Baltimore has a serious race relations problem -- including widespread racial and ethnic discrimination, according to the overwhelming majority of people who responded to a questionnaire at the city's racial summit in November.
The results of the poll were to be released today at the annual breakfast meeting of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission.
Ninety-three percent of the respondents indicated that the city either has a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" race relations problem. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said there is "a lot" of discrimination in the city.
About 2,100 people attended the one-day summit at the Baltimore Convention Center 5 1/2 months ago. Questionnaires were distributed to all participants; about 300 filled them out.
The city convened the summit at the urging of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. George N. Buntin, executive director of the local chapter of the NAACP, and Rev. Sidney Daniels of the ministerial alliance had suggested a summit to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke after violent, but isolated, racially motivated incidents last summer.
John B. Ferron, director of the city's Community Relations Commission, which organized the summit, said it was the first of its kind in the country -- a summit open to all citizens to meet in small groups to discuss race relations in criminal justice, education, neighborhoods, business, religion, the media and government.
A report summarizing the summit was released today at the commission's annual breakfast at the Omni International Hotel downtown. It contained several "strategies" for improving race relations, including:
Neighborhood summits, a media task force to examine negative racial views, schools that teach the history of minorities and their contributions to society, more support for government programs that address interracial exchange, a task force to monitor unemployment and underemployment, and affordable housing for low- and middle-income people.
Ferron said he hopes the people of Baltimore use the report as "an instrument and a springboard" for continuing the open discussion of race relations.
rTC Buntin, of the NAACP, said yesterday that he believes the report should have contained more specific proposals for carrying on the discussion about race relations. But still, he said, he hopes neighborhood groups and others at the grass-roots level "read it and pick up on those recommendations and go off on their own."
A few groups have started already.
Pete Pakas, former president of the Northeast Community Organization, an umbrella group of about 30 neighborhood groups, said NECO plans on holding some sort of mini-summit in the fall.
Madeleine Cooper, director of the York Road Council, formerly called the Community Council of Govans, said her group has discussed forming committees to address the problems of young people.
Others who attended the summit haven't heard anything about follow-up meetings.
Michael Johnson, who with his family owns a dry-cleaning business in the Park Heights community, participated in the workshop on Korean and African-American relations. Leaders of that workshop vowed to continue meeting in smaller groups in the community.
"I not only haven't been contacted," Johnson said, "but many, many people I know haven't been contacted. . . . I do not believe any report is going to do anything if people don't go out and do it."