For too long, negative headlines have defined Baltimore in the minds of too many. For too long, adverse conditions have shaped perception of our city too much and innovative solutions too little.

It’s time to break this cycle. It’s time to shine a light on the good works the fine people of this great city do to make Baltimore an exceptional place to live, work, worship, learn, play and visit.

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Yes, our city’s challenges are real — but so are the steps Baltimoreans are taking to overcome them.

For those who are concerned positive change isn’t underway in Baltimore simply because the headlines don’t announce it on a daily basis, please be reassured. One personal example: The Ministers’ Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity recently began partnering with city residents, officials and businesses as part of an innovative campaign to change the perception — and the reality — of our neighborhoods, street by street and block by block.

We have joined the We Can Bmore campaign, a public awareness and engagement initiative that invests in waste reduction efforts. As part of the program, we have established teams of Green Ambassadors that have cleared more than 20,000 gallons of litter from city streets in just a few short weeks. Through our ministries and our partnership with Wheelabrator Baltimore, we are rapidly expanding We Can Bmore throughout the city.

We know from our work with the Baltimore Police Department that cleaner streets are safer streets. By participating in and supporting We Can Bmore, we are addressing two issues — crime and grime — that significantly impact the quality of life of our neighbors and the perception of our city.

We Can Bmore is a grassroots movement. It is a demonstration of the pride Baltimore residents take in our city and the effort we are willing to put forth to enhance our neighborhoods. The program started in July at Union Baptist Church in West Baltimore, where I am proud to serve as pastor, and has quickly expanded to include areas surrounding Ark Church in the Oliver neighborhood, Liberty Grace Church of God in Ashburton, Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn and the Community Outreach Ministry in Westport.

We Can Bmore is a means of supporting environmental justice. Participants in the campaign, including the Green Ambassadors, are empowering people with knowledge and providing them with the tools they need in order to facilitate change in their everyday lives.

Despite decades of recycling education in Baltimore, the city’s recycling rate remains less than 20%. We are committed to increasing recycling participation in the city. Local street teams funded by Wheelabrator are working with local residents to go door-to-door to educate community members about recycling waste and encourage people to recycle. The teams are distributing free recycling bins, educating residents on what products can be recycled and notifying neighbors of recycling collection days.

Prior to reading this, you may not have known there is a grassroots effort to reduce litter, foster environmental justice and improve public safety in Baltimore. Now that you do, make it part of the narrative you share about your hometown.

As Baltimoreans, we have the ability to influence what is said and written about our city. We have an opportunity to engage in causes that make a difference in our lives and the lives of our neighbors. We have the potential to demonstrate how much we care about Baltimore — and how much others should care also.

But don’t just get involved. Once you do, spread the word.

Believe it or not, the world is listening.

Alvin C. Hathaway Sr. is pastor of Union Baptist Church in Baltimore. His email is alhathaway@gmail.com.

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