“Where’d You Come From Where’d You Go?” Exploring Campus Transit.

When this project was started, I was working with a partner, with the expectation that we would not only provide a comprehensive, guide to transport in the UMBC area, that we’d also create a zine, as well as create a student event, and then use it as an opportunity to explore the history of transit in the area, and the future of transit in the DC/Maryland Virginia area. Transit is important to activism, because the access to transit means more access to opportunities and access to resources, and having access for those resources, allows more people to have a better chance at improving their lives, and the ability to be more equal.

Now, as I write this blogpost alone, how much of that was completed? Not much to be quite honest.

In fact, even after scaling back the project, and despite gathering a vast swath of research, I haven’t even reached the zine stage, or figured out how to conduct a student event in relation to transit. However, it’s amazing that even this much was completed, even with a partner dropping out, family medical issues at home, and working full time. Despite all of these setbacks, a large amount of data was produced, and I feel that in the spirit of this activism project, I will put as much of the data as possible here for you.

There is potential that lies here. With this data, and some more time next semester, I would like to finally publish the Transit Zine, and hand them out in the breezeway, to new students, transfer students and staff alike.

If anything, this project wasn’t a complete loss. In fact, it taught me a lot about how activism works, and the sheer amount of work that goes into a single movement, let alone trying to put a concept into motion. Just trying to scale up, or scale down the project, required a massive amount of planning. And considering how large in scale the project was, trying to do it alone was a massive undertaking, and thus, collaboration becomes just as important here. In a way, there was some empathy that I could feel, for activists of the past who have created change. How could they have possibly have done all that they’ve done, with all the balance and the risks that they carried upon their shoulders. I had to balance work, family and school, and I had far more free time than them, and I could barely get anything off the ground. Many activists in the past were literally fighting with their lives, and some of them still failed at the time anyway, how can one do it? This leads into another thought, is that activism takes time. It seems obvious, yes, but this whole experience made me recognize that, in the end, you could put your whole self into a project, but results will not be instantaneous.

In the end, if I could travel back in time, I believe that I would’ve approached this project in a far different way, than what was conducted. First, I would’ve put more time into planning and executing the goals. Then, I would’ve spent time in contact with stakeholders, and other groups that might benefit from increased transit access or awareness. I would’ve also set aside time to talk to professors and instructors, on how to book spaces, and then, planned this whole project as a multi-stage, multi-semester undertaking. This would’ve prevented so much stress, and a lot of preventable errors in research and activism.

The least I can do, at this point, is to show you my data, that will be included in the zine, and the potential future student event.

UMBC TRANSIT OPTIONS

ZipCar UMBC:

ZipCar UMBC is a car rental service available to UMBC students, Faculty and Staff.

This is an on-demand service in which one applies for a membership, gets approval, and can rent a car by the hour for a period of time decided by the user, and returned to a spot on campus when the rental period is over (Gas and Insurance Included):

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https://www.zipcar.com/universities/university-of-maryland-baltimore-county

MTA BUS SYSTEM

This is an extensive system that connects the campus of UMBC to the greater Baltimore area. Three major routes, #37, #76, and CityLink Yellow connect directly to UMBC’s campus. Passes can be bought at the MTA Pass Store (https://www.mta.maryland.gov/pass-store)

Full City Route Map here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/mta-website-staging/mta-website-staging/files/System%20Maps/Abstract_System_Map_02_2019.pdf

All Bus Schedules Located Here: https://www.mta.maryland.gov/schedule

MARC Rail System

The MARC Penn and Camden Lines both stop near UMBC, with the Camden line terminating near Baltimore Camden Yards, and the Penn line terminating in Baltimore’s Penn Station. Both lines also terminate southbound at Washington DC’s Union Station. Passes for the MARC can be bought at (https://www.mta.maryland.gov/pass-store)

Penn Line (Nearest Station is Halethorpe):

Camden Line (Nearest Station is St. Denis):

UMBC Transit

These are seven routes that are run by UMBC that are meant to take students to various places in the immediate vicinity of UMBC. For UMBC students, Payment is not required, only a visual confirmation via the use of a student’s ID card.

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Map of the UMBC Transit System

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Buses are scheduled between every half hour, to every 15 minutes, based on route.

In the future this, as well as more extensive individual stop information, as well as connections, will be put in the zine.

 

 

LGBT Resource Guide

You may have noticed, if you are an LGBT student at UMBC, that there are a limited number of resources available to you on campus. You are likely to be directed to either the Mosaic Center or the Women’s’ Center, and as helpful as those resources are, the resources were limited and scattered in so many different places that it was difficult to find anything. With our project, we wanted to create a single, comprehensive resource guide so that everything was in the same place and could be updated with new resources. As a result of our project, an lgbt student reached out to our group on how helpful the pamphlet, website, and flyer were since the resources were all in one place and that they wanted copies for the on campus office they worked for. We decided to create an HTML based website for the off-campus resources, particularly in Baltimore, in addition to our pamphlet which had information about campus resources for both students and staff/faculty. We also decided to create a poster with the resource links, QR codes to the digital pamphlet, and the HTML website to be discreet and mindful of the fact that there are LGBT students on campus who may not be out.

Our first step was to compile a list of all the places and people on campus who might have resources and to contact them, through emails and in person meetings. We also collected resources through online research. What we found was that a lot of people didn’t have any resources to give us but were very interested in getting the resource guide. Many of those who had UMBC Campus resources also had Baltimore resource suggestions. This is where we ran into problems, which mostly were that people weren’t responding to emails. However, this was easily solved by making office visits or phone calls.

Our next steps were to create and format the website, pamphlet, and poster as well as upload the resources we collected. We utilized an online software called Canva for creating the poster and the pamphlet. While the poster was printed by the GWST Department as a flyer, the pamphlet was done brochure style and printed through Commons Vision as seen here:

The file with the Baltimore LGBT Resources website code was created through an application called Atom and uploaded to a free domain called 000webhost. The website can be found here, and a digital version of the pamphlet can be found here.

We distributed the pamphlets and flyers around campus to various locations including the Women’s Center, the Mosaic Center, the Prism Lounge and LSU, the Counseling Center, the Deans of each college (i.e. Arts,  Humanities and Social Sciences, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, etc..). We received positive feedback from the campus offices and colleges as to how important our work was to the UMBC Campus as well as most offices wanted to make copies of the pamphlets and flyers and distribute the information to their email lists. We created an email account, lgbtresourceumbc19@gmail.com, so that people can suggest new resources to us. We also made an instagram account, @umbc_bmore_lgbt_resources, for wider exposure.

Activism and Its Impact on Our Group:

Ruth: I learned that you really can’t do activism alone, it’s a group effort. As much as I didn’t expect it, activism is pretty intense and can be really draining, especially if it is something that you really are passionate about. I went into this project thinking “yeah I can get this done by myself”, but I realized I would have burnt out and I really needed my other group members.

My view on activism has changed since I realized social media can be a source of activism, but if your actions don’t reflect what you post (i.e. talk the talk but don’t walk the walk), then that’s not activism. This project helped me see that I’m an activist. I try to make conscious daily choices (i.e. I don’t eat at Chic-fil-a, I try not use accessible doors/elevators since I am physically able-bodied, I’m an out LGBT RA, etc..), which even if small, matter. Also, I’m not perfect in my activism and that’s okay. There isn’t a perfect activist since mistakes happen, like forgetting to use that reusable cup, but as long as you try to live your life in recognizing your own privileges, fighting against your own oppressions, and highlighting the voices of those oppressed as well as effectively being an ally, then that is what being an activist is.

Alex: One of the biggest things that changed about my relationship to activism was the understanding that activism is an everyday thing– it’s part of who you are and the decisions you make on a daily basis, not just on the occasions that you are able to attend protests or join campaigns for a certain cause. Over the course of the project, I learned how important communication is to a successful project. The importance of communication is something that I knew in theory going into the project, but in practice consistent communication is a lot more difficult to maintain. Fortunately we were able to work out a fairly good system, but I do think that in future projects one of the things that I would emphasize is communication between group members because our project went so much more smoothly when everyone was kept in the loop.

Building Community Among Queer Women of Color

The idea to build a community for queer women of color (QWOC) on the UMBC campus stemmed from the sharing of similar experiences of feeling alone at the intersection of our race, gender, and sexuality. We began to rant about the lack of community, or lack of visible community, for queer women of color, specifically black women. Through our initial discussion we also uncovered that when dealing with student organizations that cater to only one part of your identity, left room for one to have to interact with people who did not accept the other parts of your identity, such as sexuality. The frustration of not having having a community that caters to our marginalized demographic led us to call to action.

Our goal was to facilitate a starting point to have a safe space for women of color in the LGBT community at UMBC. We thought it was beneficial to create a space for queer women of color to share our experiences, problems, and successes. We decided discussion-based event would benefit our long term goals of building a sense familial community, as well as attract more QWOC students for attendance.

To create our event, we sought out support from several existing student organizations that would have queer women of color in their populations or have a commitment for equality and diversity. The Women’s Center at UMBC agreed to initially allow us to use their space and time that is reserved for their weekly meeting called Between Women. The meeting is used to discuss various topic concerning women in the LGBTQ community.

We also realized we needed to advertise our event heavily to make sure that any QWOC that was interested in our initiative would have the opportunity to attend our discussion and voice their concerns about our community on campus. Due to a lapse in communication between group members, we did not get our flyers printed and distributed in the desired amount of time. However, we advertised our event on social media, in various student organization group chats, and verbally in various student organizations such as the LGBTQ Student Union.

Our discussion was held on April 22nd, 2019 at 3:30 PM in the Women’s Center’s common room. As we were supposed to used the time slot reserved for Between Women at 4:30 PM, it was spontaneously decided that our discussion would occur and hour before their scheduled discussion. We had a moderate number of student attend, more than we expected due to our lack of advertising. We used a fun slideshow to display our questions to the group. The question topics ranged from QWOC representation in media to stereotypes of QWOC. We also had an activity that displayed the diversity amongst the attendees.

During our discussion, we learned that our negative experiences in life as well as with other student organizations was almost universal being QWOC. We also learned that students who are QWOC would like to have more QWOC faculty and staff for representation. It was also mentioned that there needs to be a clear communication channel to address concerns like ours to the appropriate staff members. We considered our event a success.

During this project, we discovered that by simply putting a little effort toward fixing an issue is considered activism. We also learned that activism does not necessarily require academic merit, but it does require passion and copious amounts of communication between parties. It also requires other interpersonal skills such as active listening and dependability. Overall, we learned, that with the right cause, there is a little sense of activism in all of us.

A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender

When choosing a topic for our project, we originally were going to cover the gender wage gap. As we started to look into the wage gap we felt that taking an artistic approach would be hard to accomplish. Therefore, we decided to change our topic to the hyper-sexualization of women of color, stigmas around women sexuality and norms present in our society. As a result, we decided to shift to a wider world view and ended up choosing to focus on India. India is a specific example that helps us paint an extreme picture of how women are sexualized in their environment. The extreme examples allow us to tap into deep emotion that could promote individuals to become activist on this issue. Our goal is to raise awareness as some of the stigmas and norms concerning women and their sexuality are deeply rooted in society. By shedding light on this hopefully will make people feel comfortable enough to begin discussing it with each other and ultimately start putting forth changes which solve these problems at the roots.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/24/india-reject-ordinance-death-penalty-rape

Initially, most of us believed that activism implied getting involved in protests, rallies, etc.  Activism is a common word used to refer to many outspoken members of society, however, none of us had truly grasped what activism really meant. After taking this class and working on our project we have learned what activism truly is. We have realized activism can be of any capacity. From day to day activism to philanthropic pursuit. Now after taking the class and working as a group to understand what activism meant to us, we learned that activism doesn’t always require a lot of involvement. Many forms of activism take place in our everyday lives it can even be as small as starting a conversation with somebody on that issue. Activism does not always have to be conducted in a generic protesting way. Activism can be expressed through art, music, dance, literature, etc. Feeling inspired by the power of video making and activism, we decided to create a poetic video. We felt that if we expressed our beliefs and thoughts through a poem it would be a very intimate and emotion evoking. By spending more time on the syntax of the message, it helped us convey an extremely powerful message that may usually be associated with much larger forms of activism. We were able to incorporate what we love, art and video-making, to deliver a message about what we believed in – Brilliant!

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43782471

If we had to do this project again we really wouldn’t make any major changes. The biggest change would be to create posters/graphics that we could display across campus to help reach a larger audience. We would also include a QR code that will include our video in as well as more resources for anyone wanting to take part as an activist.

Important links:

http://amberroseslutwalk.com/

https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/betty-friedan

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43782471


The Inequalities Facing Non-English Speaking Students in U.S. Schools

This past semester, I volunteered at Hillcrest Elementary School. I worked as a volunteer with first grade students who did not speak English as their first language. At the beginning of the semester, I spent most of my time at Hillcrest working with two girls who had recently moved from predominately Spanish-speaking countries. One of the girls knew a fair amount of English while the other girl knew little to no English. I only volunteered at Hillcrest once a week for about an hour with the girls, and I never felt that I made a dent when trying to teach them English through reading and writing activities. However, about halfway through the semester, the two girls began to work with a language specialist. They would go off privately with the specialist teacher and I wouldn’t see them at all for some of my visits. Though I missed working with them, I counted this as a victory for them because I am not at all qualified to teach children how to read and write, let alone children who don’t even speak the language they are trying to learn. While I had not directly advocated for these students through protests or reaching out to a higher authority (I acted more as a passive activist) , the fact that the school needed volunteers (such as myself) at all showed that these students were prevalent enough that a specialist had to be brought in to help them catch up to the other students in their age group. This action of bringing in special English teachers is an important stride for the non-English speaking students in U.S. schools. It illustrates that teachers and parents have been heard and are receiving the scholastic help that is necessary for their children to succeed academically and eventually in the work-force.

Nevertheless, there are still issues that arise with this new form of aiding students who do not speak English as their first language. The students are still not advancing as much as they should be with their language skills with the special English teacher. About a month and a half after the two first grade-age girls had started working with the specialist, I again spent some time with them, playing a letter association game. Neither of the girls had improved very much since the beginning of the semester. The girl that spoke English fairly well was doing well with the letters (but still missing a few of them like at the beginning of the semester), yet the girl that knew no English at the beginning of the semester still could not tell me the majority of the letters. She couldn’t even form a full sentence in English to talk to me. I soon learned why she still was not improving her language skills when the teaching assistant asked the girl who knew more English to translate for this girl who barely knew English. While the girls must have long sessions with the specialist everyday, they were not retaining the knowledge they learned because their own teachers were not enforcing it at school, and I do not believe they spoke English at home either. In order for there to be an effective school system for these non-English speaking students, the lessons they learn at school must be implemented during all parts of the school day and even at home, if possible. Hillcrest actually has many online resources for Spanish-speaking students that may be helpful for students and parents alike to learn English together. Without a more vigorous approach to helping these students learn English, they will not only fall behind in their language skills but also academically in other subjects and in making friends who predominately speak English.

Reflecting back on my volunteering and passive activism at Hillcrest this last semester, I am a bit disappointed in the lack of change I enacted at my service site. While I know I helped the teacher of the class I worked in, I feel that the two girls that are learning English will face many challenges in the future in both their academics as well as their social lives because they are not learning English quickly or effectively. I am not satisfied with my passive activist approach and I wish to do more to help these girls. Next time, I would most likely still volunteer because then I would have hands-on experiences with the children and see where the improvement to the current curriculum is needed. However, I would also work with families and students outside of the classroom by providing more resources for children and parents to learn English. There is only so much learning that the school could fit in a school day, so I would probably push for an after-school program for the students who need the most help or just want to improve their language skills. Lastly, I would also call educators and state legislators to tailor the curriculum so it can fit the student and provide him or her with the best possible education for them.

Photo Credit:

“Hillcrest Elementary.” Home – Hillcrest Elementary, hillcrestes.ss3.sharpschool.com/.

Esperanza Center Volunteer Experience

Esperanza Center Volunteer Experience

For my activist project I volunteered with the Esperanza Center located on South Broadway Street in Baltimore. The Esperanza Center is an extensive immigrant resource center that provides a safe, compassionate space in addition to important access to resources for people who have just arrived in the United States. The Esperanza Center provides a comprehensive list of services including healthcare, legal services, ESL education, and referrals for other immigrant services.

I served as an ESL education volunteer every Wednesday evening.  In addition to my role as an educator it was important to create a safe and open space for my students. As an immigrant myself, I know that being in a new country can often be a lonely, scary, and isolating experience. The current political climate can make immigrants feel even more unwelcome. Before I began my lesson I would engage with my students in a friendly and welcoming manner; asking them how their day has been, how long they’ve been in the US, if they like the city of Baltimore, and any other conversation topics they feel they want to share with me. This helps to establish rapport and makes both of us more comfortable with each other.

I found that with my more advanced students it is more effective for us to just have an informal conversation instead of strictly following the curriculum given. Through conversation, my students improved their pronunciation skills and built confidence in their speaking-skills. We also exchanged cultural references and humor respective to our national backgrounds- which made it a lively as well as educational experience for both of us. This opportunity gave my students the room to speak about things that interest them in a positive and encouraging space. The students I worked with at the Esperanza Center were inspiring and eager to learn. I was struck by how hard-working and dedicated they were. Many of them worked long shifts and still showed up every week so they could improve their English.

I have learned that activism doesn’t have to mean going to every rally and protest. Activism can mean donating your time to a cause you care about. The Esperanza Center would not be able to run and serve the immigrant population if it wasn’t for its legion of dedicated and kind-hearted volunteers. My volunteer experience changed my relationship with activism because it made me aware of how expansive activism really is- and how many different forms of activism there are. Providing direct services is a powerful form of activism. This project was important to me because it gave me the chance to give back and learn more about different cultures.

Learn more about the Esperanza Center:

https://www.catholiccharities-md.org/services/immigration/

Strengthening Connections to Baltimore City

Just like all other cities in America, the racial and economic divisions of Baltimore City that can be seen today are a result of practices of institutionalized racism and discrimination. One of these practices was redlining, implemented by the Federal Housing Administration following the Great Depression, and involved the creation of residential security maps that essentially graded neighborhoods according to their racial composition. This led to white flight, a term describing the outflux of white people moving to the suburbs, leaving blacks and other communities of color trapped in pockets of concentrated poverty throughout the city.

Baltimore City Residential Security Map

The result of redlining can be seen when looking at the inequitable distribution of resources that you can still see in Baltimore City today. Despite the overwhelming ways in which institutionalized racism has and continues to impact residents of Baltimore City, for decades community leaders have found ways to advocate for their rights and work towards addressing the inequities that exist.

It is important that more individuals are aware of the history that has shaped the current state of Baltimore City, because remaining ignorant towards these injustices will only prevent progress from being made. And to that end, it is also important that individuals get to know Baltimore in a more positive light through growing to know the communities and cultural traditions that bring value to the city today.

For our activist project, we wanted to find a way to help students at UMBC become more connected with Baltimore City. Both of us have grown to really appreciate the city and the communities that shape it through different experiences that we have had over the past few years, and we felt as though UMBC should be doing more to help its students form a similar appreciation. Jameka came up with the idea of partnering with Dr. Nicole King’s class “Preserving Places, Making Spaces in Baltimore,” because she had previously taken the course and knew that it involved a historical walking tour of a neighborhood in Baltimore City. Jameka felt the tour specifically helped her to appreciate and learn more about the city, so we decided that for our project we would “advertise” the tour to the UMBC community at large. There are many students at UMBC who only know Baltimore through what they have seen in the media or their visits to tourist destinations. We hoped that this tour would introduce students to the Southwest neighborhood that is less well known, and offer a perspective through the stories of native Baltimore City residents.

Hollins Market Neighborhood

The first step to achieving our goal was reaching out to Dr. Nicole King to ask if we could “partner up” with her class. Thankfully, Dr. King was happy to let us be a part of her student’s class by advertising the tour to the UMBC community. However, we spent the first month or two of the semester waiting on a confirmed date for the tour, because we could not make flyers until we were able to provide people with concrete details. Once the date was set, Emily began drafting the final flyer (picture below).

The next step was finding ideal places to hang the flyers around campus, so we each took a stack and posted them where we saw best fit. We also both sent copies to professors who we thought might have students interested in getting to know Baltimore City. Once we finished getting the flyers out, the only thing left to do was wait. Unfortunately, we ended up only hearing from 3 students who were interested. This was likely because the tour was scheduled during the weekend of finals, so students were probably too busy to participate. We think that there would have been a much stronger turnout if the tour had been scheduled earlier in the semester. While it would have been great to receive more responses from students who saw our poster, there was actually a pretty large crowd who ended up attending the event. Regardless of how those who participated found out about the tour, we were thrilled to see that more people attended than we were expecting to see.

When we arrived to the event, there were Zines on display that compiled all the research that Dr. King’s students had done throughout the semester. While the digitized zine of this year’s class has not yet been posted online, the one from last year can be found on the myUMBC page under the title “A Journey Through Hollins.”

This project has really brought to light some of the conversations that we have had throughout this semester about what it means to be an activist. Often, the general public imagines an activist as someone standing at the front lines of a protest or walking around getting petitions signed– however, as we have discussed in this course, there is so much more to activism than most people realize. During the first week of class, we learned that being an activist simply means consistently expressing one’s values to make the world more just. In the case of our project, we were advocating for getting more students connected to Baltimore City through advertising an opportunity to learn about the history of a neighborhood in the city located just a couple miles from our campus. While we would have loved for more students to have responded to our flyers with interest, there was still a lot to gain from our project. At the very least, the both of us were able to gain new knowledge that strengthened our love for the city through attending this event; and at the very most, we were able to spark curiosity about the city in anyone who may have glanced at our flyer that read “Want to connect with Baltimore City?” This project has only strengthened our already existing love and appreciation for Baltimore City, and we hope to continue to encourage students at UMBC and others to also form a deeper connection with the city.  

Learn more about Baltimore City:

Website for organization in Baltimore that worked with Dr. King’s students https://southwestpartnershipbaltimore.org/

Explore the neighborhoods of Baltimore City: https://livebaltimore.com/neighborhoods/

More on the injustices that still need to be addressed in the city: https://apps.urban.org/features/baltimore-investment-flows/

The Baltimore Book