Meet our Senior Director of Equity & Engagement

09.22.21

Q&A with Eddie Martin, Jr. 

In January 2021, Eddie Martin Jr. transitioned from Director of Engagement into our Senior Director of Equity and Engagement. As a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and chaplain (MAJ) in the U.S. Army Reserve, Eddie’s passion for education and service is undeniable (He brings two bachelor’s degrees in International Business and three master’s degrees in Divinity, Theology and Public Policy). He is defending his doctoral dissertation (PhD) in Marriage and Family Therapy in the Spring of 2022 at Eastern University. During his three years here, Eddie has brought to life the first Community Convening on Homelessness and then the Community of Practice on Homelessness. His leadership in racial equity and inclusion and focus on self-examination fundamentally inform the way we approach our work. Learn more about Eddie and his new role.  


How did you first come to work at Health Care for the Homeless?

    Since I was a college student at Mississippi State University, I became very interested in understanding and exploring the relationship between faith and public policy. I was specifically interested in understanding how faith doctrines and faith-based institutions address the structural and systemic issues that exist day, especially for distressed communities of color – or in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., how “love implement the demands of justice.”

    Prior to working at Health Care for the Homeless, I served as the Director of the U.S. Department of Justice Center of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama Administration and then spent time as the interim director of the Positive Schools Center, a non-profit under the Social Work and Outreach Community Service (SWCOS) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Upon viewing the Health Care for the Homeless Director of Engagement position, I was intrigued by the job description as it seemed to align with my education, experience, and vocational pursuits. As an ordained minister, it provides me the opportunity to “exhaust myself” in what I consider “the duties of my ministry” as I serve communities who are most in need.

    What are one or two ways that a racial equity lens influences your work in the community and within the agency? 

    We know that adopting a racial equity lens is indispensable to accomplishing our agency’s mission. Seventy-eight percent of people experiencing homelessness are People of Color, and 65% of people experiencing homelessness are Black. We are serving individuals and working with communities dealing with the realities of institutional and structural racism, and we have to make addressing these inequities front and center in our work to prevent and end homelessness.

    Take West Baltimore as an example. It has experienced much disinvestment and exploitation, so we want to be mindful of how we engage and cultivate relationships in the community. Relationship-building must always be viewed and considered as the end in itself versus a means to an end where communities are often exploited. We began and continue to learn from people with lived experience, organizers, providers, local public and private leaders and faith-based and other community leaders to better understand and recognize the varied gifts and talents of so many people who work intimately within these areas.

    In my role as Director of Engagement, which evolved into Senior Director of Equity and Engagement, I knew that there needed to be more of an institutional structure to move REI work forward. In 2020, we created three frameworks and two REI committees (staff and board) to help navigate the work through phases. Through collaboration with staff and board members, we hired the Center for Urban and Racial Equity to conduct an agency REI assessment and are currently using their findings to inform our racial equity action plan (which we look forward to implementing in October). In July, we welcomed Adedoyin Eisape, REI Program Manager II, to the department and are working with Chief Quality Officer Tolu Thomas to hire an REI Health Specialist to start looking at client-level measures and how we should be approaching care through a racial equity lens.  Chief Behavioral Health Officer Lawanda Williams staffs the Staff REI Committee and Chief Strategy Officer Keiren Havens staffs the REI Board Subcommittee.  They are integral in helping to lead and advance the agency’s REI work.

    You spearheaded both the Community Convening on Homelessness in 2019 and the ongoing Community of Practice on Homelessness. How do you see that forum evolving?

    The Community of Practice on Homelessness gives us the opportunity to confront and address inequities across a number of topics: housing, racial disparities in health care, building community trust and addressing community trauma, food insecurity and access, reimagining restorative justice through the lens of eliminating structural racism, etc. These are far-reaching, structural inequities that touch every corner of our society, and they demand a more coordinated, multifaceted approach. The Community of Practice provides a virtual space for a diverse cross-section of community members in various capacities to learn, connect and develop new strategies to end homelessness…to collectively envision an end to systems of structural racism.

    As we continue the Community of Practice this fall, I want us to consider the limits of reform. If the systems in which we operate themselves are built on white supremacy, does reform go far enough to address structural racial inequities? How do we deconstruct and reimagine a society where racial equity serves as the foundation we are establishing, and true liberation operates as the goal? Moving forward, we will start from that premise.

    You are currently pursuing your doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy. Can you say a bit about your research and how it informs your work here?

    I am really interested in the intersection of race and community, and the institution of family in its relation to the racialized institutions of society. My dissertation focuses on Examining the Experience of White Fragility in Black/white Interracial Marriages. The phenomenon of white fragility manifests from the discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when discussing and confronted by racism. How do spouses experience this phenomenon within their marriages, and how do they respond to it? This exploration of white fragility itself is informative to my REI work at Health Care for the Homeless.

    What books do you consider essential reading?  

    First and foremost, Strength to Love and Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These books are prophetic in that Dr. King, who I consider a mentor (alongside Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Malcolm X) profoundly speaks to the issues prevalent in today’s society. When we, as a society, uplift Dr. King, we often – in the words of Dr. Cornel West – “sanitize” his legacy and ignore what many consider to be his “radical” stages in the years of 1966-68, before his untimely death at the age of 39 (my current age).  I consider his work and perspectives during this time to be representative of Dr. King at his Spiritual apex, who spoke with righteous indignation and a demanding love during a time of extreme social unrest. I also consider essential any books and works written by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker.  There is also How to be an Antiracist, by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and White Fragility by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. So many more essential books from which to choose…

    You’re also a committed powerlifter – what can you tell us about your recent achievements in the sport? 

      Well, my motivations for powerlifting revolve around incentivizing myself to lose a certain amount of weight to ace my Army Combat Fitness Test. As someone who has loved to bench press since his high school football years, I am driven by a desire to set American and international powerlifting records in bench press in a certain weight division.  In my last powerlifting meet (with my colleague, Kevin Feldt, Senior Director of Advancement who also participated!) I benched a personal record of 235kg/518lbs.  I have registered to compete in a Maryland Bench Press Competition in early December.


      Extend a warm congrats to Eddie when you see him next or reach out to compare notes on essential readings or powerlifting PRs!

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