The Love of the Written Word Benefits Health, Body

Helping Up Mission on Baltimore Street has a library with a view.

It is time to celebrate the first anniversary of Health and Faith in Baltimore, even if a bit late. With this posting comes a tribute to the many people who have made this blog possible through their involvement in promoting health and wellness at Baltimore’s various faith communities. When I set out to follow and tell the stories of people around the city, I knew that I would find struggle and hardship. But what I found was much more than a sum of devastating stories of poverty and inequality. I have seen the courage of people who turn their own struggle into communal currency for others; I have seen women who have little for themselves and their children but still tirelessly advocate for the betterment of their communities at neighborhood meetings; I have seen the culture of hope and caring in circumstances that I previously thought were so challenging that little was left for building tomorrow. Continue reading

Posted in Baltimore, Literacy, Mind-Body, Social determinants of health, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Will Provide for the Providers?

Baltimore needs the energy of community health promoters. Are we giving them our best support? A wall in McElderry Area.

[I originally published this entry in The Baltimore Sun's Commentary on August 31, 2012.]

Over the past year, I have had the privilege to follow the work and lives of many of Baltimore’s committed community health advocates. These health promoters, organizers, practical nurses, pastors, interns, and volunteers are often the trusted leaders of impoverished neighborhoods. The best ones stay even when grant monies run out and short-term projects are deemed complete; they work and volunteer at odd shifts to reverse the plight of underserved communities. They promote stability that benefits us all. Unfortunately, these local heroes often struggle with the same uncertainties that they selflessly work to ease. Some live in outright poverty. Continue reading

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Celebration Brings the Message of Wellness, Care: A Day of Hope 2012

Pastor Marshall Prentice kneeled down to offer a child a free haircut.

Day of Hope events are by now a summer tradition in East Baltimore. Thousands of people came together this year and last year for a few days of community bonanza at Collington Square and Darley Park. I had the opportunity to join the celebration at last September and this summer at Darley Park. The July sun in can be merciless on the open fields of Darley Park. But no one seemed to notice, not the more than thousand local residents – families with small children, elderly women, teens – who came together to get a lift from music and be inspired by the motivational speakers. It was all very festive, there were  generous giveaways of groceries. Continue reading

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London and Beyond: Spiritual Lessons of Athletic Competition

The Olympic Rings shone brightly at the opening ceremony in London. The picture: The Washington Post.

Though the London Olympics began rather bitterly for Baltimore with its hometown swimmer Michael Phelps’s loss to Ryan Lochte and a few others in 400m Medley, the creative spirit of the opening day festivities and the thrill of the competition make the upcoming weeks sportive blast also here in Charm City. Hampden United Methodist Church has joined The Games with its collaborative, five-week sermon series focusing on the lessons that the ancient and modern athletes offer for our journey of religious and personal growth. Continue reading

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Baltimore – a mural city: An Interview with Lyle Kissack.

The artist with Oliver and Walter.

Baltimore is a mural city. Walter Ward and Oliver Gardner, both 13, did research into Baltimore’s murals, went around the city to take pictures, and interviewed one of the prominent local mural artists, Lyle Kissack. All the murals depicted in this blog are by Lyle Kissack. This is a guest blog by Walter and Oliver.

How do you choose the places for your murals?    Lyle Kissack: “Actually I don’t choose the places. The city or, specifically, BOPA – Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts –have their mural agent, so to speak, who scours the city and receives requests. There are people who say ‘I have a house. There is a wall. It is prominent. It is ready for a mural. You should come and see it.’” Continue reading

Posted in Art, Baltimore, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Decide that Everyone Matters in the Fight against HIV/AIDS

The gates are open. A volunteer, Joyce, welcomed people.

Testing is the new, widely accepted, key word for faith-based HIV/AIDS support. While the conversations about sexual activity or sexual orientation may leave many pastors squirming from unease, the focus on screening and linkage to care has successfully brought HIV/AIDS prevention to African-American churches, evangelical communities, and even to Catholic outreach centers – all of which just a few years ago were slow to respond to the complex challenges associated with HIV/AIDS. The fourth annual City Uprising HIV outreach day, brought free testing to several local churches, including the ones that I visited in West Baltimore, Unity United Methodist Church and Payne Memorial AME Church. The driving forces behind the day were University of Maryland’s JACQUES Initiative, HopeSprings, and Gallery Church – three names that one hears a lot when one follows the Continue reading

Posted in Baltimore, Health Screenings, HIV/AIDS, Medical Outreach, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Green Means Move: The Next Step for Urban Environmentalism.

Green Means Move. The Sherwood Gardens in North Baltimore.

Urban environmentalism, city gardening, and initiatives promoting awareness of healthy, fresh food have a strong foothold in Baltimore. Faith communities are involved in the budding awareness and advocacy of  the many ways individuals and groups can be more conscious of the choices for a healthy life. All sorts of good things are going on. But it is also time to ask what comes next? How can we sustain the buzz and positive energy around environmentalism? How can urban green initiatives be better paired with similarly focused promotion of movement and active living? Continue reading

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Graceful Living in East Baltimore

Some info, some ideals, a lots to do. The bulletin board at Amazing Grace.

Some urban churches are virtual community service centers. In these churches civic advocacy, promotion of education and health, and neighborhood partnerships couple with spiritual services and worship. Amazing Grace Lutheran Church on McElderry Street is one of these power houses. Its bulletin board testifies to all the on-going activities: Client Choice Food Pantry, Habitat for Humanity workshop, Panera Bread Share, garden club for children, spiritual healing Bible study, as well as, massage therapy. Above the bulletin board is the poster for Safe Streets program: “Stop Shooting. Continue reading

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Health Promotion Takes More Than Words.

Willie Flowers

A good preacher may rock the room or bring it to meditative stillness, fill it with laughter or sobs. Some preach through words, others through deeds – both are probably needed. The real test of preacher’s craft is the landing ground of listener’s heart, soul; a good sermon ignites commitment in the listener. Willie Flowers, the executive director of the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, joked at our recent meeting that since he is not much of a storyteller, the pulpit was not for him. Instead, he likes to think his “sermons” consist of community organizing, literacy programs, urban gardening, and  the promotion of active, healthy living.  Continue reading

Posted in Baltimore, Fasting, Health Disparities, Running, Social determinants of health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Spring to Health in All Baltimore’s Neighborhoods


Maryland Institute College Art (Mica) has one of its outposts on Collington Avenue in East Baltimore.

A few months ago Baltimore City Health Department published Neighborhood Health Profiles. This publication is a compilation document of broad range of data that addresses health outcomes and social determinants of health in 55 Baltimore neighborhoods. The Neighborhood Health Profiles makes an important read. It rightly looks at the social indicators of health, including education, housing, safety, and access to nutritious food. But I advise that you do not read the document before bed-time - the data will keep you up all night if you really start thinking of the daunting health challenges that many people of this city live with. Continue reading

Posted in Baltimore, Health Disparities, Health Equality, Social determinants of health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments