As people across Baltimore protest racial injustice, The Baltimore Sun asked leaders in the Black community what changes they want to see.
Caprece Ann Jackson, Influencer
Caprece Ann Jackson is a social media influencer who serves as a liaison between up-and-coming artists and larger brands. In the past few years, she’s been working particularly with sustainable designers.
“Baltimore’s underground talent is extraordinary,” Jackson said. “The arts community should be tapped more. Right now, creativity and fresh ideas are rippling underground in every genre of fine arts ... you don’t see it when you come to the city, but you gravitate towards its waves of energy.
“To move Baltimore forward, we need to embrace this new energy and realize its full potential. As a city, this new generation of artists are going to be responsible for raising the bar.
“Baltimore is an artist hub. Shops have closed and now we have mobile emergence. We have to adjust to the virtual way of the world. I’ve seen artists come together collectively on small batch manufacturing. I wonder what that would look like if they were given the proper investment and support. I think it would create a fresh stream of revenue, generating new opportunities.”
Caprece Ann Jackson is a social media influencer who serves as a liaison between upcoming artists and larger brands.
Daniel Futrell, Community Organizer
Daniel Futrell graduated this spring from Baltimore City College High School. During his four years in high school, he dealt with the loss of two grandparents and his older step-brother who was murdered. He kept those emotions bottled up until an English teacher named Lena Tashjian encouraged Futrell to use his pain and turn it into activism.
In the early months of 2020, he spearheaded a Ceasefire event for his class to discourage gun violence. Bringing the class together also allowed for his peers to have a safe space to share their concerns and their own wounds from past traumas. By coming together, Futrell is confident their efforts will promote unity and equality while giving them a group to rely on for support.
“I would like the government to implement a law that would not allow police to use weapons on kids 18 and younger,” Futrell said. “They should use tasers before pulling out a gun. I believe this can slow the rate of police killings.
“We just want to be humans. We just want to be free. We don’t want to worry about being killed. I don’t want anyone to be scared to come out of their house. I want to get past the point of being scared that something bad will happen to me. I want Baltimore to be more of an open environment. We should live our life without fussing, fighting and killing because that’s not what life is about. We all deserve to live life to the fullest.”
Daniel Futrell, a 2020 graduate of Baltimore City College, has turned his suppressed emotions from trauma he experienced into Ceasefire Baltimore activism.
Brittany Young, CEO
Brittany Young is the founder and CEO of B-360. The grant-funded program uses dirt bikes to introduce more Black children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and give them the skills for STEM careers. Young has engaged with more than 2,000 students since she launched B-360 in 2017.
“Post protest, I want to see the Black voices, talent, bodies and culture celebrated at all times - not just for marketing or in times of turmoil,” Young said. “Corporations and companies making posts and giving are nice gestures, but ask: how many Black people are in your executive leadership teams? How many employed? What is the work culture? Are Black employees equally compensated? Will there be yearlong outreach, programming and funding to support grassroot leaders and organizations?
“I imagine a new ecosystem where cities invest in their people by spending more dollars on education, recreation, health, and lessen the stress caused by systematic racism
“For B-360 specifically, I am asking money be allocated to us to help shift dirt bike riding out of traffic into programming and safe spaces. If the city can spend money policing the problem, it can spend money growing programming for the thousands of youth and young adults we’ve worked with who do not want to be in streets - and create long term gain similar to what has been done for skateboarding and bicyclists. Now is the time we need value to be shown through direct investment in Black lives and long term implementation.”
David Thomas, Chef
Chef David Thomas has been cooking up refined recipes for nearly three decades. He is known for combining the flavors from his southern roots with ingredients from other cultures including Asian and Latin American to feed Marylanders “modern soul food.” Chef Thomas’s unorthodox meals led him to compete on several episodes of the Food Network’s “Chopped” series. Earlier this year, he was crowned the Chopped Grand Champion.
The Baltimore native is the founder and former chef of several eateries including the award-winning Ida B’s Table. As a seasoned cook and entrepreneur, Thomas hopes that with the proper investment, more Black businesses will be able to flourish.
“It’s always said in this business: location, location, location. We need access to the prime option like everyone else — not just in the back alley,” Thomas said. “We also need to have low interest loans available. If you think a person is at risk to repay, why charge them more? That will certainly put them in a more vulnerable position.
“I’d like to see more equal opportunities and fair, affordable housing for both commercial and real estate properties. I know there are a lot of black people who have a hard time getting a chance to have nicer (commercial real estate) to run their business. The Office of the Mayor needs someone who is not only competent, but truly cares about the communities they’re serving. In general, I’d like to see people being treated like normal citizens.”
Kwame Rose, Social Activist
Kwame Rose is a social activist, writer and public speaker who is an advocate for vulnerable communities. When Baltimoreans took to the streets shortly after the death of George Floyd, Rose was alongside them. He encouraged protesters to advocate for change peacefully and make it home safely.
“Some of the changes I’d like to see in Baltimore are the promotion of Black lives community organizations.” Rose said. “To do that we need to defund the police. Baltimore has the highest police budget per capita for cities with more than 500,000 residents.
“So even if we took away $153 million, Baltimore would still be the number one city [with that population] per capita. Surplus money should be given to communities. We need to provide the necessary resources Baltimore has failed to provide for generations.
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“The Baltimore Police Department is not good at solving crimes. We should go into preventative methods. BPD should not be called to help with mental health cases. There’s a distrust between BPD and the community. We need a more holistic approach.”
Shelonda Stokes, President of the Downtown Partnership
Shelonda Stokes is the President of the Downtown Partnership. She sees the downtown area as a hub for all Baltimoreans and can almost guarantee that it’s the first place tourists visit. Stokes believes that as the city continues to rebuild from COVID-19 and residents take to the streets to demand change, it’s a great opportunity to come together as a city to spark change.
“I think one of the things I’d love to see is more combined neighborhood activities,” Stokes said. “There’s a focus on downtown, but it’s a city of neighborhoods and what I look forward to is not an us versus them.
“Post protest, I want people to feel like they have a platform. The downtown area is the city center’s heartbeat, so I want for everyone who comes to protest to feel like it’s their downtown.
“One of the things we learned over the years is once visitors come they love it, so I’m hoping that post protest we can create more events and experiences. Doing so will even bring us [Baltimore residents] all together. I envision more entertainment spaces. We have signature restaurants coming up specifically for that. I look forward to enhancing businesses that have expanded their intention ... reaching out to their communities by education and outreach.”
Tatyana Turner is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a national service program that places emerging journalists in local newsrooms. She covers African-American neighborhoods, life and culture.