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Harriet Tubman

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  • COIL's Director Reacts to Gang Indictment of Non Profit's Employees

    The same day that two community-outreach workers for Communities Organized to Improve Life (COIL) were arrested with 11 other defendants accused of drug-dealing on behalf of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang, the West Baltimore nonprofit's executive director, Stacy Smith, was interviewed by BMore News about the federal indictment. In the video of the interview, conducted Apr. 12, Smith characterized the arrests of two of her employees—Todd Duncan and Ronald Scott—as not surprising, given the risks inherent in gang-intervention work, which relies on gang-members' street credibility to interrupt impending violence. "We are nowhere near ready to deal with gangs," Smith said, as the unidentified interviewer described her as a "Harriet Tubman" figure, thanking her for working on behalf of society's "forsaken" people. "They are better organized than us. They are very structured." Smith also attempted to implicate other nonprofits' gang-intervention efforts as susceptible to the same problem as COIL's. "Is this specific to COIL?" she asked, then answered by saying, "I doubt it, because you always have to look at, once affiliated, always affiliated," referring to the prospect that membership in the BGF, as with many gangs, is a lifetime commitment. Smith added that she foresaw the potential of gang infiltration when, in 2007, the Baltimore City Health Department first started disbursing U.S. Department of Justice grant money to underwrite gang-intervention efforts—called the Safe Streets program—by local nonprofits, including COIL. "The concerns we raised," she said, "have come to fruition." COIL's Safe Streets funding was not renewed after the first year, and the Safe Streets funding of two other nonprofits—The Living Classrooms Foundation and Family Health Centers of Baltimore—was suspended by the city immediately after the April 12 arrests. As for the contention, stated in the search-warrant affidavit in the case, that Smith herself is a BGF member, she responded on the video by saying, "Uh, no. I'm not a gang leader."
  • BSO Announces 2011-12 Season

    The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced its forthcoming season today, and, at the risk of further overusing one of the more obnoxious cliches of the day, it's fairly epic. Here are just a handful among many highlights: • In a nod to Marin Alsop's...

    Women in the Civil War, Expo Weekend

    [caption id="attachment_10689" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Britt Olsen-Ecker will portray Clara Barton. PHOTO COURTESY MdHS"][/caption] The Maryland Historical Society will hold an in-depth Civil War event highlighting the ladies this weekend....

    Debussy Riot

    Debussy Riot
    A few years ago, I saw Ben Folds perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It wasn’t the first time Folds has played with an orchestra—far from it: He’s been performing with orchestras around the world since 2002, using world-class...

    Harriet Tubman, Badass

    I am filing this week’s column from a hotel room off Delaware’s Route 13 in Dover, as I finish up a weeklong field trip along the Harriet Tubman Byway, a self-guided 125-mile 30-stop driving tour of the American hero's life, with free audio...