Saving Baltimore One Brain at a Time: A Conversation with John Cammack, Baltimore Entrepreneur and Neuro-Optimist

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From Citybizlist – Many of us have read Tracy Halvorsen’s lament on Baltimore. The post has been read by hundreds of thousands of people. It struck a nerve, or awakened some reflexive sinew we have numbed. It doesn’t really matter whether we look at Baltimore’s chronic violence as somehow not affecting our lives – whether we live in a neighborhood where the police actually show up as allies and not the enemy, or we elect to commute from a safer clime where the bad guys are easy to spot, or simply view our endemic violence as somehow exempting folks like us – the reality is that most of us rationalize, admittedly or not, that The Wire we live in is somehow inevitable and, sadly, endurable until we know someone who is hurt. For Tracy, when her neighbor Zack Sowers died, I guess she had had enough of managing her numbness. So up went her post.

Tracy simply starts, “Life takes you places, you follow a course that isn’t completely of your own making. One day you wake up, and it’s really all up to you. So where do you want to live? I happen to live in a city. Baltimore, to be specific.” Tracy then proceeds, in an uncomfortably elegiac manner, to list off what she’s tired of. And it’s a disquieting list of violence that even David Simon would view as stretching veracity, except it’s true. With an edgy cadence, she recites each senseless and indiscriminate pugilistic act after another. And, like many of us, she recounts each tragedy with “I’m tired of.” Yet, Tracy also expresses the conflict many of us feel about Baltimore, “I don’t have to live here. But I want to stay.” We love this city, yet it scares the crap out of us. Quite the caesura.

Our kids, both shipped off to safe college campuses in the Midwest, found Tracy’s post before I did (a sign of my age but also, tellingly and forebodingly for the long term health of Baltimore, a sign of the connectedness of their generation and an awareness of what’s wrong here). I read it on February 9th. And I didn’t know how to respond, either to my two kids who grew up here, or to my own doubts of what, if anything, to do but stay numb. It took me a couple of months to see how the entrepreneurs I love to work with fit in. This brings me to John Cammack, who like Tracy and me and most of us, wants to find a way to stay in Baltimore and make it a better place

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