The third installment of Amplify Baltimore, a series of optimistic community conversations, was held last weekend and featured talks about city neighborhoods, homeownership and food access.

The June 4 event was shorter than previous sessions, with just two panel discussions instead of three.

City housing officials, home ownership advocates and realtors discussed the status of Baltimore’s neighborhoods and the home and building community.

Panelists included Earl Johnson, executive director of One Green Home at a Time, an organization devoted to rehabilitating vacant structures into “green” spaces; Mike Mitchell, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake, a local affiliate of the international organization that builds affordable homes and Keion Carpenter, retired NFL safety and founder of the Carpenter House Inc., which rehabilitates properties for occupancy by low-income and single-parent families.

The afternoon session assembled food educators, city food policy leaders, supermarket owners and non-profit leaders to address food deserts and local food and urban farming opportunities.

Among panelists for that discussion were Chrissa Carlson, a food educator at Hampstead Hill Academy, a local, public charter school; Denzel Mitchell, founder and farm manager for Five Seeds Farm, a community farm based out of the Belair- Edison neighborhood; Rob Santoni, owner of Santoni’s Market, a grocery in Highlandtown; Patricia Waddy, coordinator of WIC programs at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Laura Fox, co-coordinator for the BaltiMarket, an initiative through the Baltimore City Health Department that allows residents who live in one of four city neighborhoods categorized as food deserts to purchase and pick-up groceries from their local library.

Speakers engaged in dialogue and took questions from the audience.

April Yvonne Garrett, the Baltimore-born creator of Amplify Baltimore, says the event was designed to get citizens excited about their role in improving Baltimore and generating change.

The program, produced through Garrett’s non-profit Civic Frame, also connects residents with innovators and activists, who are knowledgeable on important issues that affect life in the city.

Since the Amplify Baltimore’s inaugural event last January, it’s developed a diverse, attentive, and loyal yet small following.

Garrett says attendance for Amplify Baltimore trails that of similar forums she has hosted in cities like Boston and New York. “At the end of the day, people have to make a choice to be agents of change in Baltimore,” Garrett said in a recent interview with the AFRO. “Baltimore is not short on brilliant people committed to doing the work; we have a shortage of community people committed to change.”

Garrett markets the event heavily on social networking sites and through email.
Attendees of Amplify Baltimore have suggested that organizers hold the forums in churches and other community gatherings spots to attract more participants, especially young people.

Previous sessions of Amplify Baltimore touched on the city’s demographics and city plan, political literacy, public safety, public education, workforce development, economic development, financial literacy, capability and security, as well as asset building.

This year’s final quarter of Amplify Baltimore will be held at the Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA) on Sept. 10, and it will address city recreation centers and parks, public transportation, public art and city cleanliness.


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO