Q: What is a Rybby?
A: A Risk-taking Young Baltimorean.
Emphatically, the “risk” referred to in this context is not a component of anti-social behavior or violence.
Rather, it is profoundly social – profoundly human, embracing all the virtues (and probably some of the vices) entailed by our natures.
Huge thanks to frequent reader Dana L., who alerts NA Confidential to the saga of Adam Meister, an urban homesteader with a grassroots plan to revitalize the Baltimore inner city, “one block at a time.”
This may be old news to some, but it’s brand new to NAC.
It transpires that the twenty-something Meister was renting an apartment in Baltimore in 2001, and unable to afford a house in the already gentrified areas of downtown Baltimore, he began instead to search the most neglected parts of the innermost inner city for prospects.
Soon Meister realized that there were incredibly low prices on houses to be found, but in drug-infested, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and the idea came to him to reclaim one such block by convincing others to join him in buying and renovating properties.
Safety in numbers, as it were.
In 2003, Meister purchased a three-story row house in the Reservoir Hill district – formerly a wealthy neighborhood where his grandmother lived during childhood -- for a mere $41,000. He flogged his web site, distributed leaflets, relentlessly networked, and began a neck-deep trek through the city's bureaucracy while working a day job, restoring his house and helping others to do the same.
Two years later, enough Rybbys have been found to fill 13 houses on Meister’s original target block, and the idea has mutated in numerous directions entirely unforeseen in the beginning.
The new arrivals, mostly white professionals, have tried with general success to get along with their underprivileged neighbors, mostly minorities, who were living in Reservoir Hill before it became a cause celebre.
Imagine the diplomatic skills necessary to convince the family across the street that you weren’t referring to them as the unsafe elements spurring the “strength in numbers” equation, and that your honest intent is to assist in the re-establishment of a neighborhood, not to raise values and price them out of a home.
Consequently, to judge by the transparent sincerity of Meister’s sprawling, evolving web site, he spends a disproportionate amount of time repelling profiteers and short-term residents who’re in it for the possible payback.
In her e-mail to NAC, Dana wrote:
This group of people appears to be affecting some change and whether or not they can claim true success, I admire this guy's dream, passion, courage, and tenacity.
That says it – warts and all. The qualities Dana points to are the ones that sustain the true visionaries when their noble aims collide with the grubby realities of the workaday world of imperfection and weirdness.
Here are the links to the rest of the story.
Adam Meister’s web site.
Story in the Christian Science Monitor. (photo credit to the CSM)
Story in the Baltimore alternative press.