Just this week, Rodney Foxworth of Invested Impact led the second installment of our Race and Equity series. Fellow, Lauren McDade (Teach for America), shared her response to Rodney’s presentation, "the Race and Equity series has been very helpful in helping me think about my role as a white woman in breaking down barriers to equity in our city, both in my placement and my social life."
We had Rodney take a moment to further discuss Baltimore and how to navigate the social impact sector while tackling inequity and injustice.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into working in the social impact sector of Baltimore.
I’m a native Baltimorean and spent my formative years in Northwest Baltimore. My parents are decidedly working-class and they took education seriously. I was fortunate to be supported by an engaged family that really never allowed me to misstep. My mother read to me Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son” almost every evening when I was a child. I think she was trying to prepare me for the outside world - how hard it can be to live as a black male in the world - that I needed to be twice as good but should expect half as much from my labor and talents.
So my mother and grandfather exposed me to writers like Hughes, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Gwendolyn Brooks, among others, at a very young age. I was brought up to have a deep understanding and appreciation for the breadth of the African-American experience--to acknowledge and love the diversity of it. But my mother, who has worked in the Baltimore courts for longer than I’ve been alive, she masterfully brought to my attention the systems working against African-Americans. I would occasionally go to her office when I was an adolescent, and I would be awed by all the young black men and boys - not much older than I was then, at 13, 14 years old, who were in handcuffs awaiting their time with a judge. So I knew intimately that there was something wrong - something unjust. I saw it every day. And when I didn’t, my mother or grandfather made sure to point it out to me.
This is a long-winded way of saying that the seeds for working in Baltimore social impact were planted early. People I knew and care about have been personally impacted by systemic injustice. I actually began my career as a professional journalist, writing and reporting on race and politics.
How important is it to understand the role of Equity in Baltimore City's biggest social issues? Explain.
Racial and economic inequity and injustice are the social issues in Baltimore. I think language is important. If we’re not talking about justice and equity, then I’m suspicious of the social impact or innovation we will create. I’m a social impact professional and I’m certainly an advocate for innovation; but, we miss the mark terribly when we disaggregate power, privilege, and equity from impact and innovation. I’m as much an advocate as I am a technocrat, we need both. But we underestimate the importance of questioning and unraveling power and privilege in our incessant quest for impact.
What excites you the most about working with Baltimore Corps, specifically regarding the Race & Equity series?
I’ve supported Baltimore Corps almost since its inception and I’m extremely proud to say that. It’s amazing how quickly it’s grown, I remember when Fagan and his team worked out of his apartment. I’m excited about Baltimore Corps because it is a platform for people. It really centers the power individuals and communities wield to make change. And the Race & Equity series is particularly important because it privileges racial equity as essential to making the change we all want to see in the world.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Race & Equity training as a facilitator?
I was really pleased from the outset to see some of the fellows really grappling with and unpacking the differences between racial equity and racial justice. Though the fellows are positioned differently across the city, each brought a palpable sense of personal responsibility, urgency, and genuine desire to find their role in challenging unjust power structures and advancing racial equity amidst deadlines and day-to-day activities. Institutions often have entire teams dedicated to creating a culture of justice, equity, and inclusion and many of the fellows are navigating this independently within their placements. Baltimore Corps' Race and Equity series is creating a similar team, ensuring that each fellow has ample opportunity to voice challenges, learn from local leaders and one another, and incorporate deep understanding and a pursuit of equity and justice into their work.
If there is one thing you want people to know about Baltimore City, what would it be?
Baltimore has among the most courageous, diverse, and visionary innovators and entrepreneurs in the country. Day-in-and-day out, these enterprising leaders work to create opportunity and solve some of Baltimore’s most pressing challenges. Many of these leaders are impacted by the very systems that they fight against, which often means they are deprived of the resources needed to create lasting change. So I would ask people to envision a Baltimore where all of these tremendous, yet under-resourced entrepreneurs and innovators received the financial capital, mentorship, and network supports to advance and grow the impact they create.