Lionel Foster grew up in East Baltimore, graduated from City College and attended Johns Hopkins University on a scholarship. He studied ...
March 28, 2013
Five years ago, I thought I might have to leave Baltimore. Not because I wanted to but because I thought I needed to.
March 7, 2013
If you are anything like me, then your feelings about the city — this city, any city — are bittersweet. As you peer over your shoulder while walking down an unfamiliar street or lock yourself in for the evening, you have some idea, right or wrong, of what a stranger might do.
February 28, 2013
How was your Valentine's Day? If it was, well, complicated, the Family Research Council, a conservative, Christian advocacy group in Washington, D.C., would probably not be surprised.
February 21, 2013
I never thought I'd hear a Baltimorean say such a thing.
February 14, 2013
Tuesday of last week was such a great time to be a Baltimorean. Then came Wednesday.
February 7, 2013
After hearing where I'm from, many strangers have looked at me as if I'd said I was recently cured of leprosy. Their expressions speak volumes: "How he manages to smile, I will never know. I'm glad he's OK, but, God, I hope he's not contagious."
January 31, 2013
Last week I wrote about a young community organizer named Dayvon Love. Mr. Love and his fellow activists in Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots advocacy organization he cofounded, may be the city's strongest proponents of black empowerment. Baltimore is majority African-American, but the heads of its most influential nonprofit organizations are usually white. Race still plays a role in which voices gain access to media outlets, policymakers and funding. So in LBS' view, if their goal is to help predominantly African-American communities, white nonprofit leaders must redress this power imbalance and do whatever they can to support a social policy agenda that is shaped and led by black people.
January 24, 2013
At first glance, Dayvon Love is easy to overlook. At 5 foot 9, he has average height and a slightly larger than average build. As he carefully takes in everything and everyone in a room, he might initially seem painfully shy. So when he finally speaks, his observations can hit you like a punch you had no idea was coming.
January 17, 2013
Jan Houbolt may be the most influential Baltimorean you've never heard of. As head of the Greater Baltimore Committee's Leadership Program since 1989, he has helped groom some of the state's up-and-coming leaders through a 10-month-long series of site visits and conversations that help them examine the city in all its complexity. Mr. Houbolt will retire in December, so this year's class, his 25th, will be his last. I talked to him about why a white sociology major from a historically black university took a job with Baltimore's business elite — and some of what he saw along the way.
January 10, 2013
The civil rights movement was full of dynamic and evocative images. Today, even many of us born after its iconic moments were captured on film can describe Martin Luther King Jr.'s outstretched arm pointing a sea of people toward a future decades beyond the short span of his life, or German shepherds in Birmingham ripping into black skin, as if we had watched these events live. But 50 years after the March on Washington, one local institution is helping audiences revisit this period in American history and examine details that were largely overlooked.
January 3, 2013
A few months ago, during my first trip to Houston, I did what anyone whose knowledge of Texas is defined almost entirely by movies and television might do. I bought cowboy boots from a man with a handlebar mustache, went to a honky tonk, got thrown off a mechanical bull and mastered the "Boot Scootin' Boogie."
December 27, 2012
I devoted most of my columns over the last several weeks to the holidays, the memories they invoke and the way they bring people together. But as the year draws to a close, even I am surprised to see that none of the scenes I drew took place in church — not even by way of flashback — because I have learned more on Sunday than on any other day of the week. On Sunday I heard lessons about morality couched in stories, punctuated by dance and song. It's when I felt a visceral connection to God and a community. It's the day I saw how one man with a podium and a book could hold hundreds transfixed while he hovered between this world and the next.
December 20, 2012
Twenty years from now, I will tell people I was present at the creation.
December 13, 2012
Last week, while driving to work, I heard an NPR story that included snippets of an interview with a woman who had just applied for a marriage license. This would not have been newsworthy if not for the fact that she was gay. On Nov. 6, voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine approved marriage equality laws. Last Thursday was the first day that gay and lesbian couples in Washington state could fill out forms and exercise their new right.
December 6, 2012
It could have ended badly.
November 29, 2012
November 22, 2012
I view most efforts to coerce people into doing a particular thing on a particular day with suspicion. Consider Christmas. It can be great, but I'm not sure little baby Jesus would need an Xbox. And why did President Ronald Reagan make June 25 National Catfish Day? Salmon tastes so much better.
November 15, 2012
I travel a good deal. For better and worse, I take a bit of Baltimore with me wherever I go. During one trip to New Jersey, after stopping at a Chinese carry-out, I was shocked to see no bulletproof glass and all the condiments on my side of the counter. And I've caused minor interstate dance floor scandals after DJs cued up a Baltimore club beat.
November 14, 2012
What a deal.
November 1, 2012
I wanted to put myself in their shoes.
October 25, 2012
In 2008, Paul Tough’s first book, “Whatever It Takes,” told the story of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a massive effort to leverage a pre-birth-through-high-school system of education services to change the trajectory of 10,000 children in one 97-block area. In his new best-seeling book, “How Children Succeed” — recently praised by commentators ranging from conservative David Brooks to liberal Nicholas Kristof — Mr. Tough examines the lifelong impacts of stress during childhood and the noncognitive skills, like grit and curiosity, that could help mitigate early learning deficits. Mr. Tough will speak at three free events in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday (details: www.paultough.com). I discussed these issues with him by phone and email ahead of the Baltimore leg of his book tour.
October 18, 2012
A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a group of students at a youth arts program in West Baltimore. I was given carte blanche to hold forth on the topic of my choice, so I chose personal narratives — specifically, the benefits of effectively communicating who you are, where you come from and where you'd like to go. It's a skill that's useful during a range of interactions, from first dates to job interviews, enlisting others to help you reach your destination.