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Jeremy Dickson: Freddie Gray riots opened the eyes to the needs in Baltimore

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Jeremy Dickson: Freddie Gray riots opened the eyes to the needs in Baltimore

By Sharon Mager

BALTIMORE, Md.—Jeremy Dickson, lead pastor of Infinity Church, Baltimore, says Freddie Gray’s death and the subsequent riotous response opened the eyes of the nation to a systemic problem that has to be addressed.

Dickson said the Freddie Gray issue is different from Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. “African Americans are falling into crevices. They’re losing their lives in the custody of the police. Now we’re beginning to ask 'Why? and hopefully moving to 'How can we change this?'" he said.

Dickson said what happened in West Baltimore could happen anywhere people feel hopeless with people living in poverty and injustice. They are sending their children to schools trying to hold on, some of which are using outdated curriculum.

Children need places to play and be safe after school and in the summer, but those places are few and far between. “Many of the city’s rec centers were closed down, and they’re not being replaced with anything,” Dickson said.

So how can the church respond? It’s a complex issue, Dickson admits, noting it affects all spheres of life. “We have to look at the system, go from the ground up and see how this happened. We’re going to have to address job skills, education, absentee parenting…,” he said.

One ministry Infinity Baltimore is quickly establishing is a mentoring program for families. The church also wants to partner with schools, by helping bring in resource capital and partner with officials and school leaders to determine what it’s going to take to really make a difference including updating equipment and curriculum.

The church is researching the possibility of acquiring one of the closed down rec centers or another property and opening a center to not only give kids a place to play, but a center where youth can learn marketable skills.

Over the past few weeks, members have been partnering with The Garden Church to help clean up the streets and spend time in the city providing a Christian presence as an encouragement. Dickson said city residents want to know that Christians showing up to help aren’t just tourists, or trying to get their faces on the news cameras, they’re servants.

The Baltimore situation has opened the eyes of those in and around the area. As clean up continues, Dickson said people finally are seeing the boarded up houses and the trash.

“A lot of attention is being focused on the west side where it has been needed for a long time,” Dickson said.