The Value of Seeing for Ourselves

Seanniece Bamiro, a UMBC senior majoring in Political Science and pursuing minors in Theater and English Literature, is President of UMBC’s chapter of Alpha Nu Omega Sorority, Inc., and an officer in several other student organizations.

When I enrolled in professor Terrence Hickey’s course on Problem-Solving in the Urban Black Community (POLI 340), I did not know how much it would broaden my perspective. I was intimidated by the list of readings, but the assigned books helped me get a sense of Baltimore’s history and the sources of modern urban problems. One book in particular, Code of the Street by Elijah Anderson, allowed us to obtain a snapshot of urban life in the form of narratives and observations. Professor Hickey challenged us to see connections and contrasts between our lives and those of the people Anderson writes about.

But our learning didn’t stop with readings and class discussions. We were charged with going into the community to see the challenges we had been reading about for ourselves, at a criminal trial and a community meeting.

Before the trial, a courtroom was something I’d only seen on television. As I watched the proceedings, my mind filled with questions about the justice of our justice system. I found myself identifying with the defendant despite the fact that he had committed a crime. At the community meeting, which attracted older men and women but no other college-age participants, I was filled with delight to see people’s strong interest in making the community better. But in both environments, it pained me to see how few people participated. Our preparation before these events had helped us gain insight about why more Baltimore residents don’t engage in these civic experiences, but actually seeing it was deeply sobering.

Taking POLI 340 exposed me to culture with which I was unfamiliar. The class challenged my views of right and wrong and changed my perspective on Baltimore City. Before, I was just an outsider looking in from a distance. Now that I have a little knowledge, I’m motivated get involved and deepen my understanding, rather than relying on speculation, fallacies and misconceptions.

Contact the author, Seanniece Bamiro, at