Article5 Sandtown Community Forum Planned-001

Sandtown-Winchester residents and former advocates with the Sandtown-Winchester Transformation Project speaking at a press conference calling for actual community input in the rebuilding process. (AFRO/Photo by Roberto Alejandro)

Residents of Sandtown-Winchester are organizing a community forum and requesting dialogue with those involved in the rebuilding process there. The residents are concerned that persons from outside the neighborhood are making decisions without seeking input from those who live there.

“We have a lot of outside entities that have come in since the tragedy of Freddie Gray, and it has brought us concern because we know that a lot of resources are coming here, but unfortunately no one has talked to the community,” said Sandtown resident Doni Glover, standing outside the former office of the now defunct Sandtown-Winchester Transformation Project where he and others involved in the announcement of the forum used to work as advocates.

Marsha Bannerman, another Sandtown-Winchester resident and advocate, called on Gov. Larry Hogan to speak directly with residents of the community as the rebuilding efforts get underway.

“A lot of folks are coming in; they have not lived this life here. This is a poverty-stricken community. We’ve lived this life, some of us chose not to leave, we continued to stay here, and I think we need to go a little bit further, I think we need to go on the state level,” said Bannerman, who said advocates have tried to work with the city in the past with limited results.

Marvin Hayes, an advocate for youth living in Sandtown-Winchester, spoke of the need for a new community organization that will work to ensure that any resources pouring into the neighborhood help those who are already there.

“We do this by making sure that all the residents in Sandtown are just not partners, but are leaders in this project, and are put into leadership roles,” said Hayes.

Hayes also called on young people to end the violence that plagues Sandtown, while speaking pragmatically about the importance of alternatives for youth.

“Please stop the killing. Stop the genocide, and the homicide. We all love you, we want to bring programs here to help you. Until we have those programs we cannot tell them to come off the corners, so we have to replace what we have taken away from them,” said Hayes, alluding to a recreation center that was converted into a homeless shelter, and other programs that used to serve youth in the neighborhood when the Transformation Project was still operative.

The community forum will be held on Wednesday, May 27, at 6 p.m., at the Penn North Community Resource Center, 1610 N. Carey St.