To celebrate its 15th anniversary in the city, Open Society Institute-Baltimore hosted Big Change Baltimore last year, bringing together innovative thinkers to discuss the most challenging issues facing the city.
The event, which attracted a sold-out crowd of 500 people to Center Stage, was so successful that OSI is hosting a second installment on October 27. “People care deeply about the city, but they may not feel hopeful,” says OSI-Baltimore’s director Diana Morris. “We want to give people a sense of the work that’s already underway on some of the toughest issues in the city.”
These issues include education, racial inequality, drug addiction, and criminal justice—topics that will be discussed by former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, Orange is the New Black writer Piper Kerman, racial justice expert Ian Haney López, and UMBC president Freeman A. Hrabowski III, among others. “I think it will be more like a conversation, where I will talk about the intersection of journalism and criminal justice,” says Keller, whose new website The Marshall Project launches this fall. “Baltimore is clearly a city that has been wrestling with the problems we’ll be writing about [on the site]: corruption, brutality, overcrowding.”
Kerman will discuss her personal experience in the criminal-justice system, as portrayed in the Netflix show based on her book. “It’s really important for me to remind people that the show is grounded in reality,” she says. “As a person of good fortune and privilege, it’s also important for me to talk about how not all Americans are policed equally.”
Morris says the discussion will also emphasize education reform, something that OSI-Baltimore has been focused on since its inception. “We’ve been able to get suspensions down, and get kids courses they need in a specialized way,” Morris says. “Sometimes hearing about solutions is even more important than discussing the problems.”