Healing City Baltimore and their co-founder, Baltimore City Councilmember Zeke Cohen, have been chosen as a finalist for the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJF) “Culture of Health” prize.
The Baltimore organization is being recognized for their work in trauma responsive care.
After Bryonna Harris survived a school shooting at Frederick Douglass High School, she and other student leaders helped write and pass the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act, making Baltimore the first city in America to adopt such legislation ensuring the government understands and addresses trauma. Harris is now Healing City Baltimore’s Youth Advocate and working to implement that law.
“We [youth] are not our trauma,” Harris said in a press release announcing the organization as a prize finalist. “The Elijah Cummings Healing City Act has shown that young people like me can have a major impact. Together, we have started a national movement for healing.”
According to the Healing City Baltimore website, the Act established the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force, which is developing “best practices and facilitating trauma-informed education and training across all city departments and agencies as mandated by the act.” The Act commissioned a workgroup made up of representatives of City agencies, service providers, community members, youth, public officials, and other stakeholders.
The organization’s mission and vision is “of ONE Baltimore, united in healing from trauma, violence, and racial inequity.”
Healing City Baltimore offers a variety of programs centered on healing and equity, including “Destiny’s Dream Scholarship,” to honor the memory of a young woman gunned down in front of her daughter in her salon. Barbers, beauticians, and community members pulled together to create the scholarship to help fund students who wish to attend the cosmetology program at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School.
In March 2023, Healing City Baltimore held a summit called “The Healing Power of Connection” at Coppin State University, featuring keynote speakers and workshops on nutrition, mental health and healing.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health prize celebrates communities working to overcome obstacles for health equity. Baltimore is one of 14 finalist communities nationwide. Winners will be announced this fall.
“Baltimore is innovative, compassionate, and brilliant. It is heartening to see us recognized nationally for more than our challenges,” said Cohen, who represents Baltimore City’s First District and is a a member of the steering committee for Healing City Baltimore.
Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, praised this year’s finalists for their work to improve the health of their communities.
“The community leaders and organizations being considered for the RWJF Culture of Health prize demonstrate the power of collaboration in ensuring everyone in America has what they need to live their healthiest lives possible,” Besser said. “We look forward to engaging with each finalist community being considered for the Prize to learn more about how they are making lasting transformations for all to thrive.”