News & Community

The Feel-Good: Five Great Things That Happened in Our Area This Month

The best pieces of good news that came out of Baltimore in October—from Jada Pinkett Smith's visit to a plastic bag ban expansion.

Will Smith Makes Surprise Visit to the Enoch Pratt Free Library
If you attended the October 18th book event for Baltimore native Jada Pinkett Smith’s new memoir, Worthy, you received a bit of a bonus when Pinkett Smith’s husband, actor Will Smith, surprised her on stage. Earlier that week, Pinkett Smith nearly broke the internet when she revealed to The Today Show host Hoda Kotb that, though they aren’t divorced, she and Will have been living “completely separate lives” since 2016. But if the Smith family’s appearance (the two were joined by their children Trey, Jaden, and Willow, plus more extended family members) at the Pratt’s Central Library was any indication, the couple still has a lot of love for one another. Smith gave impromptu remarks from the stage after his wife discussed her new tome with Laura Coates, an anchor and chief legal analyst for CNN.

“We have had a very long and tumultuous week,” Smith said, addressing the viral news. “We call it ‘breautiful,’ it was brutal and beautiful at the same time.” With his arm around her, he went on to praise Pinkett Smith for all she has done for their family. “We got together in our twenties. There were many times when Jada put her career aside so I could follow the dreams of mine.”

It is only fitting that this romantic reunion take place in Baltimore, Pinkett Smith’s hometown. Earlier in the day, she spoke about her book and met with the youth at Baltimore School for the Arts, from which she graduated in 1989. Sadly for those students, the man in black saved his surprise visit for guests at the Pratt that evening.

Hope for Spinal Injuries: Kennedy Krieger Receives World’s First Gait Trainer
For those with a spinal cord injury, the possibility for movement may seem bleak. But at the new White Marsh location of the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI), cutting edge equipment is bringing walking one step closer. The ZeroG 3D, which arrived at ICSCI in October, is the first of its kind in the world. Other gait trainers facilitate forward and backward movement for patients, which is important, but the ZeroG 3D is the first to facilitate diagonal and sidestepping. “Unlike any other device on the market, the ZeroG 3D allows dynamic support with greater freedom of movement to replicate real movement conditions and train the brain and spinal cord for recovery,” says Rebecca Martin, OTD, ICSCI’s manager of clinical education and training. One way therapists will use the ZeroG 3D in rehabilitation, for example, is to set up furniture that patients can practice maneuvering around.

New State Laws Passed October 1 Shake Up the Status Quo
Gov. Wes Moore came out swinging in this, his first term, with the passage of new laws aimed at making Maryland a safer, more equitable place to live. As of October 1, for example, it is illegal for those with a concealed-carry firearm permit to bring a weapon into spaces including elementary, middle, or high schools; health care facilities; and active polling places. Other actions include the repeal of a law that once made it illegal for someone to be prosecuted for perpetrating sexual crimes against their legal spouse (a win for those advocating on behalf of victims of domestic violence), the passing of a law for victims of hate crimes to now be able to legally sue the person or group who committed the offense against them (a win for civil rights advocates), and a requirement that Maryland hospitals must now test for fentanyl. Since the synthetic drug isn’t picked up on traditional opiate tests, the new law will significantly reduce false negative opioid tests, which is a win for public health advocates and, well, everyone.

BYOB: Baltimore County Bans Plastic Bags
Don’t forget those reusable totes, Baltimore County dwellers! As of the end of October, plastic bags will be forbidden at local retailers (with some exceptions) and it will cost you five cents per paper bag to get through the checkout line. The new Bring Your Own Bag Act advocates for reusable grocery bags in an effort to reduce litter, plastic pollution, and waste from single-use carryout bags. Plastic bags in the environment can wreak havoc on wildlife and in waterways, not to mention they become unsightly in our communities—billowing down streets and snagged in trees. Removing plastic bags from stores has proven to work. In Baltimore City, which enacted a bag ban in October 2021, Mr. Trash Wheel (who scoops up much of our litter on its way into the Bay) has seen a threefold decrease in the flimsy things. In fact, 2023 has thus far seen the fewest plastic bags since Mr. Trash Wheel started keeping count in 2018. Let’s do this, Baltimore County!

How ’bout them…Ravens: NFL Season Kicks Off Strong
We know the disappointment of O’s fans is still fresh, but the beauty of professional sport is there’s always a new season, and the Baltimore Ravens are giving fans a reason to shake off MLB’s sad vibes. At the time of this writing, the birds sit at 6-2, tied for the best record in the AFC. And on October 25, Lamar Jackson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the ninth time in his career, after leading Baltimore to a 38-6 win over Detroit.