The Baltimore Sun is proud to partner this year with Baltimore Homecoming to solicit nominations for its 2019 Homecoming Heroes awards. Designed to recognize Baltimore City residents who have shown exceptional dedication and success in transforming Baltimore for the better, the program will award five community leaders cash prizes to further their work and provide them with the opportunity to address a distinguished group of Baltimore alumni — people who were born, grew up, lived or worked in Baltimore and who are eager to reconnect with the city.
The Heroes program seeks to recognize people who are finding new and creative ways to make an impact on Baltimore’s most difficult problems, transforming the lives of individuals or inspiring others to action. Last year’s honorees exemplify the determination, passion and ingenuity with which so many people are seeking to improve the lives of those who call Baltimore home. They are:
Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder Baltimore Ceasefire Movement. Community mediator Erricka Bridgeford has focused the city’s attention on the human toll of violence, both on the victims and perpetrators. With a simple message of “nobody kill anybody,” Ceasefire has mobilized thousands of Baltimoreans for marches, vigils and community events around four designated weekends a year in an effort to replace a culture of violence with one of love and compassion.
Monique Brown, major, Baltimore City Police Department. As a kid, Monique Brown felt like the police officers in her East Baltimore neighborhood just looked at her and her friends as potential sources of trouble. When she became an officer, she did things differently. Rising through the ranks to command the Southern District, Major Brown has sought to heal the rifts between the police and community through her interactions with residents and mentorship of fellow officers.
Alphonso Mayo, founder and director of Mentoring Mentors. Alphonso Mayo sees Baltimore’s lack of positive African-American male role models as a crucial problem. Too many are absent or engaged in activities that tear down neighborhoods rather than build them up, he says. To make a difference, Mr. Mayo founded Mentoring Mentors as a means to develop mentors who look like and have similar experiences as their mentees.
Mr. Trash Wheel. Though inanimate, Mr. Trash Wheel has developed a massive following among people fascinated with the vast amounts of trash the anthropomorphized water wheel has collected from the Jones Falls, keeping it from the Inner Harbor. The invention of John Kellett and his company Clearwater Mills, Mr. Trash Wheel is the centerpiece of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore’s effort to engage the public in reducing the litter that clogs our waterways.
Brittany Young, Founder/CEO, B-360. West Baltimore native Brittany Young figured out a way to take two of Baltimore’s problems — a sometimes dangerous and disruptive culture of riding dirt bikes in the streets and a lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education among students — and turn them into a solution. She created B-360, a program that uses dirt bikes to teach young students about everything from 3-D printing to polymer making, along with lessons on how to ride dirt bikes safely and responsibly.
What do the honorees get? A $3,000 cash prize from Baltimore Homecoming, but more important, say last years honorees, are the connections. “Homecoming … allowed me to network with individuals who I would never have had the opportunity to connect with,” Mr. Mayo says. “It was life-changing.” Ms. Bridgeford says she got a new mentor out of the event, someone who can help her turn Ceasefire from a movement to a sustainable organization. Mr. Trash Wheel’s human spokesman, Healthy Harbor Initiative Director Adam Lindquist, says the event introduced Mr. Trash wheel to influential people in the media who have helped spread the word to those working to keep plastics out of the oceans worldwide. And Ms. Young says it gave the Homecoming attendees a chance to see how creatively Baltimoreans are working to solve their own problems. “It was about elevating people who are already here and doing the work,” she says.