The instructors for the upcoming Spring Program are centering our talents and how we put them to use for the good of our communities. AARP Magazine featured an article that fits into that theme perfectly and I felt the need to share this inspired work.
Shelley Halstead is an attorney and master carpenter and she is the founder and executive director of Black Women Build-Baltimore, a nonprofit that saves condemned properties and empowers women with homeownership. Shelley was recently featured in the Real/People section of AARP Magazine (February issue) as a Dream Builder by Jennifer E. Mabry.
Near my home in West Baltimore, I saw a garden on a block that was slated for demolition. Someone was living there and tending the garden, even though everything else was boarded up. And I thought, I'm going to fight for this garden.
This was in 2018. After 13 years as a union carpenter, I had gone to law school and had been working as an attorney but had realized that corporate life didn’t suit me. In Baltimore I had seen blocks of abandoned row houses in Black neighborhoods that had long been subject to redlining. The city was just tearing down the houses. I got the idea of helping women restore the properties and buy them to live in, and I founded a nonprofit to do that. Baltimore is a place where you can dream big, because the need is so big.
Ms. Halstead's work employs her particular talents to a very specific purpose. Her work lifts others up and is rebuilding (quite literally in this instance) a community of people working toward common goals.
My father was a minister, and I come from a tradition of empowering people to have dominion over their life. I've had that opportunity myself and want other women to have it as well.
It is inspired work, and we wish everyone involved successful outcomes and continued fellowship.
Jennifer E. Mabry is a contributing writer who covers the arts and culture, lifestyle, and home design. Her work has been published in USA Today and The New York Times.