Category: Baltimore Highlights

Red Emma’s Coffee Shop Hosts Education Activist Katie Kissinger for a Discussion on Bias in the Education System

Red Emma’s Coffee Shop Hosts Education Activist Katie Kissinger for a Discussion on Bias in the Education System

On July 23rd, early childhood education instructor, author and founder of Threads of Justice, Katie Kissinger, held a discussion on anti-bias education at Baltimore’s Red Emma’s Coffee Shop.

Kissinger’s passion for social justice and activism started as a teenager when she attended a collaborative project which brought Chicago black and white youth together to reflect on the issues of racism and poverty. This first experience would become an initial step for Kissinger on a road that would lead her to activism against bias, particularly implicit bias, in school settings.

“I was exposed, for the first time, into the realities of racism and poverty and recognizing my part in that as a white person. And it kind of completely dismantled my world view in a way that allowed me to see injustice first hand,” said Kissinger. “We were assigned projects, one with a local organizing group and mine was the Welfare Rights Organization which was on the south side of Chicago at the time. This was 1969, they were a powerful group of African American women knocking door to door organizing folks on assistance, so, that was what I did day to day.”

After this experience, Kissinger returned home and informed her family she was “joining the revolution.” This led to her acquiring her B.A. in Sociology and a job at Head Start where she would begin to develop an interest in fighting implicit bias, specifically, within education.

“My first job with my new degree was working for a Head Start Program and, so, that’s when I sort of started to look at education as a different kind of vehicle for social change and social justice. I worked in Head Start for a few years and, then, I had an opportunity to go to Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena,” said Kissinger. “It was a Quaker-founded-college where they believed that what’s missing in teacher education is supporting the development of social conscious. So, all the theory and everything we looked at in that degree of human development was grounded in challenging the status quo, the white supremacist paradigm and that allowed me to combine my anti-oppression passion with education.”

According to the Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity, implicit bias is “attitudes and stereotypes that affect people’s actions, perceptions and decisions”. In contrast to “outright bias”, implicit bias is more present at a subconscious level and many who rely on it are often unaware of its presence.

Kimberly Papillon, recognized as an expert on race and the national justice system, uses neuroscience to explain how implicit bias is present, even in those who claim to hold no prejudices.

In her implicit bias primer, Papillion explains that many studies have found the same areas of the human brain that light up when confronted by a spider or snake, become more active when exposed to pictures of African-American faces versus Caucasian faces.

Papillion writes, “What is truly remarkable is that many of the people who have this reaction state they have no conscious bias or prejudice towards others. They have no idea that these reactions are going on in their minds.”

Despite Kissinger’s good intentions and a plethora of research to support her actions, she has found opposition to anti-bias activism in schools.

“Particularly in early-childhood education. There are a lot of people, in fact, it’s probably the prevailing myth around this, is that a lot of people don’t think this is a topic for young kids at all. They think young kids don’t see differences which is completely not true,” said Kissinger. “So, this is a myth we come across where they think we are posing problems by talking about differences with young children and trying to get people to see that silence around these issues is actually laying the foundation for what we call ‘pre-prejudice.’”

Implicit bias takes form in the suspension rate among students of color versus their white counterparts, as well as, how teachers interact differently with male and female students.

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found teachers have an implicit bias about gender and math skills, often giving female students higher scores on “name-blind math test” only to score them lower than their male peers when the tests were no longer blind.

However, the research goes beyond academic areas and explains how males and females are managed differently in classrooms.

According to “Time”, researchers Myra and David Sadker, as well as Karen R. Zittleman “found that teachers spend up to two-thirds of their time talking to male students; they also are more likely to interrupt girls but allow boys to talk over them. Teachers also tend to acknowledge girls but praise and encourage boys. They spend more time prompting boys to seek deeper answers while rewarding girls for being quiet.”

The short-term effects of implicit bias include higher suspension and disciplinary rates among students of color, as well an early ingrained lesson to girls that they are meant to be seen and not heard.

The long-term effects can include failure to keep up with peers due to constant loss of class time, increased drop-out rates, a wider gender-gap in STEM and a more detrimental school-to-prison pipeline.

However, Kissinger doesn’t let the statistics deter her. She believes even if a child doesn’t receive anti-bias education in the early years, it is never too late.

“I believe it’s never too late but it gets harder and harder. Their socialization has already happened to them,” said Kissinger. “So, for them it’s more similar to what happens to all of us adults is that we have to unlearn and heal from whatever socializations we have, whether we were socialized to participate in the oppression of others or whether we were targeted by it, there’s that ‘work to be done’ [mentality] that gets in the way of us being fully human and fully able to participate in the liberation of all human beings.”

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Threads of Justice Website
Kirwan Institute-Understanding Implicit Bias
Equal Justice Society Implicit Bias Primer
“Time Magazine”-Teachers Bias Against Girls In Education
National Bureau of Economic Research Study
Kirwan Institute -School Discipline

Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition Offers Overdose Training Workshops to the Community

Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition Offers Overdose Training Workshops to the Community

Once labeled “Murder City”, the last few years in Baltimore and the state in general have seen a rise in a different type of violence that has exceeded the others. In 2016, there were a total of three-hundred-eighteen homicides in the city compared to the over two-thousand intoxication related deaths in Maryland, 89% of which were opioid related. Though some may only call for harsher sentencing, organizations like the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition(BHRC) are taking a more reductive approach.

Formed in January 2011, BHRC uses harm reduction principles to fight the rising intoxication-death toll in the city, as well as the ripple effects of drug overdose.

According to their website, harm reduction is defined as “a range of policies and practices designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with drug use, sex work, and other activities that may contribute to poor health outcomes. Harm reduction is an alternative and, in some cases, a complement to the more conventional approaches of demand and supply reduction.”

Executive Director Harriet Smith presented the benefits of harm reduction practices in an Overdose Response Training workshop at the Greenmount Coffee Lab on June 17th. Below is an outline of the workshop and information on how to get involved.

Overdose Response Training:

1) Recognize the signs of an overdose
If an individual has taken any sort of drug and is experiencing these signs there is a high chance they are overdosing. Some of the common signs of overdose include trouble breathing, trouble sitting up, change in lip color, confusion or unconsciousness.

2) Check for unconsciousness
Place a hand or ear by the individual’s mouth to listen/feel for breathing. If they are not breathing, try reviving them by taking a fist and placing it down knuckles first on the individual’s breast plate, before rubbing up and down. This action, called the sternal rub, is very uncomfortable and the individual will react if they are conscious.

3) Call 911
Whether the individual wakes up or not, it is advised to call 911 in case they still need medical attention. When calling 911 it is the caller’s choice whether or not to inform the operator the call is for an overdose.

If the operator is informed an overdose is the reason for the call, police will be sent ahead of the ambulance for questioning and investigation.

Additionally, if the caller is afraid of arrest, note that the Good Samaritan Law protects them if they “have a misdemeanor amount of illegal substances, paraphernalia or alcohol belonging to a minor” according to Smith. This law does not protect those who “have active warrants or lack citizenship.”

4) Administer the Naloxone
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a non-addictive prescription medicine that can

restore breathing and consciousness during an opioid related overdose. The drug lasts thirty to ninety minutes and can be inserted with a needle at a 90 degree angle into the thigh, arm or butt.

If there is no response in one to three minutes, giving a second dose is recommended. Once the second dose is administered, if the individual is still not breathing continue on with the steps described below.

*Naloxone only works for opioid overdoses.

5) Give Rescue Breath
Tilt their head back and breathe regularly into their mouth. A t-shirt or mouth cover can be used to prevent mouth-to-mouth contact.

6) Place in Recovery Position
Place the individual on their side with their mouth titled downward toward the ground in case of vomiting. The chin should be moved up to allow air to easily move through the windpipe. Finally, arms and legs should be positioned to maintain the placement.

7) Explain what happened
If the individual regains consciousness, explain what happened to them and the withdrawal symptoms they may experience as a result of the Naloxone. Make sure they are aware their desire to use again will be strong because of the withdrawal symptoms.

Once the ambulance arrives, allow the EMTs to take over.

What else should you know?

  • Carrying Naloxone is completely legal
  • Training is not necessary to purchase Naloxone
  • Naloxone can be purchases at any local pharmacy. If they don’t stock, it submit a request they do so.
  • Naloxone is usually covered by insurance.
  • Naloxone is light sensitive and should be stored at room temperature.

To find out more about the BHRC and how to get involved in harm reduction, contact

Harriet Smith at or visit their website at

Baltimore Harm Reduction Website
The Baltimore Sun Homicide Index
Baltimore City Health Department
MD Dept. Health & Mental Hygiene Overdose Prevention Document

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