At the heart of activism lies the Vincentian question: “What
must be done?” Keith Baltimore in the Office of Religious Diversity seeks to
answer that question through action.
Baltimore is a chaplain and program coordinator in the
Office of Religious Diversity. In that role, he focuses on counseling,
mentoring and advising students of African descent and non-Catholic Christian
students. He also leads the popular, year-round program for students of African
descent called Sankofa, and is the staff advisor to the largest cluster of
African-American student organizations at DePaul.
In addition to his formal role, he also leads or co-leads a
variety of workshops, presentations and courses on social movements and student
activism, overcoming oppression due to social conflicts, and black student
perspectives on faith and activism. He is also the staff co-chair of DePaul’s
Black Leadership Coalition, or DPUBLC, and a member of the President's Diversity
Baltimore took a moment to talk about how the principle of
“what must be done” and faith go hand-in-hand in his work as a university
How did you come to study and teach
All of the student groups I advise are spiritually based and
socially active, so activism and social justice are key aspects of their
identity, work and interest. For this reason, I conduct an activism training
workshop twice a year for all student groups that I advise and all my
student leaders and employees.
What keeps you personally involved
I remain personally involved in part because human
engagement inspires and invigorates me. Activism and social justice require
progression, confrontation of issues and the healing of communities, and I tend
to thrive in the role of “bridge” or leader among various and opposing
communities seeking reconciliation.
How does the Office of Religious Diversity
remain involved in activism?
The Office of Religious Diversity officially represents the
student communities often at the center of activism and social justice issues
at DePaul. We do this by prioritizing both cultural identity and
spiritual/religious identity simultaneously.
For example, whenever there is an issue regarding anti-Semitism or Islamophobia,
our Jewish chaplain and Muslim chaplain are leaders in supporting those
particular communities and responding to the incident because their roles specifically call them to work with
and create programs for those communities.
As a member of Religious Diversity, I work to do the same for students of
African descent by using black spirituality and black cultural values as a tool
for influencing their social justice work, as well as their personal
development and evolving values.
What are your long-term goals
regarding cultural competency and activism?
My goals for cultural competency and activism touch many
areas. On a very basic level, I promote cultural competency and activism
because I simply want people to care and have empathy for others who appear to
be different from themselves. One of my goals is to decrease physical violence
and systemic oppression. On a broader level, cultural competency and activism
are necessary for sharing information. At DePaul, the goal of cultural
competency and activism is to create a healthier work and academic environment
for faculty, staff and students.
Thank you for taking a moment to
speak and share your insight with us, Keith!