Creating spaces for community voices in Baltimore and across the country

April 29, 2015

Many unanswered questions surround the death of Freddie Gray. What we do know is that people are crying out to have a voice, to make change.

What happened to Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others are not isolated incidents – they illustrate the systemic nature of the divide between community members and the police.

Across the country in public institutions such as policing, education, housing, and health care, there are chronic disparities that run along racial lines. These result from the marginalization of people of color, which is part of our nation's historic relationship to communities of color and to the African-American community in particular. 

Within this context, it’s clearer than ever that we need to form a different kind of policing and a way to address the systemic problems that lead to these kinds of tragedies. After the death of Michael Brown, we called for change to turn his death into a moment of opportunity as well as a movement. We need opportunities for residents to have a voice and opportunities to create change. We need a different way for our public institutions to interact with those they serve.

In moments like these where tensions run high, it can be hard to imagine community members and police having honest conversations with each other and working towards solutions together. From our work over the past 25 years, we know this kind of change is possible because we’ve seen it in places across the country including South Bronx, N.Y., Stratford, Conn., and Lynchburg, Va.

Inclusive dialogues give everyone a voice, and in particular they give communities and institutions a chance to hear the voices of those who have been marginalized. This kind of opportunity is one that people in Baltimore and across the country have been demanding. On a small scale, there is evidence that this is already happening in Baltimore:

Dialogue and relationship-building is an essential first step. The next step is building on those relationships to take action together. In order to make real change, many people from different parts of the community need to be involved in both dialogue and action. This kind of collective action creates another opportunity for people to transform their community into a place that works better for its residents.

We know that change is possible. Check out these key strategies to help build trust and take action in the wake of these tragic events.

Let’s change the narrative and our communities. It starts by talking to each other, and taking action together as #OneBaltimore, one community.


Photo credit Arash Azizzada

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For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked with communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides...

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.