BreakingGround Grants Available

Beverly Bickel is a clinical associate professor of language, literacy and culture at UMBC. Eloise Grose is Program Coordinator, service-Learning, Community Partnerships at UMBC’s Shriver Center.

Bev Bickel 2eloise-groseUMBC faculty, staff and students can apply for BreakingGround grants to support courses and projects that develop civic agency: the capacity to initiate and make meaningful contributions to social change. Since BreakingGround’s launch in 2012, the BreakingGround grant program has supported 34 courses and course-based projects, and 22 additional projects involving research, innovative practices, and community engagement. Grants have typically been in the range of $1.500 to $2,000.

Funds for BreakingGround grants have been provided by Provost Philip Rous. The grants seek to advance UMBC’s vision of “redefining excellence in higher education through an inclusive culture that connects innovative teaching and learning, research across disciplines, and civic engagement.”

The application form is available online. However, you do not need to have a fully developed concept to get started. We would love to talk with you and connect you with others involved with BreakingGround to help flesh out your ideas. Contact us: Beverly to talk about grants to support courses and course-related projects, and Eloise to talk about grants to support other civic agency-building projects. We look forward to hearing from you.

Contact the authors: Beverly Bickel at bickel@umbc.edu, and Eloise Grose at elgrose1@umbc.edu.

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Reflections on Imagining America: Beyond “Working On …”

Lee Boot, Research Associate Professor/Associate Director of UMBC’s Imaging Research Center, served on UMBC’s planning team for the 2015 Imagining America national conference. The conference’s title was “America Will Be! The Art and Power of Weaving our We.”

Lee BootA week after the conference ended, I’m still working to imagine a “we” that has real agency for addressing the challenges we face not only in higher education, or Baltimore City, but as a people.

On the one hand, I’m very encouraged. I see a rare and positive alignment of the many threads that affect our ability to act, and which otherwise, often complicate and confound our potential. Of course, I want to help seize this opportunity.

At the same time, the necessary culture change is only just beginning. There remains an entrenched sense of pessimism and powerlessness that has gone on far too long. One impediment to change that I can see is that too many purposes are served by individuals, organizations, and institutions simply “working on” longstanding challenges—or worse, merely appearing to. It lets us off the hook in a cultural environment where too many of us have forgotten how even to expect significant change any more.

By strong contrast, I feel that those who really engage with Imagining America’s mission are ready to move to the next step, which is not merely to imagine, but to imagineer—and then create a better future. We are ready to tackle the questions: What does engaged arts, humanities, social sciences, and design actually look like now, and how can it be more effective? What is doable? What mechanisms are involved in culture-based approaches to change? How do we assess the promise of a strategy, and it’s outcomes? Should we try?

Sometimes I feel, like the person in the photo (below), that we are walking, confidently, into a beautiful storm, but I don’t trust that feeling. I think the reality might be much less dramatic, and far more constructive.

Clouds in Baltimore (Lee Boot)

Contact the author, Lee Boot, at boot@umbc.edu.

BreakingGround Grants Available for 2015-2016

Beverly Bickel is a clinical associate professor of language, literacy and culture at UMBC. Sara Leidner is UMBC’s Coordinator of Student Life for Student Organizations and Involvement.

Bev Bickel 3Sara Leidner 2UMBC faculty, staff and students can apply for BreakingGround grants of up to $2,000 to support courses and projects that develop civic agency: the capacity to initiate and make meaningful contributions to social change. Thanks to support from Provost Philip Rous, a total of $35,000 is available for 2015-2016.

Since BreakingGround’s launch in August 2012, members of the UMBC community have developed or redesigned 33 courses and created 18 innovative community projects with BreakingGround grant support. Read about those courses and projects here:

Jill Wrigley--Food forest installationSpring 2015 courses and projects
Fall 2014 courses and projects
Spring 2014 courses and projects
Fall 2013 courses and projects
Spring 2013 courses and projects
Fall 2012 courses and projects

The application form is available online. However, you do not need to have a fully developed concept to get started. The two of us would love to talk with you and connect you with others involved with BreakingGround to help flesh out your ideas. Contact us: Beverly to talk about grants to support courses, and Sara to talk about grants to support other civic agency-building projects. We look forward to hearing from you.

Contact the authors: Beverly Bickel at bickel@umbc.edu, and Sara Leidner at leidner@umbc.edu.

Call for Participation in the Imagining America Conference (VIDEO)

What follows is an invitation to the UMBC community developed by UMBC’s Imagining America conference planning team (members listed below).

In October, UMBC will host the 2015 national conference of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, where scholars, artists, designers, cultural workers and community activists will gather to advance the public and civic purposes of arts, humanities, and design. Imagining America (IA) serves as a source for information and ideas in support of engaged undergraduate and graduate pedagogies, public scholarship, and university-change initiatives helpful to administrators, faculty, staff, and students who are seeking to strengthen or initiate campus examination of and involvement with real-world issues.

UMBC had been selected as the host of the 2015 national conference six months before the nation turned its attention to Baltimore in April. This selection was based on the potential for what other institutions of higher education and communities can learn from UMBC faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni who continue to innovate, creating ways to meet societal challenges using scholarly, artistic, social, and entrepreneurial resources. In the aftermath of the Baltimore Uprising, these activities are even more relevant and timely.

UMBC’s IA planning team, consisting of staff, faculty, alumni, and graduate and undergraduate students, has led an extensive conference organizing process to: 1) help establish new efforts to support community and cultural initiatives with higher education research and engagement; and 2) develop and enhance collaborations among Baltimore’s institutions of higher education, particularly other IA university partners MICA, Morgan State University, and Towson University, and with cultural organizations and grassroots leaders.

President Freeman Hrabowski III will lead the opening plenary, “An Honest Conversation,” with Rebecca Hoffberger, Founder and Director of the American Visionary Arts Museum and Joseph Jones, Founder and President of the Center for Urban Families. More than 40 UMBC faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni are presenting their work October 1-3 throughout the city at conference sessions, seminars, and site-specific workshops. There are still opportunities to get involved as a presenter by applying to participate in the conference seminars. Additional conference highlights include a September 30 pre-conference workshop on assessment of community engagement, an opening reception October 1 at 7:00 PM at the Baltimore Museum of Art where Phi Beta Kappa will present Imagining America with its 2015 Key of Excellence award, a Friday evening event called ¡Express Yourself! A Spoken Word & Drumming JAMM, and UMBC Dresher Center faculty microtalks and other sessions throughout Saturday in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building. For more information, please see UMBC will host Imagining America’s 2015 National Conference, Themes in Baltimore’s Story, and Addressing Social Inequalities in Fall Courses.

Please consider attending and encouraging others to explore the various conference sessions and workshops as UMBC hosts Imagining America from September 30-October 3, 2015. The conference schedule is available and registration is now open. Student registration costs are $75 (one day), $100 (two days) and $175 (three days).

Before September 7, faculty and staff registration fees are: $175 (one day), $300 (two days) and $350 (three days). The UMBC Planning Committee is working on fundraising to reduce the cost of registration, so be in touch with questions or ideas.

Thanks for thinking about how this work of public engagement might be useful to you and others. Post-conference UMBC community organizing is already underway to sustain and grow this work and our connections beyond the conference, into the future. If you want to talk through any ideas, please feel free to contact any of these conference Planning Committee members:

Romy Hübler, IA Fellow (romy.huebler@umbc.edu)

Bev Bickel, Language, Literacy and Culture (bickel@umbc.edu)

Lee Boot, Imaging Research Center (boot@umbc.edu)

David Hoffman, Student Life (dhoffman@umbc.edu)

Kathy O’Dell, Visual Arts (odell@umbc.edu)

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies (kmoffitt@umbc.edu)

Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies (drabinsk@umbc.edu)

Viviana MacManus, Gender and Women’s Studies (macmanus@umbc.edu)

Tim Nohe, Visual Arts and CIRCA (emie1@umbc.edu)

Rachel Brubaker, Dresher Center (Rachel_Brubaker@umbc.edu)

Steve Bradley, Visual Arts (sbradley@umbc.edu)

Preminda Jacob, Visual Arts (pjacob2@umbc.edu)

Joby Taylor, Shriver Center (jtaylo14@umbc.edu)

Tom Moore, OIA (tmoore@umbc.edu)

Charlotte Keniston, OSI Fellow (ckenist1@umbc.edu)

Tahira Mahdi, Psychology (tahira1@umbc.edu)

William Klotz, Education (wklotz1@umbc.edu)  

Julianna Brightman, Interdisciplinary Studies (jul4@umbc.edu)

Kelly Robier, Political Science and MCS (kellyr3@umbc.edu)

Manisha Vepa, Economics (mvepa1@umbc.edu)

Baltimore Revisited: Social History for the Twenty-First Century City

Nicole King is associate professor and chair of UMBC’s Department of American Studies.

Nicole King - SquareIn fall 2014, Kate Drabinski (Gender & Women’s Studies) and I co-taught UMBC’s first-year Humanities Scholars seminar, which focused on Baltimore’s social history. It was a great semester of introducing students to the rich history of our city and bringing them downtown to do research and interviews. At the end of the semester, students’ work aired on The Marc Steiner Show (WEAA 88.9) in the form of the public humanities radio show “Downtown Stories.”

Kate Drabinski and I have used The Baltimore Book: New Views on Local History in our classes for years and realized that nearing twenty-five years in print this invaluable text needed an update. That realization led to a panel at the 2015 Chesapeake American Studies Association (CHASA) conference at UMBC with past editors and contributors to The Baltimore Book along with local professors who use the text asking: What would a “new” Baltimore Book look like? Now we are working to make such a book for researchers and teachers interested in making the social history of Baltimore a reality.

Baltimore Revisited: Social History for the Twenty-First Century City will draw from a wide range of researchers inside and outside of the academy to tell the stories of how and why Baltimore looks and functions as it does today. We are specifically looking for heavily researched pieces written in an accessible voice that can offer new perspectives on the city’s social history grounded in the specific places, neighborhoods, and communities in Baltimore. Each chapter could stand alone, but together, they will offer a newer vision of local history from the ground up to complicate our view of the past, as well as the present.

It has been over twenty years since Linda Shopes, Elizabeth Fee, and Linda Zeidman published The Baltimore Book: New Views of Local History with Temple University Press. The book broke new ground, telling histories of Baltimore City not from the perspective of the Great Men of the city—the robber barons, war heroes, and politicians—but from the perspective of groups traditionally marginalized from mainstream history: workers, activists, organizers, and agitators. Growing out of a radical history bus tour, The Baltimore Book was also unique in embracing voices from inside and outside the academy, resulting in an accessible and beautifully illustrated book that still claims a broad readership today.

While The Baltimore Book is still a relevant text, it is time for a twenty-first century version of this project, one that continues the path started in 1991 while harvesting new histories from “The Greatest City in America.” The historical time frame for this book will cover a wide range of eras, from the 18th century when Baltimore’s industrial prominence was on the rise to the city’s current period of deindustrialization. The 2015 Baltimore Uprising further illustrated that the city of Baltimore is an important subject for analyses of the deeply embedded structural inequalities and the great tenacity and potential of the city in the twenty-first century. Baltimore Revisited will address the past in the guise of informing a better future for Baltimore and other urban centers in the US and beyond.

Submissions are invited from a diversity of disciplines—not just history—such as: American Studies, Gender and Women Studies, Public History, Historic Preservation, Local History, Human Geography or Architecture, Comparative Ethnic Studies, Urban Studies or other similar fields. Chapters should be between 2,000 – 6,000 words (small and longer articles are fine), excluding references. Please email 500-word abstracts and/or completed papers and a CV to nking@umbc.edu and drabinsk@umbc.edu by September 1. Authors will be notified of acceptance of proposed chapters by October 1 with full draft of the chapters to editors by spring 2016.

We are excited to work on making a text that will do justice to the many complex and compelling stories of our city. We are revisiting the social history of Baltimore because we believe the city is the engine of the future, and our future is always connected to understanding our past.

Contact the author, Nicole King, at nking@umbc.edu.

Addressing Social Inequalities in Fall Courses

Scott Casper is the Dean of UMBC’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. What follows is a message he shared with faculty members on behalf of the Imagining America conference planning team to encourage syllabi integration of writing, teaching, emerging research, and gatherings to address underlying social inequalities that have become more visible as a result of Freddie Gray’s death.

Scott-CasperAs most of you probably know, UMBC is hosting the 2015 National Imagining America (IA) conference from September 30 through October 3. We are partnering with MICA, Morgan and Towson along with many cultural institutions, community leaders, and artists in Baltimore. The conference sessions will take place in the Mt. Vernon area, at UMBC, and at MICA.

This conference may be a great opportunity for you and your undergraduate and graduate students to meet and work with faculty, staff, students, and cultural workers from around the country and from Baltimore to address pressing social issues through the arts, humanities, and design fields.

Since the activities surrounding Freddie Gray’s death, there has been a surge of new writing, teaching, emerging research, and gatherings to address underlying social inequalities that have become more visible to many outside of West Baltimore and other communities that have experienced historic multi-dimensional disinvestment. It has simultaneously become more apparent to many that stories, creativity, art, place-making, and social designs can be powerful responses to “man’s inhumanity to man.” We believe that the timing of the IA conference in Baltimore affords us with tremendous opportunities to harness the creative energy responding to recent events, while continuing to discuss their historical, economic, social, and policy roots in order to engage students and one another in crucial learning, creating, storytelling and research.

We’d like to offer a few possibilities for integrating this work and discussions into your Fall courses:

  • Faculty, staff, and student reflections about Freddie Gray’s death and protests can be found on the BreakingGround blog.
  • The conference program (available in June or July), consisting of a variety of session formats and site-specific workshops, may provide ideas for syllabi topics.
  • The IA Journal Public and its most recent issue with articles about last year’s conference discussions could be useful background for faculty and students.

There will be many Baltimore-based organizations, initiatives and cultural leaders at the conference and sponsoring site-specific workshops, so it will be a rich environment for students who might want to do internships before, during or after the conference.

Please consider attending and encouraging your students to explore the various conference sessions and workshops. There will be a call for student volunteers for the conference in late August.

Thanks for thinking about how this work of public engagement might be useful to you and your students. If you want to talk through any ideas please feel free to contact any of these conference planning committee members:

Romy Hübler, IA Fellow (romy.huebler@umbc.edu)
Bev Bickel, Language, Literacy and Culture (bickel@umbc.edu)
Lee Boot, Imaging Research Center (boot@umbc.edu)
David Hoffman, Student Life (dhoffman@umbc.edu)
Kathy O’Dell, Visual Arts (odell@umbc.edu)
Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies (kmoffitt@umbc.edu)
Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies (drabinsk@umbc.edu)
Viviana MacManus, Gender and Women’s Studies (macmanus@umbc.edu)
Tim Nohe, Visual Arts and CIRCA (emie1@umbc.edu)
Steve Bradley, Visual Arts (sbradley@umbc.edu)
Preminda Jacob, Visual Arts (pjacob2@umbc.edu)
Joby Taylor, Shriver Center (jtaylo14@umbc.edu)
Tom Moore, OIA (tmoore@umbc.edu)
Charlotte Keniston, OSI Fellow (ckenist1@umbc.edu)
Tahira Mahdi, Psychology (tahira1@umbc.edu)
William Klotz, Education (wklotz1@umbc.edu)
Julianna Brightman, Interdisciplinary Studies (jul4@umbc.edu)
Kelly Robier, Political Science and MCS (kellyr3@umbc.edu)
Manisha Vepa, Economics (mvepa1@umbc.edu)

Best wishes,
Scott

Themes in Baltimore’s Story

Lee Boot is Research Associate Professor/Associate Director of UMBC’s Imaging Research Center

Lee BootA number of us from UMBC have been working with partners from across Baltimore–artists, civic leaders, and faculty, staff and students from local colleges and universities–to plan for the Imagining America conference (October 1-3, 2015). Imagining America supports creative work in the arts, humanities, and design fields to advance diversity, inclusion, and democracy. We’re thinking about themes and locations for conference activities that will engage participants from across the U.S. in Baltimore’s stories, challenges, and innovations.

In preparation for a recent meeting of this Baltimore Organizing Group, I put together a rough summary of themes that had come up in our previous meetings: a highly abbreviated account of Baltimore’s distinctive history, and its urgent challenges and opportunities, as seen through the eyes of the group’s members. I’m sharing it because I thought the key themes people came up with are so salient to recent events:

Perhaps [the most central theme] is that the city we have, and our experiences in it, can be understood as socially designed (versus inevitable or accidental). Both responsibility and potential are revealed in this understanding of social design. Are such designs artifacts of, and also contributors to, culture, and if so, in what ways? Also voiced was a consistent desire and need to see through our present day systems and circumstances to the history from which they evolved. For example, when we talked about categorization, red-lining, or gentrification the discussion was coupled with stories about Baltimore as a point of origin not only for Star-Spangled Banner and the Civil War, but early railroads and nationally-recognized writers, the intentional and codified segregation of communities, and even the pseudo-science of phrenology. Our harbored and central location on the East Coast made us a transportation and industrial nexus, a key port in the slave trade and builder of its ships, and perhaps as a consequence, a contested, dynamic, elusive border that both divided and included North and South, Black and White, free and slave, rich and poor and the cultures of immigrants. Also in our history are innovators, leaders, and creators of justice and hope such as free Black businessman and labor leader, Isaac Myer and his shipyard; courageous protesters and organizers; and innumerable other iconoclastic figures from Poe and Mencken to Holliday, Shakur, Simon…Real News. Our layered complexity can be illuminated and made valuable to citizens through the work of the arts, humanities, design, and social sciences.

Race runs through everything: politics; crime; the geography of neighborhoods; transportation; socio-economic divisions; injustice; displacement; all levels of education including the school to prison pipeline; employment; the arts…To quote J.C. Faulk at the most recent Art-part’heid meeting, race is a constructed illusion, whereas racism is very real.

The cycle of boom and bust took Baltimore from being an industrial mecca to a recent example of de-industrialization and the nationwide challenge to find an economic plan that serves everyone but leaves us less vulnerable than in the past.

What is that plan? We have assets that include an innovative brain trust, makers, culture workers and community scholars that could make us a leader not only in technology and medicine, but in addressing the problems of our time and releasing our potential. However, though as a whole, Maryland’s schools, including arts programs, are among the best in the nation, the state of education in our city—often arts-less risks the future of Baltimore’s youth—particularly Black and underserved youth. Powerfully encouraging is the fact that Baltimore’s youth are finding their voices and agency in protests, poetry, and filmmaking… Organized efforts such as the Algebra Project, Urban Debate League, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and numerous community arts organizations including the Youth Resiliency Institute, Dew More Baltimore, New Lens, Viewfinders, Wide Angle…and many more, all contribute to a growing sense of democratization that starts with citizens often still too young to vote.

In recent years, the arts have flourished in Baltimore for some, but not all residents . Why? As with our neighborhoods, educational achievement, and socioeconomic status, the divisions between the “haves and have nots” in the arts appear to be racial. Interestingly, Baltimore is home to a disproportionate number of social practice artists. There is a powerful sense here that the arts may be able to make progress where laws, institutions, technology, medicine, and high stakes testing have failed. But how does it work? How do we understand or measure the change the arts bring? Are all arts-making intentions equally beneficial? What are the factors that contribute to the rise in Baltimore’s social practice scene?

What is the current and potential role of colleges and universities? Should researchers and students restrict their civic engagement to the neighborhoods in which they actually live? What does, say, critical participatory action research (CPAR) really look like on the ground when it’s working? And what about the impact of foundations and non-profits, and what provides these groups the social license to intervene in places where they are inclined to do so?

What is Baltimoreans’ relationship to the natural environment of Baltimore? What does nature mean in the context of our city? How important is the bay—what we put into it, and what we get from it? How are green spaces valuable, and to whom? Who cares about them? Who uses them? Where do we get our food? Who can get what food where? Are urban farms a long-term solution to affordable nutrition? How much control do we have over our food, based on our circumstances?

This list is far from complete, but it’s a start. In its remaining spring meetings, the Baltimore Organizing Group will continue to identify gaps in this list and develop plans for a rich and productive conference that provides attendees with access to the heart of our city’s challenges and potential.

Contact the author, Lee Boot, at boot@umbc.edu.

Finding Community in Common Ground

Jill Wrigley, Adjunct and General Associate in UMBC’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, developed and teaches courses on the food system and food justice.

Jill Wrigley“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.” –Gary Snyder

When asked how many raised plots in the UMBC Garden their family would like, Ba Zo and Na Lun, my course collaborators and refugees from Burma, turned their gaze to an unused swath of land nearby. Ba Zo smiled and said: “We’d like to have all that.  We could grow a lot of food.”  Along with my students, I followed his gesture and considered the space. Ba Zo remarked that the power and good energy of the earth was waiting there, waiting to be used to grow food.

His suggestion lit our imaginations. I saw an intricate, dense web of food-producing and pollinator-attracting plants and trees inhabited by birds, bugs, and humans above the ground, and fungi and microbes below, all busily generating a mutually beneficial community.

by Jill Wrigley for BreakingGroundThen I blinked, and I saw grass and grass and grass, next to a scrappy patch of woods.

My students had their own set of visions, and through my course, I’m seeking to help bring some of them to fruition.

Particularly because of my work with Great Kids Farm (a Baltimore City Schools experiential learning center), I was invited in spring 2012 to teach an Interdisciplinary Studies seminar on the intersecting challenges that our current food system presents for environmental sustainability, public health and social justice.  My own hunger to literally break ground here at UMBC, and to connect students with communities in Baltimore City, has led me to reshape my courses as engaged and applied learning experiences that are, increasingly, co-created by students and myself.  Two BreakingGround grants and an Entrepreneurship grant from the Alex. Brown Center, and many supportive colleagues at UMBC, have enabled me to do this.

This semester I invited students joining my INDS 430 Creating Food System Justice seminar either to propose their own project or to join a community partner’s project, as long as the project was working at some socially beneficial innovation within the local food system. In experimenting with course structure, I confess to being inspired by the Montessori pedagogical model in which the traditional “Teacher” who conducts a mostly unilateral transference of knowledge to “students” is reframed as “the Guide” who facilitates a process of discovery and cultivation of intrinsic motivation within a community of learners.   In my class this semester, I’ve aimed to anchor the course within students’ own motivations and capacities and then scaffold in academic, personal and professional development as we walk the semester’s path.

While I gathered preliminary course resources and books, I have also been adapting the syllabus and course schedule to tend to particular project imperatives and to deepen student knowledge as needs and interest arise.  I have also sought to incorporate into the semester cycles of study, action and reflection.  At the urging of my TA, INDS Senior Andres Camacho, we also decided to organize ourselves and present the development of our semester’s work through the creation of a WordPress site (http://growumbc.wordpress.com) and a Google Drive folder for students to share work and assign readings.

I want my students to read and digest academic literature associated with topics we’re treating this semester, including: the evolution of the internationally recognized Human Right to Food and food justice; food waste; debates about agro-ecology vs. industrial agriculture; hazards to human health caused by the “Western” or “processed food” diet; hunger, food insecurity and disparate food access; civic agency and food system innovations; and various other issues.  Of equal importance to me is the fact that students are learning one another’s names and motivations, and the names and concerns of people in nearby communities. I value the opportunity they are getting to explore more deeply what they care about, and why, and what policymakers, advocates and community members – as well as academic researchers — have to say about these various issues.

As we near the semester’s end, our efforts are coming to fruition or laying the ground for future endeavors. Our five projects this semester include:

“True Greens” – My course is supporting the development of a student-enterprise growing nutrient and taste-dense microgreens on campus (with thanks to UMBC Biology Dept. and their Greenhouse) that can generate weekly greens for sale to UMBC’s Dining Services and area restaurants. Senior INDS major and Course TA Andres Camacho leads this project (for which he won the December 2014 Idea Competition). In partnership with Dining Services, these greens are now sold daily in the The Commons at Wild Greens.

“UMBC New Roots Community Garden” – This group has been conducting institutional advocacy and organizational planning for a campus-based community garden in partnership with the Baltimore office of the International Rescue Committee that will serve refugees in the area who desire to grow their own food. The students are advocating for a patch of land right next to the UMBC Community Garden to maximize the teaching, learning and community building values of having us all grow together.  INDS student and Sondheim Scholar Rosa Rada, who interned with the Baltimore International Rescue Committee’s New Roots program last summer, brought this initiative to UMBC and is the lead student on this project.

“The Village Farmers Market”– Students in this project are collaborating with Neighbors Without Borders  of West Baltimore to plan and establish a new farmers market in the parking lot of Edmondson-Westside High School in Edmondson Village, the site of destructive blockbusting and years of economic disinvestment (the story of which American Studies Professor Emeritus Ed Orser shared with our class earlier this semester).  The Market is set to open June 6, with one of our students as assistant market manager and volunteer coordinator; another has been generating social media content, and a third has been researching the accessibility of nutrition assistance programs and nutrition education programs at farmers markets.

Jill Wrigley--Student group planting food forest* “The UMBC Food Forest” – This group is being led by senior Geography and Environmental Systems student Dominic Costa, who is making use of his Permaculture Certificate and practicing teaching and project management skills.  This team of students is designing and implementing on campus an “edible ecosystem,” that is, “a consciously designed community of mutually beneficial plants and animals intended for human food production.” Jacke, D., & Toensmeier, E. (2005). Edible Forest Gardens (Vol. One, p. 1). White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub. Students in this team are also collaborating with the the Baltimore Orchard Project, a non-profit in Baltimore City that supports fruit and nut tree harvesting and cultivation to improve healthy food access for current and future generations. On April 28th, we installed the core features of this food forest at the foot of the hill below the UMBC Garden.

Hungry Harvest at UMBC – This student team is collaborating with a young for-profit social enterprise (founded by a recent UMD College Park graduate Evan Lutz) to explore and possibly bring a “recovered food CSA” to the UMBC Campus for staff, faculty and students. Hungry Harvest recovers regionally grown produce that is otherwise thrown away and packages it into weekly deliveries of “shares of food,” creatively innovating off of the farm share CSA model.  For $12 or $18 weekly, customers receive a bag of fresh produce, and one bag is donated to local hunger relief efforts for every bag purchased.  Students hope to lay the foundations for a summer pilot program that would target UMBC apartment dwellers and other staff or faculty on campus during summer sessions.

As for that vacant land that my class and our Burmese guest gardeners surveyed last fall: Some of it is the site of our emergent UMBC Food Forest.  Some of that good earth remains under grass, as the IRC and refugees on a list of aspiring gardeners wait to hear if the vision of a community garden for growing food will receive the UMBC Administration’s approval. We hope for permission in time to produce a bountiful fall harvest.  More to come!

I hope the experiences students are having this semester will support them in their years beyond UMBC.  And, I hope the spaces which they are growing and the connections they are making – within UMBC and with community partners – will take root and flourish.

Jill Wrigley--Food forest installation

Contact the author, Jill Wrigley, at wrigleyj@umbc.edu.

Baltimore Uprising: The “Resiliency” of Our Youth

Kimberly R. Moffitt is associate professor of American Studies and affiliate assistant professor of Africana Studies and Language, Literacy & Culture at UMBC.

[Remarks prepared for the UMBC teach-in on May 1, 2015]

Kimberly MoffittI speak to you today not as Kimberly Moffitt, media scholar, but Kimberly Moffitt the parent of two brown children who attend Baltimore City Public Schools and as a founder of the Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys Public Charter Schools, which opens its doors to 264 boys in Fall 2015.

The recent rioting and looting in Baltimore included participation by some school-aged children, which reveal to some and confirmed for others the pent-up frustration and bitterness of these young people – and the trauma that has been inflicted upon them.

Yet, we often use rhetoric to promote the notion of how “resilient” children, in particular, are in a multitude of situations. Well, let’s see…

Resilient is defined as the ability to withstand or recover quickly form difficult conditions.

Difficult conditions like the 2014 American Psychological Association study that concluded that “black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence” as other children and “are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.” Or another recent report on school discipline that suggests black girls are often seen as “unsophisticated, hypersexualized, and defiant,” and as a result, receive more subjective (and punitive) consequences for their behavior.

Difficult conditions like the statistic that shows that Baltimore City’s school-based arrests account for 90 percent of all such arrests statewide, leaving the remaining 10 percent to be accounted for among the rest of Maryland’s counties.

Difficult conditions like those that inform us that only 1 in 10 black males are reading on grade level by 4th grade in Baltimore City.

Difficult conditions like those in urban centers like Baltimore whose students experience subpar living conditions as a result of abject poverty, drugs, crime, and violence affecting their communities, and in turn, their mental health.

That may be seen as resiliency by some, but I see it as resiliency is the main dish with a side of psychological scarring and trauma, yet we expect NO reaction from the youth.

When will we all question our implicit biases toward black children and realize that the answer cannot be to continue regulating them, but to find ways to relate and educate them well? As long as these young people are viewed as “menaces to society” that must be managed and contained with use of force, then incidents occurring in our schools with school police and those of Monday’s response, will not only continue, but also escalate.

The systemic denigration of our children and the underacknowledgement of the psychological trauma upon their black bodies has reached a boiling point that does not require additional force, but a renewed foundation. As as a community we should come together to strategize ways to cultivate healthy relationships with students and ensure the necessary support mechanisms are in place to help those most in need, such as mental health support and greater educational opportunities.

Will we continue to allow fear of young black bodies to dictate our decision making, or are we willing to do the work necessary to see our students as the children they are who require guidance, love, affirmation of self-worth and a reminder that the use of violence is never the right answer? Only then will the word resiliency be used aptly.

Contact the author, Kimberly Moffitt, at kmoffitt@umbc.edu.

Weaving Our Stories into the History of the Baltimore Uprising

Denise D. Meringolo is an associate professor of history and director of public history at UMBC.

Denise MeringoloToo often in the past, the history of protest and civil unrest was shaped by official accounts. They may capture the perspectives of police officers, government leaders, and even high-ranking activists. However, they inevitably leave out the perspectives of the very people who were directly affected by incidents of injustice, violence, or civil disobedience. These histories are incomplete. And this matters.

Historical accounts shape what we think we know about our country, our city, and ourselves. Incomplete accounts create profound misunderstandings about the past that have consequences in the present. More complete stories can help us empathize with one another, recognize systems of inequality, and address pressing social problems.

The response in Baltimore to the death of Freddie Gray is complex. On the one hand, it is part of a national trend. Across the country, frustration about police brutality toward African Americans has been growing.

At the same time, the events in Baltimore are local and specific. A long series of political and economic choices, public policies, and social transformations created deep inequalities in our city.

We have a responsibility to ensure that a more complete history of these events can be written. Public History students, faculty, and organizations from UMBC and around the city are joining forces to create a digital archive of the Baltimore Uprising. As we gather images, stories, videos, documents, and other materials, we will be able to create digital exhibitions that tell a more complete story about what happened here.

Help us.

Share your stories. Upload photographs. Show us what you’ve seen. Show us the sign you carried. Tell us what you witnessed. When were you there? Where did you stand? Your contributions will build our digital archive. Together, we will make sure the history of the Baltimore Uprising of 2015 can include voices from the streets as well as voices from the halls of government.

Contact the author, Denise D. Meringolo, at ddm@umbc.edu.