Baltimore Cross-Community Engagement Project

Robin McDonough
July 26, 2023
BCCEP Graduate

BCCEP Graduate

The Baltimore Cross-Community Engagement Project (BCEEP) was sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) in partnership with Project Pneuma, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization founded by Damion Cooper in 2014 to help young Black males in the fourth through eighth grades in Baltimore City reach their fullest potential.

The BCCEP’s mission statement is “In an effort to reduce racial discrimination and increase empathy and understanding, it is our responsibility to work together to build bridges, strengthen relationships, enhance mutual respect, and build confidence in our diverse communities. The long-term friendships developed during this project will serve as a beginning of a new coalition within the city that may be able to address additional concerns as they arise.”

To achieve this goal, 12 Black and White volunteers from Baltimore City and surrounding areas attended 10 sessions from December 2022 through May 2023 at the University of Baltimore Learning Commons. During the first eight sessions various race-related topics were discussed, including Our Shared Humanity, Our Neighborhoods, Our Schools, and What Does Race Mean to You?

BCCEP speaker

BCCEP speaker Alan Inman

These sessions often included participants sharing their personal, and sometimes traumatic narratives, related to growing up and living in racially divisive environments. From recounting their individual experiences, participants gained significant insight into the harmful impacts of racism on individuals and communities. This led participants to open their hearts and minds to discuss difficult topics, learn different perspectives, and pave the way for building trusting and long-lasting relationships.

During the last two sessions, participants collaborated on selecting, designing, and delivering the community service project at the Nexus-Woodbourne Family Healing Center on May 31st, which was co-led by Kwanza Dixon and Monique Debi. This included providing the young men at the center with their “wish list” and other items in personalized duffel bags, sharing dinner, and engaging in meaningful conversations throughout the evening. Through their interactions, participants gained a deeper understanding of the trauma experienced by the young men and the negative and long-lasting impacts that abusive relationships had on their emotional and physical well-being.

Everyone who participated in the evening – the young men, BCCEP participants, and project facilitators – were positively impacted by the experience. The young men were thankful for the gifts and attention they received, and participants were thankful for the opportunity to create a positive experience for the young men, share meaningful experiences, and deepen their connection with each other.

The BCCEP participants celebrated the successful completion of their pilot project with graduation on June 14th with a fun-filled evening spent with family, friends, and project stakeholders, coordinators, and facilitators. GPF speakers included Alan Inman, who opened the event, and Dr. Paul Murray, who gave the keynote speech and celebrated the participants for their citizen engagement in Baltimore City.

BCCEP participants

BCCEP participants

The event’s highlight was the participants’ reflections on the profound impact that the BCCEP had on them. Kwanza Dixon was touched by the contributions of so many people, was grateful just to be a part of the project, and noted how the group’s participants came together to help the young men (clients) at her Nexus-Woodbourne facility. Courtney Hughes was glad she participated and wants to continue, grow, and “bring the project to new heights.” Ryan Diener was impressed with the depth of the conversations as well as the process that has been encouraging as he noted that “so many people care about Baltimore.” As a Baltimore City homicide detective, he also appreciated the different lens to approach race relations and was encouraged in many ways to be part of a Baltimore renewal and to be part of such a welcoming environment.

According to Gail Hambleton, Project Lead and Senior Program Specialist, GPF, “We plan to develop a committee that will meet quarterly to discuss relevant issues in our community related to peace and reconciliation. Some of these issues include racial relations, race conflicts, and misunderstandings.” All graduates expressed a desire to remain engaged and build upon their burgeoning relationships by participating in this “Community Peacebuilding Committee” that could join forces with other groups and/or organizations to prevent or resolve conflicts in Baltimore. In mid-July, participant gathered for the final meeting of the pilot project to discuss their future role in community peacebuilding along with lessons learned. This included dissecting what worked well, what needs to be improved, and recommendations for a possible BCCEP Phase 2.

The project team is thankful for the enduring enthusiasm and engagement of its core participants who volunteered their time, effort, and energy to make the BCCEP a success, as well as the support of its many stakeholders who provided guidance and advice throughout the six-month project.

group photo of BCCE

Group photo of Baltimore Cross Community Engagement participants

Read more:

The Washington Informer: Baltimore Residents Finish Program Tackling Race Relations in City

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