By Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor, email@example.com
As Pamela Curtis strides toward the front porch of the first group home she lived in during her childhood, much of which was spent in foster care, there does not seem to be a hint of anger, melancholy or anxiety on her face or in her spirit. In fact, there is a sense of calm that exudes from her as she sits down on the front stoop of the home located in a quiet Northwest Baltimore neighborhood.
“Sleeping with my clothes on because the group home mother’s sons kept calling me `fresh meat’ and made comments about coming in my room,” said Curtis via Facebook message regarding that chapter during her years in foster care. “It’s all beautiful,” she added, alluding to the rock solid faith that brought her through those challenging times and guide her today.
Pamela Curtis is founder and president of Pushing the Vision Outreach. (Courtesy Photo)
Curtis is founder and president of Pushing the Vision Outreach, a 501c3, non-profit (established Feb. 2010), she describes as a, “Multicultural organization that caters to the underserved communities in Baltimore City and surrounding counties, through mentoring, workshops for parents, financial counseling, empowerment events and the redevelopment of communities. I just want the forgotten to be remembered.”
This week she is making the final preparations for her “Pushing the Vision Outreach Day” on Aug. 4, the day in 2016 former President Barack Obama, the state of Maryland and Baltimore City by proclamation recognized Curtis’ organization and her work. This year she chose the theme “The Rise of Kings” she says “to honor, appreciate and recognize men statewide.”
Curtis’ event (which is also her 35th birthday celebration) will be at the Langston Hughes Business and Resource Center in her beloved Park Heights; the community she has adopted and works in. Curtis is the outreach coordinator for Park Heights Renaissance and she is also president of the Park Circle Community Association, the youngest community association president in Baltimore City. She is also the Park Heights neighborhood liaison for the Baltimore Police Department’s monitoring team (for the implementation of the consent decree) and Curtis, the mother of two teenage boys, is also a member of the Women’s Commission of Maryland.
Her story is unique and perhaps implausible in the minds of some; a teenage girl who grew into young womanhood in Baltimore’s foster care system (she entered the system at 12, an aged out of it at age 21) to become an influential community leader at 35. Yet, she argues her star is rising as a leader not despite her past, but perhaps because of it.
“I moved to Park Circle in Aug. 2017, by Dec., I was the president (of the neighborhood association).
“(Park Heights) is a food desert and a desert as well. You remember growing up in Park Heights and you remember seeing the guys on the corners, or even people selling frozen cups, or someone selling something you needed for your household,” Curtis said. “But, to now drive and see the vacant houses or what used to be corner stores that you used to walk to to get penny candy or chips…but, now to see it in such a stage.” Where others see blight and despair Curtis sees opportunity and burgeoning pockets of beauty.
“But, honestly, Park Heights is in such a transitional stage, it’s shifting…it’s transforming into something only a true visionary could envision, beautiful houses, homes,” she said.
“Truth be told, those who focused on those houses being boarded up…no shade, but reality, those were the problem people. How can you see something broken or cracked and not want to be the solution and fix it? Because it takes one person.”
Given what our city has gone through in the last three years since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent uprising in April 2015, it is easy to be cynical if you are a resident of Baltimore; it has been easier perhaps for people to pack up and head for the nearest, or farthest county. But, there are still true believers in this city; people who truly believe in the people of this city, Curtis is one of those true believers.
“People are so quick to say, `Oh, you know, I want to move out of the city.’ But, it’s beauty in the city, it’s history in this city, there’s power in this city. Umm, there’s money in this city and that’s why outside developers are coming into this city, because they know it’s money. If you build it, they will come,” Curtis said.