In April 2015, the tragic death of Freddie Gray plunged the city of Baltimore into turmoil. Although much public attention was placed on the symptoms of civil unrest, protests and in some cases, violence, conversations across the city increasingly brought into light the unmet need for unity as an underlying condition. In neighborhoods, communities and a city working to continue on a path of development, the ties that brought groups of people together to work towards a common cause despite differences of age, class, race, religion or other social boundaries were called on to contribute to reconstruction of the city, in bricks and in spirit.
In the acute phase of unrest, the Local Spiritual Assembly began consulting on how efforts could be made to contribute to the city’s development, and began with a call over email to community members to decentralize [activities] into neighborhood gatherings open to all, to create a space for learning and consultation. This began a process . . . structures of the Bahá’í community were able to provide a scaffold for building bonds of friendship, unity, and community development.
The response of the Baha’i community to crises in Baltimore City included several lines of mobilization by . . .
· adapting the current framework of activities to meet the needs of unity in neighborhoods
· expansion of activities to meet these needs
· mobilizing groups of people who have been serving together to carry out conversations and acts of service
· working alongside other groups to contribute to community development
· use of social media for conversations and outreach
In exploration of ongoing activities . . .
• Feast was adapted into "unity" Feasts, resulting in an increase in participation, both from community members and generality of friends.
• The Holy Day event was adapted to discussion about ongoing crises in Baltimore City.
• Devotionals were both adapted and expanded to address needs for unity.
• Study circles were adaptable to provide a space for discussion.
• Junior youth were mobilized to be of service and to carry out conversations in the city. In both cases, members of the public expressed appreciation for services and voices of the young.
• Home visits and quality of connections within increased during the most acute phase of the crisis.