the University of Maryland’s law school, was just an amazing personality herself. Her husband, of course, is known as the 101st U.S. senator, but, here, Juanita had her own lane,” said Hathaway.
“She had her own aura and her own movement. She protested against various injustices, and she was always on the front line.”
Juanita Jackson Mitchell was the first Black woman to practice law in Maryland. She was also deeply involved in the work of Baltimore’s NAACP chapter, engaging youth with the movement, running voter registration campaigns and leading city-wide protest marches.
Hathaway regarded her as the backbone of the Mitchell family and hopes that the restoration of her legal office can inspire young residents to nurture and embrace their communities.
“We’re trying to recreate the motivation of her personality, so that the young people of this era can see real people who were active in improving the community,” said Hathaway.
“I believe that the opportunity for them to interact with people like her in an educational way will stimulate and inspire them to do great things because great things are in everybody, they just have to be ignited.”
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.