Christian Gant, Esq., The Initiative: Baltimore | May 18, 2021
“I just think that it’s not fair how we comply and still get shot and killed.”
The sense of indignation in CJ, one of our program youth’s voices, was clear. I could relate to every word but also thought the advice to comply with police officers was practical. On May 8th CJ and our other young leaders conversed with Officer Scotty Wilson, a retired policeman with the Baltimore County Police Department. In the light of the reckoning our country is currently going through regarding policing, Black lives, and racial justice, we thought it essential to have that conversation with our young leaders. Beyond digesting everything happening, we wanted them to have a chance to talk to and hear directly from a member of law enforcement. Officer Wilson gave them some practical tools to leave an interaction with law enforcement alive and gave them wallet-sized cards to reference to know their constitutional rights.
These conversations with our young men are a key part of our mission and give them practical tools. The Initiative: Baltimore is committed to advancing the Baltimore community by helping create the next generation of community leaders through youth education and mentorship. We were founded in response to the culmination of issues affecting Baltimore starting after the protests after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, while he was in police custody and the continuing uptick in violence in the city since then. We do not want to see a generation of young men lost to violence, lack of job opportunities, and other barriers. Our vision for Baltimore is a community where all citizens are educated about the political system and encouraged to develop community-driven solutions and vote. To that end, our mission focuses on inspiring young men to lead their communities through civic engagement, community development, volunteerism, and community leadership.
Our signature program, Pathway to a Purpose, is a free mentoring and training initiative that emphasizes civics, community leadership, life skills and volunteering. Our target group are young men, ages 11-15 years old living in the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County. We work alongside our partners Black Professional Men, Inc. and BRIDGE Maryland to recruit young men from diverse socio-economic, ethnic, racial, cultural, and academic backgrounds. The program includes breakfast, lunch, financial stipends, individualized mentoring, field trips and volunteer activities.
Listening has long been a core part of our program. We frequently engage our young leaders in the conversation about “if you could change one thing about Baltimore City, what would you change?” We want our young leaders to have a sense of ownership about their neighborhoods and the city. We also want to encourage a solution-oriented mindset to the issues affecting our city. They have engaged in conversation with several elected officials, including then Council President Brandon Scott and Senator Cory McCray. They have also written letters to their City Councilperson about the issues they would like to see tackled. Listening to the needs of our youth from them and their parents and guardians shapes our programming.
Support Our Work. As a newer nonprofit The Initiative still has many needs, including attracting additional male mentors to develop our one-to-one mentoring better; volunteers to assist with fundraising, communications, and recruitment. Finally, financial help is always needed. No amount is too small and ongoing donations would help to further our work. To learn more about how you can support our work, please visit www.theinitiativebaltimore.com and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram @theinitiativebaltimore, or our Twitter @InitiativeBalt.
More about the author
Christian Gant serves as Co-Executive Director of The Initiative: Baltimore, Inc. and is the Board Executive Officers for Baltimore City Public Schools. Christian is a Baltimore native and was raised in neighboring St. Mary’s County, MD by his grandparents. While in high school, he decided that he would attend an HBCU to have a definitive contrast from growing up in predominantly white St. Mary’s County. Christian is a proud graduate of Bowie State University, a Historically Black University (HBCU) where he attended on a full academic scholarship and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Christian greatly valued attending an HBCU and it left a profound impression on his life.
Following undergrad, Christian pursued his lifelong dream of becoming an attorney and earned a JD from Atlanta’s Emory University School of Law where he was also an active member of the Black Law Student Association, Vice-President for Academic Affairs for student government, and President of the Emory Law Democrats while balancing providing pro bono services to the Emory community through Student Legal Services.
Christian worked for the gubernatorial reelection campaign of former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and has kept up his civic engagement in various ways, including taking an active role with the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Equality where he images in community outreach to build support for police reform. He also serves as legal counsel for the district of this fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated encompassing Maryland, DC and Virginia.
More about The Initiative: Baltimore
The Initiative: Baltimore (TIB) is committed to advancing the Baltimore community by helping create the next generation of community leaders through youth education and mentorship. We were founded in response to the culmination of issues affecting Baltimore starting after the protests after the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody and the continuing uptick in violence in the city since then. We do not want to see a generation of young men lost to violence, lack of job opportunities and other barriers.
Our vision for Baltimore is a community where all citizens are educated about the political system, encouraged to develop community-driven solutions and vote; to that end, our mission focuses on inspiring young men to lead their communities through civic engagement, community development, volunteerism and community leadership. Our vision is more relevant than ever in channeling the frustrations of being a young black male in today’s society into positive action. Our mission is to inspire young black men to lead their communities through civic engagement, community development, volunteerism, and community leadership.