Baltimore City

Hopkins students, community members march to highlight disparities in North Baltimore neighborhoods

A group of Johns Hopkins University students and Baltimore residents marched Saturday to bring attention to what they say are historic racial disparities in the quality of life of nearby neighborhoods.

Organizer Tee Hardy, 32, of Baltimore, said the marchers hope to bring more attention to the issue after studies found large differences in life expectancy, average income and a host of other areas when looking at the neighborhoods near Hopkins’ academic campus in North Baltimore.


Organizers handed out flyers and are seeking community institutions and organizations to sign on to their goals as a signal of their commitment to addressing the issue.

“There has been a lack of real investment in the Black community,” Hardy said. “Most of the jobs are outside of the city.”


According to the Baltimore City Health Department, the life expectancy in the Greater Govans neighborhood to the northeast was 73.3 years old in 2017. The neighborhood is more than 90% Black.

Compare that to the nearby Guilford/Homeland region, where the health department said life expectancy rises to 84 years old. The area was more than 70% white as of 2017, according to the health department.

So, marchers took to York Road to demand equality in the city’s quality of life. Chants ranged from “No Justice! No Peace!” to “Equality in the community!” as marchers held signs reading “Don’t Divest, Invest.”

Celeste O’Connor, a 21-year-old Johns Hopkins student who grew up in Towson and whose parents worked in the city, said it can be disheartening to be surrounded by some of the more visible disparities.

In 2017, more than a third of residents in the Greater Govans area made less than $25,000 a year, according to the health department. The city also found that 36.2% of the neighborhood was located in a food desert, lacking convenient access to a grocery store with healthy food options, compared to 12.5% of the city overall.

“It is sometimes kind of traumatizing seeing all of these intense class divides,” O’Connor said, adding that the lack of equal economic development across the city is “reinforcing these systems and structures ... that support white supremacy.”

The issue of quality of life disparities along York Road has been a topic for years at Johns Hopkins and Loyola University Maryland, two northern Baltimore fixtures.

At Loyola University, the York Road Initiative was founded in 2008 to address some of these issues by involving more residents from the Govans area as part of a collaborative process to improve neighborhoods along that stretch of road. It has grown since merging with the university’s Center for Community Service and Justice in 2016.

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Much of the sentiment from the march was a call to arms for the city to not ignore its still struggling Black neighborhoods. Hardy said she hopes the initiative is adopted citywide so that more officials will look at how they can address quality of life disparities throughout Baltimore.

Madea Bailey, who goes by the stage name DaTruthDaPoet, read aloud a poem she’d written for the march before the group took to York Road.

The theme of the poem was exhaustion, one borne out of what Bailey described as an ongoing desire to have Black voices heard in predominantly white spaces.

“I’m tired of Black poems explaining to everyone who we are and who we aren’t,” Bailey said.

A few minutes later, the group of about 60 people, which had predominantly Black leadership but a diverse showing of other races, as well, briefly blocked traffic before it started its march up York Road.

One of the group’s chants as they started their march was a call-and-response: “Whose streets?”


“Our streets,” the group answered in unison.