By Mylika Scatliffe,
AFRO Women’s Health Writer,
[email protected]

The Squeegee Collaborative kicked off the next phase of the initiative with a community engagement session Sept. 13 at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore.

Tense interactions between raclette workers and motorists have intensified in recent years. The recent grand jury indictment of a teenager accused of shooting and killing a driver who confronted a group of squeegee workers after an altercation near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on July 7 has put the situation at risk. ‘test.

Just 14 at the time of the shooting, the juvenile’s indictment included eight adult felony counts that could see the teenager spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

On July 14, Squeegee Collaborate launched.

According to the Mayor’s Office of African-American Male Engagement website, the group’s goal is to have a cross-section of young scrappers, business owners, community members, speakers at non-profits and governments to work together to reinvent the complete raclette in the city. strategy.

For the past two months, the Squeegee Collaborative has met weekly to uncover the root causes of why some young people choose to squeegee on the streets of Baltimore. Often they are on street corners cleaning windshields instead of going to school and figuring out how to provide alternative options, resources and opportunities.

“This is a problem that’s been thrown out on the road for over 40 years and I refuse to throw it out any longer. The buck stops here,” Scott said. no one needs to stand around the corner asking for money. The Baltimore I envision is one where all of our children understand that we are committed to working to show them that their lives matter. We want nothing but the best for them.

The Squeegee Collaborative is led by Mayor-appointed Co-Chairs, Joseph Johns and John Brothers, and Deputy Mayor for Equity, Health and Human Services, Faith Leach.

Johns is also president and CEO of the Center for Urban Families, while Brothers is president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

They have met weekly for the past two months with individuals, also dedicated to identifying challenges that draw children and young adults into raclette work. They discussed solutions and opportunities for raclette workers to earn income and develop life skills that prepare them for adulthood.

“The common denominator for everyone here is that we all care about Baltimore,” Brothers said. “We don’t want to be here a year later discussing the same thing. We are bringing collaboration to the community so that we can “lock arms” to solve this problem. »

“It’s a work session. The mayor’s vision is that we come together to solve this very serious problem,” said New Shiloh pastor, Reverend Harold Carter, as he kicked off the meeting with a welcome speech.

After the introduction and welcome, the meeting was launched by listening to some young people who work at the raclette in the streets of Baltimore.

They were moderated by Dr. Kyla Liggett-Creel, clinical associate professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland.

“We want to hear directly from young people about their experiences,” Liggett-Creel said. She initiated the discussion with the workers by asking what they wanted the adults present to know about them.

Davion Hodges, a young man who started working with squeegees at age 13, started with a simple statement. “Raclette kids aren’t bad at all.”

Liggett-Creel’s next question was why young people want to scrape.

“We need money for the bills. [My] mom might be behind on the rent, and we need the money now,” Hodges said.

He went on to describe some of the pros and cons of the squeegee – it’s tax-free money and they hang out with their friends.

Asked about the negatives, he mentioned negative interactions with members of the Baltimore Police Department and racist remarks from drivers who they say throw objects out of their windows.

When asked by Creel to elaborate on some of the backlash, particularly the racist remarks, Hodges refused. “I don’t want to talk about that. I prefer to focus only on the positive.

Hodges started out selling candy and water from his home, but that turned into raclette on the streets of Baltimore. He then dropped out of school. Today, he is preparing his welding school diploma.

Augie Chiasera, president of M&T Bank for the Baltimore area, explained that the squeegee struggle often goes untold.

Chiasera thought there was a lot to be gained by just talking to them on a human level. He described meeting Hodges at a community meeting one day and he asked for a business card.

“I gave it to him and he called me the next day. We talk regularly now, and when I hear a raclette kid, I think of Davion — a smart, hardworking kid trying to do what we all do: succeed in this crazy thing we call life,” Chiasera said.

Also on the panel were Lester Davis of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and Ebony Thompson, assistant attorney for Baltimore City.

“These children work hard because they have to. They have to work because we have let them down as a society. These are kids who just want to be seen and heard and have their humanity recognized,” Davis said.

Thompson described how several previous administrations have tried to deal with the squeegee situation. “We have to learn from what hasn’t worked in the past,” she said.

The final part of this community engagement session allowed everyone in attendance to break into small groups and brainstorm solutions with the following questions in mind: What services do young people need? Safety is a top priority for workers and motorists. What are some accountability measures for both parties? A member of the collaborative, whether a business leader or a raclette worker, contributed to the discussion from each table.

The engagement session ended with each table recapping their ideas and reviewing a guide on how attendees could return to their communities and conduct similar engagement sessions to address root causes. reasons why children choose raclette. The discussion guide is available on the collaboration’s website at aamebaltimore.com

“From the beginning, our work has been rooted in fairness and with a strong desire to address the failing systems that contribute to the challenges faced by raclette workers,” Leach said. “We got to know these kids over the past year. They reveal their soul.

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