Group takes on community woes Solutions sought on substance abuse

March 11, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Black and white, young and old.

For four days, about 50 Annapolis-area residents have joined together, not so much to rehash problems they know exist, but to come up with some solutions.

The Institute for African-American Mobilization, a four-day training conference, will conclude today with residents having discussed a variety of methods to help local community members deal with problems related to alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

The conference, which is being held at Maryland Hall, has run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

"Because of the long history and the commitment of blacks in the community, there have always been blacks doing great things in small groups," said Randy Rowel, 42, who lives in Annapolis. "But we haven't been practicing the principle of ujima." The principle of ujima calls for blacks to work collectively and own up to responsibility.

"We can use [the conference] to remove the barriers we create for ourselves and begin to work collectively," Mr. Rowel added.

"The majority of us are hard-working people," said Tony Spencer, 42, an Annapolis firefighter. "The majority of us are out there working in our communities."

The conference, sponsored by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, is a pilot program being tested by the federal government. Similar conferences are to be held at various locations throughout the United States.

During an afternoon work session, participants broke into small groups to devise objectives community members can work toward after their training is over.

"Often we look outside to groups, to the government to help us," said Emily Green, an Annapolis resident who helped bring the conference to the city. "But there are things we can do ourselves.

"And we don't need to go into our communities as missionaries. People respond to people who look like them and talk like them. We don't need missionaries," she added.

By the end of the third day of the conference, the participants had come up with a number of goals. Nearly all participants expressed interest in working together to mobilize support for acquiring the old Wiley H. Bates school to use as a center for community development. Until desegregation in 1966, Bates was the only high school for blacks in the county.

Participants said they plan to establish support groups and peer leaders within the community.

Participants also vowed to set up informal community networks within the next three months. The networks will incorporate people from various groups, including "hawkeyes," or those who tend to know everything that happens in the community.

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