Increasing neighborhood activism

April 15, 1994

Baltimore is known as a city of neighborhoods. This condition has its pluses and minuses. A patch quilt of neighborhoods gives the city strength in variety. But it can also lead to parochialism, even isolation.

In the 1970s, when urban revival was preached and practiced nationwide, the Baltimore City Fair was an event that pulled the diverse neighborhoods together. They exhibited their attractions at booths and formed alliances on acute community and development issues.

That kind of broad coalescing around problems such as road plans and demolition of neighborhoods has seldom occurred since. As activism has waned, so has regeneration of leadership. Too many organizations throughout the city have failed to train new leaders -- or expand their membership base.

To revive community activism, the Citizens Planning and Housing Association last year started sponsoring an annual one-day training session. This year's "Neighbor to Neighbor Expo" will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Western High School.

The Expo's workshops address such questions as preserving homeownership, meeting the needs of the elderly, providing affordable and accessible food, getting rid of drug houses and improving neighborhood safety.

Workshops also deal with youth enterprises, developing creative after-school learning programs, regulating troublesome liquor stores, greening neighborhoods by planting trees. Advance registration is required because participation is limited. Call 539-1369 to register.

This is a splendid opportunity for neighborhood organizations to improve their ability to cope with many of today's problems. They can network with other groups, compare notes and see what strategies work best. They may also learn from the mistakes of others.

We hope a forum such as the Expo will succeed in getting more new and young people involved in leadership roles. That is crucial for the vitality of existing organizations or for starting new ones. Otherwise, defeatism and a feeling of having seen it all and tried everything may creep in and hamper the effectiveness of community groups.

This newspaper is among the sponsors of the Expo. Our belief is that knowledge is power. We believe that well-informed neighborhoods make for a stronger Baltimore.

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