Only 43 miles separate Zion Baptist Church in Baltimore from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation's capital, but it would be hard to imagine two more different — and culturally distant — places.
For two hours on a recent Tuesday morning, I sat in on what is called Turnaround Tuesday — a creation of a citizens organization, Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development and an affiliate of the group I co-direct, the Industrial Areas Foundation. Seventy five residents were in their chairs at 9:00 a.m. sharp to participate in a program that was one part AA meeting, one part religious service, one part boot camp, one part job-preparedness training and all parts remarkable. Turnaround Tuesday had been operating for two years, based on BUILD's effective local organizing and the commitment of Baltimore's premier anchor institution, the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, to hire hundreds of residents returning from prison or jail. To date, 274 people have already been hired to living wage jobs, and scores more are in the pipeline.