Ralph E. Moore Jr. is a Johns Hopkins alumnus, Class of ‘74. He is a columnist for the AFRO American newspaper and the chairman of the nonprofit group By Peaceful Means, an organization born in East Baltimore that teaches children about non-violence and positive conflict resolution.
The News-Letter: Why did you stay in Baltimore after graduation?
Ralph E. Moore Jr: After I graduated, I got on a plane and flew to Buffalo, New York. I spent the summer [doing] community work there. But then, I was offered a job teaching here in Baltimore at my old high school, which is Loyola High School up in Towson, Maryland. I was the only African American on the professional staff. I was the second African American that they had ever hired as a teacher.
N-L: How do you think Hopkins or Baltimore changed since you graduated Hopkins, and what else do you believe needs to change in the future?
RM: 27 of us African Americans entered in 1970. That was the largest class of African Americans that Hopkins ever admitted at one time. When we graduated in ‘74, [my classmates and I] made a statement at graduation about one of the things we noted, [which] was that the majority of the professional staff was white, and the majority of service staff were overwhelmingly African American and brown. I think that [now] there are more African American and brown professionals than there were. Even though the proportion of [African Americans as] service staff is still relatively high, it's at least counterbalanced a bit by the numbers that have been placed on the professional staff.
Also, Hopkins has made a concerted effort to get engaged with the Baltimore community more. [For example, Hopkins has] a project in East Baltimore called Turnaround Tuesday. The idea is to help people find jobs at Hopkins.
Finally, we were able to work with Hopkins to acknowledge Henrietta Lacks. Hopkins created a Henrietta Lacks fund, where they give away $15,000 to some communities. It's a small thing, and it's certainly no way to repay for the way that the family has been ripped off by the companies that send around DNA for research purposes and all that. But it's something and it's a small thing.
Hopkins is going to name its first building, that I'm aware of, for an African American, and that's going to be the Fred Scott building on 33rd Street — the first African American to be admitted to Hopkins. Fred just died a few years ago, but it's good that [he’s] honored.
I'm a bit concerned about the armed police force that Hopkins is trying to develop. I'm not a big fan of guns. I think you can do security without it at all, but anyway, they're proceeding with the intention of getting a private armed police force. They think they can do it with their own random accountability, because other campuses have police forces, like the University of Maryland. But they're systematically accountable to the state, and Hopkins isn’t. It’s a private institution. So [Hopkins] wants to set up their own accountability system and be mindful of their recruiting system and all that. They don't want to take away from the Baltimore City Police who are already down by hundreds of police officers. It's going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out.
N-L: Are there specific projects that you're working on right now?
RM: There are three things I'm working on now. One is the Fred Scott building naming for which I’ve been on the planning committee.
The second thing I've worked on is my old high school. We've started a scholarship fund to recruit more young African Americans from the inner city, and we’ve raised almost about half a million dollars. We've named the fund after Father Frank Fisher. I've been chairing that fundraising drive this year.
The third project I've been working on over the last year [is] an initiative to get the first African Americans from the United States made saints by the Catholic Church. We have initiated a letter-writing campaign to Pope Francis on behalf of six candidates for sainthood. The six of them have been very courageous, who kept their faith in the face of downright racial prejudice and discrimination.
[The six candidates are Mother Mary Lange, Father Augustus Tolton, Henriette DeLille, Pierre Toussaint, Julia Greeley and Thea Bowman.]
We have sent 3000 letters to Pope Francis and his ambassador in Washington D.C. and never gotten a response. [Now] we're asking people to give us some financial support so that we can go to Rome and hand deliver copies of those letters. We’d like to try to get a meeting with [the Pope’s] cardinals who recommend saints to him.
N-L: Why do you continue to work, and what keeps you passionate about your work?
RM: I was inspired by so many things coming along. I was inspired by those sisters who always reminded us in class to remember the community we came from and to come back and do something for the community. Then I was inspired by the Jesuit priests whom I saw on the picket line [when] we were picketing against housing discrimination and exploitation. And then, you could be inspired by anyone, from Sidney Poitier, a movie star who was the only African American you saw in the movies some days, to Barack Obama getting elected in 2008. It told you that change can happen and does happen.
Change really happens when you get involved and make it happen. You want life to be better for your kids and your grandkids. In many ways it is, but in many ways we have to be careful and watch and make sure that things don't recede back to the way they were. You see those children sadly slaughtered in Texas, or you see [Black children] being pushed around or ignored by the folks who work at Sesame Place, and all the hue and cry about the opposition to a Disney character, the Little Mermaid, being an African American. The kids expect the students to speak up for them and fight for them and protect their rights to be seen and heard.
I want that for my own children and grandchildren. They’ve always been made to feel that they can do whatever a man can do, if not more, and we'd like to convey that message to the grandchildren that they need to respect genders, and they need to respect race and they need to love themselves. There's no need to apologize for who you are in any of those circumstances.
I just see myself as trying to give back. I have been fortunate. I got a good Catholic school education, kindergarten to eighth grade. I got a good high school education for free. We had to put up with everybody who didn't want us there. I got a good education at Johns Hopkins. I feel blessed that I've gotten a good education. I feel like I've been fortunate, so I need to return some of that.
According to Moore, those who are interested in donating to the sainthood project can make a check out to St. Ann’s Church and mail it to 3015 Guilford Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21218.