While last April's unrest brought national attention to the plight of a large and mostly black disenfranchised community within Baltimore, that wasn't new news for Rodney Foxworth. The issues at the heart of Baltimore's troubles have been his passion for the last several years.
Just 31, Foxworth has already been on the ground floor of several ventures that combine technology with philanthropy to create opportunities for people of color. Those ventures in social entrepreneurship and economic inclusion include BMe (Black Male Engagement), which funds programs supporting black men in Baltimore and other cities; the Ours to Own Campaign, an investment project supporting community efforts; Impact Hub, a tech incubator and social enterprise community center in Station North; and his own not-for-profit company, Invested Impact, which launched in January 2015.
"We develop strategies and programs that are focused on expanding economic inclusion in Baltimore. We're in the early stages of raising a philanthropic fund to support social entrepreneurs of color in Baltimore," he says.
Foxworth sits on the boards and advisory boards of Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Fusion Partnerships, American Communities Trust, Betamore, the Social Innovation Lab (SIL) at the Johns Hopkins University and Thread, an initiative for high school students.
Oh, and he just was granted a North American social enterprise fellowship under the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.
So where did this drive come from? Foxworth says he was "blessed" with a strong foundation from his parents, growing up in a "very working class, stable household" in Northwest Baltimore.
However, he knew that wasn't the case for many of his peers — a point driven home when he was in middle school and would wait inside the Baltimore courthouse for his mother to get off her job as a criminal court administrator.
Recalling the suspects, he says, "I'd see this line of black males my age [then] up to about the age I am now. And I'd think: 'What the heck is this?'"
That impression was echoed years later at the Abell Foundation, with a job in workforce development. Many of his clients were guys he had grown up with.
"It was a weird experience — a much closer issue to me [than for many of my colleagues]. It was jarring," he says.
It became clear to him that the world of philanthropy and social change needed to catch up that of tech, the world owned by millennials like him.
"Innovation really is about social justice and inequity," he says.
As big as his work and civic mission is, the University of Maryland Baltimore County graduate has gone the other direction in his home life.
Last fall, he and his girlfriend, Amanda Allen, moved into a 629-square-foot downtown apartment. That meant paring belongings down to the basics. From that Spartan compendium we find his 10 favorite possessions.
It was a 2013 groomsmen gift from his best friend, Brian Raim. Foxworth officiated at his wedding after getting an online ordination as a Universal Life minister.
"I've known the guy since high school. It's also the first and only time I'll ever officiate a wedding," he said, with a chuckle.
2002 City College ring
"That's where everything started for me. City College is where I got my grounding. I did a lot of things there that I think shaped who I am today."
'Between the World and Me,' by Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates
Foxworth's favorite writer is James Baldwin. His favorite book, Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" is currently in the hands of his girlfriend. But, this 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction winner comes in a close second for Foxworth, who sees Coates as Baldwin's successor.
"He's someone who's trying to bring the James Baldwin voice to the table," he says.
Comic book collection
Foxworth readily calls himself a "comic book nerd." While his current digs don't accommodate many of his books, he has hundreds stashed elsewhere. "When I was a kid my ambition was to become a comic book writer. Maybe one day I will. Ta-Nehisi has done that. He's leveraged his MacArthur [Genius Grant] to become a comic book writer," he says, with a laugh.
Poster of a quote from "The Wire"
"There's a scene in 'The Wire' when one of the police chiefs is complaining about something, and [police commissioner] Burrell says, 'It's Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you.' That's exactly how I feel. The reason that quote really resonates with me is that's it's really on us. I just think about that quote, and it's motivational," Foxworth says.
Bulleit Bourbon and whiskey stones
Bulleit is the go-to brand for this bourbon fan when entertaining his close friends. "Get me in a room with those guys, [with some] whiskey and I'm ready to go," he says.
"We don't do it as much any more. Everybody's married and stuff."
A.k.a. man purse. "I used to have this super-huge book bag — one that made me look like a 12-year-old kid. This bag forces me to carry just the basic things: computer, writing pad, pen, some business cards. I scaled down."
Award and Thread bag
While Foxworth isn't one to highlight his awards (this one was tucked down in a bookcase), both this and the giveaway bag from Thread represent the work that he does with community and youth.
"Thread is an amazing organization which works with some of the lowest-performing students in three high schools in Baltimore city. It gets them in the second semester of their freshman year and works with those students for 10 years, getting them through high school, then helping them have post-high school success."
They were handed out at the December 2015 opening of Impact Hub. "It's about people rising up. Baltimore is standing up," he says.
Photos of his mother and a poem in a wooden frame
"Pretty much every night since I was a toddler, my mom would read me that poem," Foxworth says. "It's by Langston Huges; 'Mother to Son.' It's her favorite poem. I can't even look at it sometimes, [because] I get all choked up."