Zeke Cohen, a Hopkins alum and councilman for Baltimore City’s First District, visited Hopkins this Tuesday to speak with the College Democrats at Hopkins about his upcoming re-election campaign and the policies he is currently working toward.
Ryan Ebrahimy, co-president of Hopkins Democrats, said that the group had been looking forward to having Cohen come as a guest speaker.
“Hopkins Democrats is always looking to represent those who are involved in Baltimore-level politics, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to connect students with someone who is involved in city council...,” he said. “We thought this would be the perfect event to collaborate, but also to show students that there’s really more to Baltimore than just what happens at Hopkins.”
Cohen’s visit centered around his ideas about the role Hopkins can play in the Baltimore community going forward. He also heavily discussed his proposed Trauma-Responsive Care Act, which is currently in committee.
Cohen first discussed the Hopkins Police Department initiative, which has garnered much attention and controversy from students and politicians alike over the last few years.
“What I thought was challenging and frustrating about the private police force conversation was that there is this long history of this divide,” Cohen said. “We do have serious public safety challenges in the city of Baltimore, and no one will deny that, but what I think Hopkins at its best can do is add intellectual muscle and heft toward bringing public health solutions toward some of the violence that we’re experiencing in the city.”
In an interview with The News-Letter, Cohen expanded on the role Hopkins plays as an institution versus the roles its individual affiliates play in the Baltimore community. He explained that it is important to separate the institution from the individual because it is the people that determine the ease with which the University can act, citing the protests against the private police force this May as an example.
Sophomore Sebastian Llaca expressed his agreement with Cohen’s statements in an interview with The News-Letter.
“I was very interested to find out that [Cohen]... didn’t think the private police was the best idea, I know that this was a large issue last year,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people on campus really had an opinion on it one way or another.”
The Trauma-Responsive Care Act that Cohen and his colleagues are involved in was another major topic of discussion at the meeting.
Research has shown that nearly 60 percent of Baltimore’s children have suffered from traumatic adverse childhood events. This proposed law aims to address the root causes of social issues in Baltimore. It would require that Baltimore City public agencies revamp their policies for dealing with community members in order to be more sensitive to trauma. It also would require agencies’ current policies to be reviewed, so that any policies that were inadvertently re-traumatizing community members could be adequately adjusted.
“We, the city government, re-traumatize already vulnerable people. That is what the Trauma-Responsive Care Act seeks to stop us from doing. We cannot continue to do harm to our most vulnerable people,“ Cohen said.
He closed with his hopes for the future of Baltimore, and with a call to action to students and Hopkins affiliates in general.
“It is a profound and important moment of transformation that our city is in, and you all have an opportunity... to really have an impact in Baltimore,” he said.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Ryan Ebrahimy, co-president of Hopkins Democrats, echoed Cohen’s sentiments.
Ebrahimy said that he believed this event was a great way to show students that there was more to Baltimore than just what goes on at Hopkins.
Cohen further underscored the importance of community involvement.
“The thing I love about Baltimore is that if you put in the work, if you show that you are really here for people, this city can be incredibly rewarding. People will embrace you and welcome you with open arms, and so I think that you all as members of the Hopkins community have a great opportunity to be a part of moving our city forward,” he said. “Stick around, because Baltimore is poised for a renaissance.”