Baltimore skyline
Baltimore skyline (Posted by Doug Ebbert, Community Contributor)

Baltimore is a crucible for new ideas. Our writers and artists are shaping the national conversation on race. Researchers at our hospitals and laboratories are on the cutting edge of science. Many of the most creative national models for social change are emerging from Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

But the success stories that emerge from Baltimore represent only a fraction of our potential. We all have a story of a friend or neighbor who couldn’t find the resources they needed, of the up-and-coming artist who gave up under financial pressure, of the after-school program changing lives but short on funds, of the young entrepreneur launching a business who couldn’t find a loan. There is a mismatch in Baltimore between the energy and creativity of our citizenry and the resources available that can turn a concept into a career or a social movement.


Column: the creative side of Baltimore is altering the narrative of a crippled city, providing opportunities for more people to become aware and decide how they wish to respond.

Hard data backs this up. A recent report from the Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative detailed the constraints on access to capital, showing that compared to other large urban markets there is limited venture and working capital available in Baltimore City. That’s one reason that 30 percent of companies launched at the city's business incubators leave Baltimore to find investment. Meanwhile, although Baltimore is blessed with a culture of charitable giving and a number of committed foundations, we do not benefit from the scale and scope of philanthropy in peer cities like Pittsburgh.

One of the best ways to mobilize the necessary resources to realize the city’s potential is by sharing the stories of the countless individuals who are working hard — day in and day out — to build a brighter future for Baltimore. Too often the stories that reach the rest of the country about Baltimore are about crime, violence and poverty. We can’t ignore the realities of the challenges facing our city. But we are equally at fault if we ignore the dynamic work of the people all around us reshaping our Baltimore block by block, organization by organization, business by business. If we can share those stories with the rest of the country, we can start to increase venture capital and business lending, expand philanthropy and generate investment for neighborhood revitalization.

A relentlessly negative narrative breeds hopelessness. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s tantamount to telling Baltimore that it’s no good, that its problems are insoluble, and that it’s destined only to get even worse.

Enter Baltimore Homecoming (www.baltimorehomecoming.com), a project that aims to recruit new allies for Baltimore from around the U.S. by highlighting the positive work happening here. Baltimore Homecoming begins with those who are most naturally inclined to help: people who grew up, went to school or worked in our city. In October of this year, 100 of these “alumni” will return to Baltimore for a whirlwind tour of the city’s social, economic and artistic landscape that will give them a first-hand look at the remarkable people who are making change in the city every day in their neighborhoods and in the private and nonprofit sectors. By connecting local change-makers with Baltimore alumni, new investments and philanthropy will soon follow.

To be successful, the Homecoming needs to bring to the fore untold stories of Baltimore heroes. We are asking the public to identify and nominate a cohort of “Homecoming Heroes” — artists, activists, community members and non-profit leaders who have, through their commitment and initiative, improved the life of our city. This newly launched platform will provide first-hand, real-life stories through which alumni can learn about those in our city who are dedicating their time, energy and resources to the community. This new award will be presented at the Homecoming in October 2018.

The work of building a brighter future for Baltimore is happening all around us. We can all contribute to that work by looking afresh at what’s happening in our neighborhoods and communities, recognizing the heroes who are doing groundbreaking and meaningful work, and sharing their example.

Nate Loewentheil (nate@baltimorehomecoming.com) is president of Baltimore Homecoming Inc., which he founded with J.M. Schapiro, who is CEO of Continental Realty (jms@crcrealty.com).

Media columnist David Zurawik discusses the messages from City Hall to "change the narrative" and their criticism of the media. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)