The riots in Baltimore are weeks behind us now, but the aftermath continues to send ripples in the city. Preliminary estimates from city officials report that the unrest and rioting cost the city $20 million in expenses. As passionate as I am about social justice and health equity, I can only imagine how the residents of Baltimore, the proud residents of Baltimore, are feeling. The proud residents who rallied together to clean up the mess that so many others made; the residents whom most media channels forgot to feature on the news. The civic-minded Baltimore resident is in my thoughts today. Last month’s riots reminded the nation once again that inequality does exist. There is still a gap between the “haves” and “have-nots.” Civic-minded Baltimore residents understand that the gap exists. There are some who are aware and strive to reduce that gap. And for that reason, we should all be optimistic.
I recently interviewed a good friend of mine, Mike Allen. Mike grew up in New York and will always be a New Yorker, but he’s a proud Baltimore resident. His drive and motivation in achieving goals is unmatched and he’s one of the many reasons I’m optimistic that Baltimore will bounce back even stronger.
As I mentioned, Mike grew up in New York in the 1980’s. Despite many risk factors, he has and continues to add positivity to our society.
Let’s hear what he has to say.
Me: How did you end up doing the work that you’re currently doing? Describe your journey into Social Work and now consulting.
Mike Allen: I started a training/consulting company after I was introduced to it while I was an Account Manager in 2006. Initially, I was apprehensive to conduct trainings. I was always fearful that an audience participant would throw me a curve-ball question at me that I couldn’t answer. After having my first taste, I was immediately addicted! When I hit a crossroad in my career I launched MAZCAN Enterprises, LLC a workplace training and consulting company.
My journey into Social Work started immediately after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree. I worked at a summer camp for emotionally disturbed youth who had a history of abuse. I connected with the children and for the very first time in my life I put my needs second to other human beings. When they left camp I was concerned that they would be returning back to the same abusive households and communities. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do more and that is when I decided to move to Maryland and become a Social Worker.
Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?
MA: My daughter is the foundation of all things; she reminds me that anything is possible.
Me: What do you think it will take for our healthcare systems improve?
In order for our healthcare system to improve it must first be available and affordable to everyone. Additionally, education is a huge component that is often side-stepped. Patients need to be educated about their diagnosis and provided alternative and preventative ways to handle their physical and and mental health.
Me: You recently wrote a book on your life story. What impact do you envision from sharing your book?
MA: The Strength From Within: Windows to My Soul is an inspirational book. It details how I was able to overcome many disparities and environmental risk factors growing up in Brooklyn New York: the widespread drug epidemic of the 1980’s, underlying poverty, socioeconomic despair, being raised by a single parent and interpersonal violence. I envision the book having a positive impact on youth and adults to deal with some of their own unresolved issues, but also to have hope for a better tomorrow. The importance of education is weaved throughout the book. Education was, and still is, the key to my success and I am hopeful that it will inspire readers to continue to seek education by any means.
Me: What are the current needs in Baltimore, as they relate to social determinants of health (i.e SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)
MA: The needs in Baltimore city specifically are vast as it relates to social determinants. School curricula should include courses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, home ownership, and preventative substance abuse education and general health care visits including: regular doctor visits and check ups.