Workshop presented by Baltimore Sister Cities on August 25, 2020.
Watch the video recording
And check out the recommended reading on our Race & Diversity Reading List (PDF).
About this workshop
Baltimore, one of the oldest cities in the United States, is also known as Charm City and a City of Neighborhoods. Its rich history includes waves of immigration but also years of racial injustice right up to the present day.
Our guests for this evening shared personal stories on the Black and immigrant experience in Baltimore, focusing on systemic, institutional and structural racism and the role of White privilege. Our speakers for this learning experience:
- Geri Byrd — Mayor’s Office representative to Baltimore Sister Cities (BSC) and Vice President, BSC
- Diana Zilberman — BSC Education Champion
- Teresa Leslie — Vice Chair, Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister City Committee
- John Wesley — Public Information Officer, Mayor of Baltimore’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights
- Karen Leggett, Moderator — Co-Chair, Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City Committee
This is a global conversation on race and ethnicity in Baltimore City, part of BSC’s ongoing commitment to care for each other and work to improve our community, our city, our country and our world.
“The recognition that racism is itself a political system, a particular power structure of formal or informal rules, socio-economic privilege and norms for the differential distribution of material wealth and opportunities, benefits and burdens, rights and duties… Racism and racially structured discrimination have not been deviations from the norm; they have been the norm, not merely in a sense of defacto statistical distribution patterns but formally codified, written down and proclaimed as such.” Charles Mills, The Racial Contract, 1997
Baltimore, also referred to as Charm City and a City of Neighborhoods, is one of the oldest cities in the United States. While the city possesses a rich history, this history is also one marred by racially disparate practices, ultimately creating present day challenges. Some of these challenges include high crime rates, homelessness, crumbling infrastructure, and the notorious child of redlining, the “Black Butterfly.”
Sponsored by Baltimore Sister Cities, this Raising the Curtain on Race virtual workshop provided presentations on the impact of institutional racism (both systemic and structural). Structural racism is the normalization of historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal dynamics that routinely advantage White people and disadvantage people of color, in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, education, etc.
This workshop included discussions and personal experiences to explore:
- How institutional racism generally operates
- How racism historically and currently continues to impact the city of Baltimore
- The immigrant experience in Baltimore
- How the acknowledgement of White privilege is an important part of the dialogue around racism
Raising the Curtain on Race was Initiated in 2015 on the island of Sint Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands. The initial series focused on internalized racial oppression within the context of colonialism and neocolonialism. In 2016, the second installation of the conference was held on the island of Sint Maarten and focused on specific global freedom movements. Due to hurricanes Maria and Irma, the conference was cancelled in 2017 but re-convened in 2018 on the island of Curaçao. Now this series has come to Baltimore.
Mayor’s Office representative to Baltimore Sister Cities (BSC) and Vice President, BSC
Geri grew up in Baltimore and graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Maryland College Park. She worked for many years in Boston before moving to Washington to work in the U.S. Department of the Treasury during the Obama administration. Returning to her hometown in 2016, Geri was Director of Logistics and Special Assistant to Mayor Catherine Pugh and is now Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young.
Baltimore Sister Cities Education Champion
Born and raised in Romania, Diana Zilberman came to the USA in the 1980s with a master’s degree from the University of Bucharest. She completed her education with a master’s degree in education from the Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from Greenwich University, Australia, in Instructional design and distance education. She taught English writing and literature for over 20 years at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) and Goucher College, and in early 2000 started and lead the growth of the Online Program at BCCC. Diana was president of MarylandOnline for over 10 years and currently is a board member for Quality Matters while providing training and consulting services for colleges and universities striving to ensure the quality of teaching and learning at a distance.
Vice Chair, Baltimore- Rotterdam Sister City Committee; creator of Raising the Curtain on Race series
Teresa Leslie is a current resident of Baltimore and Vice Chair of the Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister Cities Committee. Before moving to Baltimore she spent eight years working and conducting research in the Caribbean Netherlands. During her period abroad, she began to notice subtle and insidious forms of racism in this new Dutch Caribbean context and began contrasting this with her experiences with American racism. In response to this, Teresa collaborated with other Dutch Caribbean scholars and in 2015 organized the first Raising the Curtain on Race conference on the island of Sint Eustatius. In 2016 and 2018 the aising the Curtain on Race conference was held on the islands of Sint Maarten and Curacao respectively. Teresa graduated from Howard University and the University of South Carolina, earning her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Public Information Officer, Mayor of Baltimore’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights
John Wesley is a journalist with extensive published works. Before joining the Mayor’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights, Wesley worked for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Pennsylvania Avenue Main Streets Program, and the Howard County Office of Human Rights.