| Program: || Interfaith Action for Racial Justice Inc., Baltimore, MD |
| Contact(s): || John C. Springer, Executive Director: (410) 889-8333 |
| Purpose: || To promote understanding and tolerance among people of diverse racial backgrounds and religious traditions |
Interfaith Action for Racial Justice, Inc. was founded in 1979 as Baltimore Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC), a local nonprofit organization. In 1994, CALC changed its name to the Interfaith Action for Racial Justice to better reflect its mission and programs. In that year, the organization launched a new five-year initiative to increase interracial and interreligious understanding called "The Baltimore Metropolitan Area: A Call to Community - An Honest Conversation About Race, Reconciliation and Responsibility."
Interfaith Action for Racial Justice (IARJ) is designed to link the issues that citizens living in Baltimore's metropolitan area may have with issues specifically related to race. Roughly 110 organizations in the metropolitan area (from business, civil rights, educational, ethnic, religious and community institutions) established the coalition based on the idea that racial reconciliation must be discussed within the context of education, employment, housing and transportation. As a result, the project is designed not only to foster racial reconciliation, but to also strengthen the sense of community between Baltimore City and its five surrounding counties. IARJ brings people together as a first step toward solving racial differences, and it then addresses other key regional problems such as economic development and residential growth. To lay the foundation for community dialogues on race, IARJ first organized the Call to Community Working Committee, a diverse group of 72 people who are charged with designing and organizing the project. This committee sets up conferences to discuss the region's future with county executives, commissioners and mayors representing six separate areas in Baltimore. The committee also organized a youth initiative involving 21 area colleges and universities, the state board of education and a variety of other community organizations.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
Over 500 people attended IARJ's kick-off event on March 18, 1997. In 1997, 13 conversations on race relations were held, each including a group of 12 to 15 people that met in six two-hour sessions. The number of study circles is expected to grow to 21 in 1998. In recognition of its successful organizing, IARJ received the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council's 1992 Outstanding Service Award. For 1998, the group is planning an evaluation project to assess its effect on grassroots communities.