Support Baltimore residents in taking back the land

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Monday, December 16th 2019


Village of Love & Resistance (VOLAR)

920 Saint Paul Street 1C

Baltimore, Maryland 2121

www.volar.site


Bishop LaTrelle Easterling

Board of Trustees

Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church

11711 E Market Place

Fulton, MD 20759


Dear Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, Board of Trustees,


Greetings in the name of truth, love and justice. May all blessings of health and faith hold you.


We are the Care Taking Council of VOLAR (Village of Love and Resistance) a black and brown led community organizing and community development collective with deep roots in East Baltimore. Over the last year we have taken the necessary steps to acquire the UMC owned properties at 1025 and 1031 East Monument Street (formerly the home of Centennial Caroline Street UMC) in order to build a hub for cooperative living, community organizing, small business incubation, and neighborhood development in East Baltimore and throughout the city. A major strategy to ensure community empowerment is to organize residents into a low-income investment trust fund which will transform residents into co-owners of the Centennial Caroline church. This strategy will assure they grow wealth over time and participate in making key decisions to rebuild their community.


However, over the last month we have encountered major roadblocks in the buying process which has included a lack of transparency and communication regarding the status of our offer/LOI for the East Monument properties. Most recently, we were informed by the seller’s agent that we are in danger of losing the opportunity to purchase the properties because another buyer has made the same offer as VOLAR but has presented a lower economic risk to the seller. 


To refuse our offer to purchase the East Monument properties would be a missed opportunity to grow love, justice, community wealth, and grassroots power in a city with deep racial and economic inequality. This particular area of the city has and is currently undergoing processes of gentrification or exclusionary and speculative development practices, led by local institutions such the Baltimore Development Corporation and John’s Hopkins University. To date such development practices have largely not benefited the health and well being of historical residents.


VOLAR’s work in East Baltimore and the East Monument properties offer a different vision for East Baltimore, an inclusive vision for change that centers the leadership and voices of historic low-income public housing residents. For example, during visioning sessions on the uses of the East Monument space, residents of Latrobe Homes decided to incorporate local, affordable, and quality day care facility for local children in the building design plan, if acquired. We believe we are led by social justice values and a vision for the common good that are mirrored in United Methodist Social Principles and values. Additionally, we believe that our plan for the East Monument space is in alignment with the parameters for “the disposition of property of a closed church” as outlined in article 2549 of the Book of Discipline. 


As a result of the aforementioned challenges and our eagerness to move forward with the building project, we request an in person or phone meeting with relevant representatives of your office on or before Friday, December 20th and before the finalization of the sale of the East Monument property. We would like you all to reconsider our offer and the positive potential such a project will have for building a just, healthy, and safe city for all. We know that you will agree our mission continues the Call to Action of the North Eastern Jurisdiction and its College of Bishops- we must find all and every opportunity to center and heal the lives of black people left apart for too long.


Finally, below you will find the signatures of East Baltimore residents, political and clergy leaders, and community organizations along with other community members, grassroots organizations and churches from throughout the city of Baltimore. They support VOLAR’s work and plan to develop the East Monument properties into a thriving community space. 


We await your response and ask that you direct all written and phone correspondence to volar018@gmail.com and 410-294-9224.


Sincerely, 

Care Taking Council of Village of Love and Resistance


CC:

Rev. Wanda Duckett, Baltimore Metropolitan District Superintendent of the Baltimore-Washington Conference 

Josh Halbedel, EA Real Estate Companies