on lessons from south baltimore

AF: How much do you think that you bought lessons from South Baltimore here, as far as neighborhood and community?

CH: Yeah. For myself, not very much, really.  Because I moved to Baltimore from Annapolis. So I was very involved in the Annapolis community and politics and activism. I was part of a tenants’ rights group in Annapolis. But when I moved to Baltimore, to move in with Dennis, I probably was only in that rowhouse in South Baltimore for just a couple of years before we moved here.

But for Dennis, he bought a lot of what he learned. And in fact, when we moved in this neighborhood, Dale Hargrave, who I said, is the current president of New Greenmount West [Community Association], was already living here. And Dennis knew Dale, because Dale did recycling in South Baltimore and was part of the Recycling Coalition that Dennis and others were part of. So he had contacts everywhere. And he brought in our experience—which was his experience, much more than mine—of watching something that was vibrant and mixed and a wonderful soup of people become bland and vanilla. And healthy, I guess, but just… I don’t know.

Life left the streets for us. That’s how he saw it. I’m sure that people living there now don’t feel that way. It’s not to disparage them. But there was something that was there that he truly loved that left. And so he found it here. And he didn’t want to see it leave again. So he tried to figure out what happened in South Baltimore.

Part of it was that a bunch of developers came in and bought up houses. And the community association, I guess, was not prepared for this somehow. So he wanted this community association to be prepared. “Hey, this is going to take off. This is going to take off. Developers are going to show up here.” And they are! He was absolutely right. They’re going to show up here, and we need make sure that they come to the community association. That we know what’s going on in our neighborhood. We had lots of abandon houses here that the City owned. We didn’t want the City just taking them all and selling them to whoever. You know? We wanted to know who they are going to. What are their plans?

So Dennis took that from his experience from COPO [Coalition of Peninsula Organizations]—You know, the coalitions that he had there around community organizations. He was involved with… I can’t remember. Oh, what was it? There was an African American neighborhood that was slated…

AF: Oh. Sharp-Leadenhall.

CH: Sharp-Leadenhall. Dennis was vice president of COPO and therefore was very involved with Sharp-Leadenhall and making sure that community remained. Because developers were breathing down their necks trying to get that community. And this was affordable public housing. And they just wanted the land, you know? They were seeing dollar [signs].

And that community won. But they were really organized. And had this woman named Mildred Moon, I believe her name was, who was just an amazing organizer. She was great. And then she had all this other help from other—you know, COPO was a coalition of community organizations—so she had help from other organizations, but she was leading it, and she knew just what do.

So he bought a lot, I think, to this neighborhood. I think that the thing that we both bought is social activism, being able to look around and feel like we want to be a part of our community and we want to find out what the community feels it’s lacking and what it might want, and see if we can figure out a way to leverage.

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