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Armed with an answer
Bring back vo-tech
It takes a family
Fix our lead-laden houses
Police leaders as partners
Warnings from Detroit
How to make headway in Baltimore
Not all are miracles
Travel ad veers off course
The champs of '54

Armed with an answer

Michael Anft's truly heartbreaking story, "Like him right there" [June], must have inspired a great deal of serious thinking by many of your readers. Anna Sowers is a very courageous person, and one can only admire the steadfastness apparent in the article.

There are many aspects of the article that are worthy of discussion. In this note, I would like to address one aspect of a multifaceted problem. Anft writes: "When Zach [Sowers] reached his front steps, [Trayvon] Ramos, who outweighed Zach by 90 pounds, applied his heft and his fist to knock Zach out." The reader wonders how Zach could have defended himself against such a brutal attacker. In such a hopeless situation, Zach could not but be a helpless victim.

But Samuel Colt provided this problem with a technological solution more than 150 years ago. A reliable small revolver is indeed the "equalizer" that enables a smaller, weaker person to defend himself or herself against an overpowering attacker. If Sowers had been armed with a revolver, had been adequately trained in its use, and been willing to use it, the outcome might have been very different.

As it is, Maryland's draconian and probably unconstitutional gun laws ensure that only criminals go armed, while assuring criminals that their victims will be defenseless. Such laws thereby promote violent street crime. Baltimore's Mayor Sheila Dixon and Maryland's Governor Martin O'Malley surround themselves with armed escorts while denying law-abiding citizens safe and effective means of self-defense. Dixon and O'Malley never have to face alone the same mean streets down which Zachary and Anna Sowers so heroically elected to walk every day and every night of their brief, happy married life in Baltimore.
William S. Aronstein, Med '83 (PhD), '86
Glendale, Ohio

Bring back vo-tech

I was born on Essex Street in 1952, a couple of blocks below Patterson Park. I lived in the city boundaries for 48 years. I'm a true Baltimorean. I know more about the past 50 years' social and educational history of the city then the intellectual carpetbaggers that pass themselves off as professors, news reporters, or any other so-called pundits. Your articles on urban violence [June's cover package, "Urban Violence: Can We End the Epidemic?"] presented their views, so here's an alternative suggestion from someone who actually was raised here.

First some observations: In the article, there were presentations of the success of Safe Streets and interventions by members of the Child Development-Community Policing Program (CD-CP). Interesting concept — decrease the use of gun violence through mediation. A noble cause. The actual outcome is that it's now safer for drug dealers to do business. Are unions next? Another article presented the Incentive Mentoring Program. Mentoring programs are grand, for those who want to be mentored. What about those students who don't? Hmmm, not a word on them in the article.

Pre-1970, it was common for kids to go to vocational schools. "Educational psychologists" forced abandonment of trade schools in the 1970s. They believed that all kids should just study academics and go to college. It's an obvious fact that all students are not cut out to be academicians. The result has been a huge rise in dropouts from high schools (nearly 60 percent here in Baltimore) with no skills, leading to drugs and other crimes. Kids, starting in ninth grade, should be given a choice to remain in academics or learn a trade such as auto mechanics, HVAC, plumbing, carpentry, engineering, hair styling, nursing, etc. Kids in the inner city would flock to schools offering such courses. Then at 18 years old, instead of crime, they'll actually work. Imagine high school seniors, with four years of training behind them, revamping city homes, fixing old buildings, helping their neighborhoods. The only school with such a program now is the Reach School. History proves vo-tech schools work.
Neil J. Ham, A&S '74
Baltimore, Maryland

Mr. Ham is a former high school math teacher and college professor.

It takes a family

I took great interest in your articles on urban violence. However, I took even more interest in the cover art for that issue. The picture depicts a flower and embedded in the leaves of the flower are drawings that include a woman playing with a small child, an adult male hugging a teenage boy, a man helping a young child to read, and an adult man teaching a young boy to ride a bike.

These pictures told as much as the article. Adults need to be in the lives of these children who grow to become violent teens. Adults need to be in their lives from toddler years to teenage years. Men and women. Another word for that is family. It may take a village to successfully bring children to adulthood. But if that village is not built on the solid foundation of family, it will soon become — well, Baltimore.
Marcia Gross, Engr '79 (MS)
Columbia, Maryland

Fix our lead-laden houses

In "Like him right there," you allude to the fact that the teenager, [Eric] Price, was lead poisoned as a child. While I do not excuse his behavior and feel tremendous sympathy for the victim, we will continue to have generations of violent inner-city children until we eliminate the environmental poison that is crippling them in the first place. Thirty years after lead was banned in paint, we continue to see the deteriorating lead-based paint in our substandard housing stock poison our children and, in disproportionate numbers, our African-American children.

All of the symptoms you describe Mr. Price exhibiting as a child — such as ADHD, language and reading disorders, aggression, lack of control, school failure, and involvement in the juvenile justice system — are hallmarks of childhood lead poisoning, which is 100 percent preventable. While the current CDC level of concern for lead poisoning is 10 micrograms/deciliter, new research linking early childhood lead poisoning at levels of 5 micrograms/deciliter and perhaps lower demonstrates that the brain suffers damage in areas that control executive function and aggression. The brain may experience an initial loss of up to 7.4 I.Q. points at even low levels of lead exposure. And there are lower-than-anticipated levels of grade-level school performance in reading and math when the child is exposed to lead at a young age. While Baltimore City has made tremendous strides to fix its lead-laden housing market, the reality is that far too many children are already damaged and destined for school failure and delinquency.

Targeted planning of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and other housing funds to replace our aging housing stock and a larger commitment by our federal government to support healthy housing for all low-income children now would save our local cities and education systems millions of dollars in early intervention, special education, and social services costs. The Johns Hopkins [Bloomberg] School of Public Health has both the prestige and resources to bring this vital health and social policy problem to the national consciousness and create workable public policy solutions to affordable housing. It will take an entire community and, in fact, the entire nation to get serious about lead poisoning to ensure that all children grow up in healthy housing that does not destroy their potential before they take their first steps out of the door to attend kindergarten.
Catherine Bullwinkle
Utica, New York

Police leaders as partners

I was disappointed that Johns Hopkins Magazine's issue dedicated to the epidemic of urban violence fell short of being comprehensive by failing to explore the suppression and policing side of the solution continuum. The Police Executive Leadership Program (PELP), a component of the Division of Public Safety Leadership located within the School of Education, has bestowed graduate degrees for over a decade to some of the most innovative and educated leaders in this nation's law enforcement community. It would have been interesting to hear the voices of these practitioners as they approach the same epidemic of violence armed with best practices learned while seeking advanced degrees from the Johns Hopkins University. On the streets we challenge law enforcement, researchers, and community members to work together to prevent violent crime. This article missed the opportunity to demonstrate how this partnership is fostered at JHU, an approach unique to any other academic institution in the nation.
David H. Chipman, Bus '05 (MS)
Detroit, Michigan

Warnings from Detroit

From Detroit (generally known as "Murder City," today with a self-proclaimed "hip-hop" mayor), I have always known that predators lurked at crests above certain expressways in my hometown to descend violently upon motorists with car trouble. Major businesses long ago abandoned the inner city, including Hudson's department store, which once sponsored a nationally televised annual Thanksgiving Day parade. For decades few people of any color have chosen to linger in Motown after dark — if they have the option to leave. Restaurateurs have migrated to the suburbs. On the Detroit River there is a public property, Belle Isle, where throughout the summer months hundreds of inner-city residents find relief from the heat by grilling dinners and camping all night with their families, many sleeping in cars.

This is to say that while the efforts of Hopkins-affiliated professionals are laudable, problems in Baltimore pale in comparison to those in other large cities and that members of the Hopkins community might best be served by some commonsensical warnings: Avoid dark alleys and ghetto neighborhoods at any time of day, carry Mace on your key ring (at a cost of about $12), don't look like you have something worth stealing (expensive sneakers, cell phone, nice leather jacket, etc.).
Stephen Hu, A&S '68
Williamsville, New York

How to make headway in Baltimore

There are many disturbing points raised in the article on urban violence, but what I fail to understand is that the onus of "trafficking a bit in black Baltimore" was put on Anna Sowers. Why is it in these matters that victims and their families are implored to walk in an assailant's shoes? Feeling sorry for them and gaining a better perspective on the root of horrific acts of violence, such as the one against Zach Sowers, does not change the fact that a man is dead. Let her be angry without having to understand why. She is at

least entitled to that. Do people like [Herbert] Brown appreciate that these incidents only serve to propel the worst stereotypes of the young African-American male community? Spending time in the neighborhood cannot undo that, but he can every Sunday in his community, and maybe he could take the time to traffic in Baltimore as Anna Sowers now sees it. Perhaps more headway could be made in our efforts to prevent these terrible things from happening if we all were on the same team, seeing the same issues through each other's lens? It is clear that no amount of effort by a largely non-African-American community can break this cycle — only an army of Safe Streets outreach workers in the city of Baltimore can achieve that. And based on your article, the "highly influential" Black 25 appear to be unwilling to set an example of how to take responsibility for one's actions, or inaction on their part; perhaps we should redirect our community and financial support to the Safe Streets organizations across the city?
L. Mason, Nurs '99
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Not all are miracles

I appreciated "Miracles for Sale" ["Essay," June]; my quibble is the unwillingness of anyone, including "Guido Veloce," to take the media to task for their utterly absurd and grotesquely inappropriate use of the word. For example, without the slightest hint of irony, reporters will quote people as saying it was a "miracle" when one or two lives were spared during a disaster, but blithely ignore the obvious contradiction when 25 or 30 or more lives were lost in the same disaster. This was especially grotesque recently, when a church was destroyed by lightning and the subsequent fire, and the locals praised God for allowing three or four people to survive. How about the 20-odd people who were killed? Wasn't that also God's doing?
M. W. Wenner, SAIS '59, '65 (PhD)
Prescott, Arizona

Travel ad veers off course

Where is this Buthan, inviting a tour of Hopkins alumni in October [June, pg. 70]? Is that somewhere near Shangri-La? Or, could it be close by Bhutan?

Now, I know your staff can't proofread every advertisement in the magazine, but somehow a tour with an e-mail,, seems different from an ordinary commercial ad.

And by the way, thanks for your work. It is read closely, as you can surmise.
Larry R. Kirkland, Med '64
Atlanta, Georgia

The champs of '54

An article on Blue Jay wrestling [Wholly Hopkins, "Fishel Caps Great Career," April] states that "for the first time in the program's history, Hopkins produced two conference champions in one season." In the 1950s, Hopkins competed in the Mason-Dixon Conference in all sports except lacrosse. We won the M-D Conference in wrestling in 1954 and also had two conference champions: Ron Armstrong at 123 (pounds), and Lou Ruland at 130. It was a very good year!
Mickey Cochrane
Bowling Green, Ohio

Mr. Cochrane was Johns Hopkins' soccer and wrestling coach from 1953 to 1954.

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