Our home is supposed to be our sanctuary, the place where we can feel comfortable and safe, and recharge our batteries before heading back out into a hectic world. For Jordan Taylor, the Catonsville Y’s sports and teen director and his wife, their home in southwest Baltimore City became everything but that last week, when three armed intruders broke in and killed him in cold blood.
Jordan was a gentle soul and a hero to the many, many kids he coached, mentored, guided and helped. His 10-year career at the Y has been filled with the kind of success that ultimately matters most in life: building enriching relationships with so many and being a source of inspiration, leadership and encouragement, particularly to young people. When he passed away from his injuries a day after the attack, the world and this city got a good bit harsher. The Catonsville Y community, which is a tight-knit, wonderful group of members, associates, volunteers and families, is suffering a great deal, and, like everyone else, seeking answers to what seems to be an unanswerable question: Why did this happen to Jordan?
The truth is that we are in the midst of an existential crisis in the City of Baltimore. Our homicide rate is among the highest in the country, and the pace of violence and victims this year is exceeding last year’s already high pace.
The reasons for this level of violence are complex and interlocking. There is no one thing to be done to fix it, but there are definitely a set of laws, practices and actions at both the local and state level (with federal assistance) that could be used to significantly reduce the rate of violent crime if we had the will and focus to do it.
Other cities have successfully reduced their violent crime rate significantly, but in Baltimore we have had not just a crisis of confidence but, in my view, a crisis of leadership. While there are a number of incredibly important issues that urgently need addressing in our city — education, economic opportunity, addiction, infrastructure, transportation, juvenile justice and lead paint abatement, among many others — progress on them is ultimately not possible unless the city becomes a lot safer. When a house is on fire, one doesn’t start planning for new carpeting. Our house is on fire, and we don’t seem willing to grasp that. It’s always easier to change the subject. But we cannot, and we should not.
Jordan and so many of his colleagues here at the Y were and are a part of the solution. The work he did and we continue to do in the realms of early childhood development, out-of-school time enrichment, community schools, youth development, mentoring and health and wellness is crucial to creating a safer, more equitable, healthier and more connected community. So many of the people we serve are doing their absolute best to live productive lives in neighborhoods that are incredibly violent and dangerous. They are being traumatized daily and are largely and disproportionately the victims of the violence. They are the ones who most deserve answers and far more serious action than we have yet seen by our local elected officials.
This is not a message about political preferences. I have a great deal of respect for many of our hardworking elected officials. Rather, this is a plea to those in elected office, and those who seek to be, to acknowledge the crisis we are in and to focus on it like your hair's on fire, because our city is, essentially on fire. They owe it to Jordan Taylor, his family and friends, and the thousands of others who are left to live on in the face of heartache and loss. The city and this region need more Jordan Taylors, not fewer.
If I sound fed up, it’s because I am. It’s time for action, not platitudes.
Rest in peace, Jordan. You were a good, good man, and you deserved far better.
John K. Hoey is president and CEO of the Y in Central Maryland. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.