Hearing Their Voices: A Community Forum on Coming of Age in Baltimore

On April 20, 2017, the 21st Century Cities Initiative (21CC) at Johns Hopkins University hosted a community forum about coming of age in Baltimore. The event, which was a continuation of the Redlining Baltimore series, brought together community organizers, scholars, students, policymakers, advocates, and civic leaders to better understand the myriad challenges youth face growing up in Baltimore and discuss new and notable policies designed to improve conditions and opportunities for Baltimore youth. Stefanie DeLuca, Associate Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins, talked with Baltimore youth about obstacles they faced growing up in the city, and highlighted findings from her new book and Hearing Their Voices report on interviews with 58 Baltimore youth following the April 2015 unrest. The event also featured presentations on youth initiatives including One Baltimore For Jobs, the new $12 million Baltimore City Children and Youth Fund, and Baltimore Police Department community policing efforts.

Key themes and findings from the event included:

  • Youth voices must inform policy: In developing policies and programs intended to expand opportunities for Baltimore’s youth, a key part of the development process must be gathering youth voices and input and using them to inform policies.
  • Policy areas must be interconnected: We should avoid policy silos and recognize that, for example, to address public safety we must also address structural unemployment in an interconnected way. The same holds true for health, education, housing, and all policy areas that affect quality of life in communities.
  • Community organizations are where the rubber meets the road: At the end of the day, the success of our programs and policies will depend on the strength and support we provide to nonprofits and community groups in implementing services and programs throughout the city.

Baltimore City Council President Jack Young, Professor Stefanie DeLuca, and youth panelist Randall Bacote from Hearing Their Voices were all featured in a recent All Things Considered story on what has changed in Baltimore for youth two years after the April 2015 unrest. Listen to the full story here.

Experience the event through the perspective of two JHU social policy students by checking out this blog post.

Learn more about the discussions that took place in this JHU HUB article.