“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.

 

 

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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.

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

Genderqueer & Trans Fashion Zine


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This zine is a compilation of genderqueer and trans people in the UMBC and local community showcasing their outfits, their identities, and what fashion means to them. To begin, I set up a poll with time slots for genderqueer and trans identifying people to sign up and model for this project. My original idea was to take photos of the volunteers and ask them only for their gender identities and pronouns. Through discussion with others, I decided to add an additional section where I would ask models, “What does fashion meant to you?”. I recorded each person’s response. This addition was essential and facilitated important conversations with each model.

 

Originally, I felt that the impact of the final product would be the most powerful. I quickly realized that the fashion shoots themselves turned out to be a wildly meaningful part of the process. Not only were genderqueer and trans folk able to showcase their unique and creative fashion choices, but they were able to feel beautiful along the way. The genderqueer and trans community often faces a variety of insecurities, anxieties, and sadness when deciding how to present themselves each day. Rather than focusing on the difficult aspects of fashion for genderqueer and trans people, these fashion shoots gave each model a positive platform to be themselves whether dramatic, silly, serious, or just plain happy. The photo shoots were able to foster feelings of positive energy as well as moments of affirmation for the genderqueer and trans individuals involved. I was even able to set up a second week of photo shoots to give a wider access to potential genderqueer and trans folk who couldn’t volunteer for the original photo shoot time slots. I want to continue to work on projects in the future where I showcase the beauty of this community.

 

Once completing each photo shoot, I uploaded the best pictures online and shared it with each individual model so they could have access to their photos. Next, I transcribed the recordings of what fashion meant to each model. I then printed out the most expressive photos of each model and printed the fashion quotes using a common font so it would feel familiar to the readers. I decided I would give each model one page including a few pieces of content: their photos, current names, pronouns, gender identities, and their responses to my question. I gave model Namy two pages because they volunteered for three separate photo shoots!

 

Using scissors and an x-acto knife I cut everything out, added water color to border the fashion quotes, and collaged each page together with mod podge. I added cute magazine cut outs of plants and other images to add a bit of pizazz on each page. Once they dried I used a marker to add some doodles. I wanted the zine to have a journal feel to it, a little messy with some imperfections (just like all of us!). I wrote out the intro and outro pages, mod podged them and waited for everything to be set. Once reviewing the final pages, I photocopied them to create a digital copy of the zine for two reasons: it could be posted online for free, easy access to the general public and be used as a template to make printed copies of the zine. The Women’s Center was helpful along the entire process. They used their resources and connections on campus to help spread the word about the zine to potential models. Once seeing the final digital copy the Women’s Center staff wanted to print copies of their own to be kept in the Center. They are also advocating to have printed copies of this zine put out for the official opening of the first Multi-Stall All-Gender Restroom at UMBC on May 28th, 2019. Here is more information:

Multi-Stall All-Gender Restroom Info


 

In the future, I would like to organize the photo shoots with an improved method. I received feedback from one of the volunteer models that they were expecting a confirmation email once they signed up for a slot. I hadn’t thought of this, but I will be sure to implicate confirmation emails it in later projects. At first, I wanted this zine to be more informationally rooted from accredited sources online, but then I realized the voices of the genderqueer and trans community already face adversity and these voices are essential to understanding the various ways we exist in this world. I think the quotes on each model’s page provides extremely important and comforting viewpoints. There has been some feedback from genderqueer and trans readers of the zine who said it provided them with positive feelings. My hope is that this will zine will benefit people of all gender identities. I will continue to use the voices of the genderqueer and trans community at the forefront of my projects. Here is a copy of the zine:

Fashion Zine 2019

As an activist, I want to reassure people that they’re capable of being an activist themselves. I want my work to encourage people and remind them that their voices are essential and have endless value. In relation to grassroots activism, it is evident that a lot of wonderful changes can start with the hard work of a few individuals. I am excited to see where this path of activism takes me and the incredible people I will meet along the way.


 

Sustainability at UMBC: making steps to reduce single-use plastic on campus

The goal of our project was to work with Chartwells to move towards implementing reusable bags in Outtakes so we can lessen plastic use on campus. Single-use plastic bags are made from non-renewable sources, don’t break down in landfills and are incredibly difficult to recycle.  At Outtakes on campus, plastic bags are offered regardless of the number of items you buy. We saw this as a great opportunity to seek change on our campus through the introduction of reusable materials. Inside the reusable bag, we want to include a zine that has information about recycling. We had a plan to find a UMBC artist to design a logo to go on the bag. Finally, we wanted to also have a reward system where students would $0.05 or $0.10 in Chartwells Rewards every time they used their bag. If this effort was successful, future steps would be to implement the system on other consumer materials such as reusable bottles.

With this scope in mind, Lily met with Morgan from Chartwells. This meeting helped shape our direction forward.  We thought we would have to start this initiative from the ground up, but they already had a plan in motion. Chartwells already has logos and a supplier for reusable bags to enter Outtakes. They are currently working with environmentally minded students in SGA and Chartwells sustainability interns in order to best implement the project. Lily had the opportunity to provide feedback and to share some of the additional ideas we had come up with in our initial proposal. This showed us that if you’re passionate about something, chances are, there are others around you who share this passion and have already taken steps to accomplish a goal. Chartwells shares the same goals we have and were a catalyst for us to come alongside them and give input and feedback as well as aid in spreading awareness.


(RA poster in Potomac Hall at UMBC)
With their proximity to the outtakes in the dining hall, the residential halls are a great place to start spreading the initiative. The zine Julia has created has been sent to David Clurman of Residential Life. All bulletin boards for the residential halls have already been decided on early in the semester, however, posters can still be placed at access points in each of the buildings.

As an additional way of promoting less single plastic use, Cody has gotten approval from Residential Life to post posters in the residence halls. Both Eliza and Julia worked on researching and creating a comprehensive list of what is and isn’t recyclable and compostable for the zine. Originally, Eliza was going to meet with a graphic designer at UMBC about designing the logos for the reusable bags, but shifted her focus to researching recyclables and making the blog after finding out Chartwells was already planning a reusable bag initiative. Even though Chartwells already has an initiative to bring reusable bags to campus, we are still going to provide them with our zine, which Julia created, to put in the bags when they launch.

Recycling at UMBC zine that will go in the reusable bags

Through this project we have informed larger campus organizations that environmental issues and single-use plastic are concerns of the general student body. By letting Chartwells know that students are invested in finding innovative ways to reduce plastic need and consumption, we are affirming that providing reusable bags for the campus community will be productive in the long-run.

We look forward to seeing how this new initiative plays out!