The focus of our history project was the West Baltimore-located Kids Save Zone. The Kids Safe Zone is an organization pioneered by Erica Alston. The objective of this organization is to provide inner-city families with a recreational environment, especially following the Baltimore uprising. The Kids Safe Zone began as a program relative to after care in a laundromat and evolved into a multifaceted support system, not just for children, but also for adults. The organization moved from their original, restricted laundromat space into Penn North Community Center, allowing more activities, programs, and promotions.
We selected the Kids Safe Zone because our team member, Niteara, is a Baltimore native who has a connection to the founder of the program, Erica Alston. Beyond that, the Kids Safe Zone is a humbling reminder of how fulfilling and painless activism can be. An idea to provide services and comfort for neighborhood children became a small childcare program and blossomed into a help service for families. The ingenuity of the Kids Safe Zone attracted us to delve deeper.
Although there is some information about the Kids Safe Zone online, it was not difficult to find information. Erica Alston was more than willing to provide our group with an interview. Going directly to the source simplified the research process.
Our history project is important and worthwhile because most of the discourse surrounding the 2015 uprising is negative. The connotations are typically violence and chaos and destruction when something so beautiful and pure also arose from the uprising. There is more to Baltimore’s history and that pivotal event than tragedy and devastation. Also, the media focus during the uprising was primarily on larger organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, and small businesses. The adults were at the forefront of media coverage. The children who live in Baltimore were widely forgotten. They have a story as well. By researching the Kids Safe Zone, we can only hope that we are telling Erica Alston and the children of West Baltimore’s collective story.