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Encompassing Death

HLWN2 How can we move beyond the grieving process when death constantly surrounds us?

At Work

I started working at the University of Baltimore August, 2008. The following month, City Councilman Kenneth Harris was shot and killed outside of a nightclub in the city (life in the city can be rawer than The Wire). I worked as an election judge during the historic election on November 4, 2008—that same evening our colleague and first UB MPA Program Director Dan Martin passed away.  As time passed so did other colleagues…Peter Lynagh from the Business and more names that I may have missed. In 2016, our student Julien Jones was killed in Toronto. More recently, we lost Richard Bucher, who taught for many years in the MPA program and Berry Grant from Criminal Justice. Professor Grant’s death is particularly tragic because he taught in the forensics program that his former wife, Jamie Grant, developed before she died unexpectedly.

Since my arrival, nearly every colleague that I know has lost a loved one- parents, grandparents, children, siblings, and friends. Deep and heavy losses as we grieve in our own way. Sometimes our actions might seem irrational. For example, I refused to attend a professional conference this year because my maternal grandmother passed away when I returned from the conference in 2015 and my maternal grandfather passed away when I returned from the same conference in 2016 (I have one paternal grandmother alive). There was another time that a long-lost colleague and mentor left a message on my machine—I never returned his call because I was certain he wanted to inform me that one of my favorite professors passed away.

Writing that someone passed away, however, does not provide the full context of the complexities involved. There may be hours spent by the hospital bed of a loved one during their final days, decisions to remove life support, family dynamics, economic circumstances, and the obligatory paperwork that follows to close the chapter of another life.

A retrenchment of the soul.

As Work

Social Equity and Social Justice are integral in much of my research—I never anticipated death. A few years ago my colleague and submitted a proposal in response to a call for papers on the death of Trayvon Martin. By the time we received an invitation to move forward on the manuscript there were the additional deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and so many more. As we delved into our work the number of deaths steadily increased. Here in Baltimore City, Freddy Gray was in a coma when police admitted him to the hospital on April 12, 2015—he died on April 19, 2015. Then on June 17, 2015 my colleague’s cousin was killed in the Charleston shooting at Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. Our manuscript [1]is incomplete as events emerge. Artists have stated that they feel their work—the same is true for writers.

In the City

Unfortunately, the City of Baltimore is known for the homicide rate, often ranking among the top three cities when per-capita is considered.  According to U.S. ACS data (2014) the population size was only at 621,849. In 2015, our per capita murder rate was 55 (55 of every 100,000 residents were murdered). To put this in perspective, the per-capita murder rate in Chicago was 10.4 and New York City was 2.5.[2]

Homicides in Baltimore City

07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 4.12.17
282 234 238 223 197 217 235 211 344 318 86

This year we have lost an artist, a boxer, an unborn child and someone has lost a father, mother, son, daughter, cousin, or friend. There are markers throughout the city—teddy bears, balloon memorials and murals along the streets.

Baltimore is a resilient city filled with complexities yet open to innovative ideas to address wicked problems. We never give up.

In Memory of Robert Godwin, Sr.

America is at a new low when a citizen randomly selects an elderly man walking home from Easter Dinner and shoots him dead on Facebook Live. Although Mr. Godwin was 74 years old, his life was cut short. He is not only the grandfather to 10 grandchildren—he is the representation of America’s grandfather.


[1] Seabrook, R. & Wyatt-Nichol, H. (2016).The ugly side of America: Institutional oppression and race. Journal of Public Management and Social Policy, 23(1), 20-46.

[2] Fenton, J. (2017, April 19). Baltimore has surpassed New York City in Homicides. The Baltimore Sun. Available at


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