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Heritage Foundation’s President Grew Up in the Projects — Here Are Her Ideas for Fixing Cities Like Baltimore

Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation (a sponsor of CURE’s National Policy Summit that begins September 23), wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Times about “crime and despair” in Baltimore.

James came from “the projects,” growing up in inner-city Richmond, Virginia, and her mother was on welfare. James knows the government isn’t going to solve problems in these neighborhoods.

Eventually, I started looking to history for the answers. I wanted to know how the newly freed slaves in Post-Reconstruction America survived — even thrived. How did our ancestors build businesses, create outstanding educational institutions, and develop a significant “middle class” with a government that not only didn’t provide programs for the black community, but was often antagonistic?

President Donald Trump’s comments about Baltimore highlighted the problems the city faces, but what are the solutions? All lawmakers seem to say is “more money.” But James suggests the following:

First, we need to strengthen families by ensuring that no government program or policy is weakening them. I’ve seen children who grew up without both parents at home begin to have trouble in school and get in trouble with the law. I’ve seen fatherless teens look to drugs and street gangs to fill the void. I’ve seen dependence take the place of work. I’ve seen children grow up and continue this cycle to the next generation.

Second, we must stop the attacks on religious liberty, stop pushing churches out of desperately needed human services work, and stop marginalizing the positive role faith plays in our communities. Faith gives people hope and teaches them love. It teaches them that there are things bigger than themselves and there are consequences for the good and bad that we do. Churches also provide a sense of community, a place to learn strong values, and a safety net for those in physical, spiritual and emotional need.

The third solution involves the educational system. It’s broken, and poverty-stricken children are stuck. Fourth, these cities could use more grassroots efforts like the clean-up led by a former liberal turned conservative activist named Scott Pressler, who “used social media to organize a cleanup day, tweeting, ‘I’m going to go to Baltimore, even if it’s just me standing on a street corner alone picking up trash.’…The success of the cleanup attracted even more people who wanted to help, so there’s another cleanup scheduled for September. Other cleanups have begun in Newark, New Jersey; Los Angeles; and elsewhere.”

Big government isn’t going to fix Baltimore.

To turn situations like Baltimore around, we not only need better policies from government, we must reinforce and respect once again the very building blocks of society — family, faith, education and community. These are the places where change must begin for any change to be truly successful.

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