After-school Activism

images.jpgVolunteering at College Gardens has been so enlightening for the duration of the semester. It was a big learning experience for me because it was unlike anything I had done before. Throughout the semester I created bonds with these kids that took some time. At first, the kids were hesitant because they did not know anything about me, nor I about them. Towards the end they became more respectful and more willing to listen. There were still challenges because around homework time the kids never seemed to have homework. On the slim chance they did have homework, they never wanted to do it and became off task very easily. Once they got off-task it was a long process trying to get them back on track. They loved to play games and be interactive when we went outside to play.

download.jpgThe site leaders were extremely helpful and willing to talk to the kids if there were any issues. If issues did arise they were quick to step in and diffuse the situation. The behavioral issues were a major problem that is bigger than what College Gardens can solve. A site leader has said that while the kids show respect at the site, at school it is a different story. They can be extremely disrespectful at school, at the site however, disrespect is not tolerated. To gain respect from the kids, you need to respect them too. The site is different in the regard that the problems faced in the real world don’t seem to exist. The kids get to be kids and have fun. The kids are bright already, they just need the encouragement from others.The site really needs more funding, but that is difficult to get when the kids don’t come regularly and they don’t promote the free program in schools. The schools offer after school programs too but they are not free, so they don’t allow programs that are free to be promoted.

As much as I was involved, I wish I was able to go more than one day a week so I could have had better relationships with the kids. This work changed the way I think about activism because activism to me is working on something you are passionate about to bring about change. I hope in some way to change the lives of these kids, to encourage them to do well in school and achieve their dreams. I hope they get into the schools they want and reach their goals.

I learned that activism comes in all sizes and in all aspects of life. You don’t have to march or protest in big crowds, you could refuse to go to certain restaurants or movie theaters because of what they have done or what they stand for. Activism is unique and cannot and should not be pinned down to one basic definition. At the start of this class I thought activism was mainly protesting and marching to bring about change, but it is so much more. It is having connections, networking, and reaching out to make change.  

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Sustainability Matters

Preface

Activism is hard. That is the main thing I’ve learned from this process. Anything and everything can go wrong at anytime and you can be right back to square one. When this project was assigned, I initially intended to create a documentary style short about the lack of pay for college basketball players in Power 5 conferences. I planned to interview players and administrative staff from UMBC Basketball but quickly, this became impossible with the rapid success of the men’s basketball team through March Madness. Upon learning that developing a project around pay in college basketball was no longer possible, I looked to make on  sustainability at UMBC. The plan was to design new signage for trash cans and recycle bins that clearly explain what is supposed to be disposed where but, as soon as the designing began, I noticed that Sustainability Matters, the campuses sustainability initiative, was already ahead of me. Back to square one, I looked to combine my previous concepts together by creating a video that advocates on behalf of Sustainability Matters, informs the campus of the sustainability initiatives that are in place, and offer some suggested improvements to the campus’ sustainability plan through recycling.

Note* In order to upload videos to WordPress you must be a premium member thus I have uploaded it to YouTube. Link below.

 

Project Narrative and Evaluation

Slowly but surely, we are destroying this earth. If future generations are to enjoy the earth, a rapid ideological shift needs to occur that puts a focus on the sustainability and preservation. A worldwide ideological change is a lofty goal for a localized activist project, so I decided that awareness on campus and commitment to action would be the best way to potentially make a difference. It’s important that, at UMBC , we think about our environmental footprint and how to reduce it so we can focus on a green campus that can be beautiful and sustainable for generations to come.

UMBC considers itself a green campus due to all of its initiatives that promote sustainability like green roofs, green buildings, and conservation research areas. UMBC does a lot to promote sustainability put neglects, perhaps, the most significant process of sustainability, waste management. For the four years I have been a student at UMBC, there has not single stream recycling until recently. Within the past month the Commons, exclusively, has switched over to a single stream system.  I wanted to investigate the impact of change and determine whether or not it would be beneficial to use the single stream system campus wide.

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Before recording the awareness video, I interviewed Ms.Patricia (Last name not available), ABM Commons Day Supervisor, about the waste management system the commons uses. Ms. Patricia reported that before the change, the Commons would empty trash cans on a thirty minute cycle on the first floor and food areas and twice a day for all other trash cans in the building. This equates to about 500 bags of waste per day. After the change, the staff noted they still change the first floor bags at the same rate but have noticed better separation of waste in recycling and compost bins. This has to be because of the new signage.They have switched to a once a day change on all other floors in the Commons. Unfortunately, Ms. Patricia was not comfortable being on camera so I could not include her remarks in the video.

Once this information was gathered, I searched for two students that could offer unique perspectives on the status and growth of sustainability at UMBC. Sidney Mason and Kaitlin Winchester both have been or are currently part of campus groups that have placed a heavy emphasis on the sustainability at UMBC. Both agreed that huge changes have come to sustainability since they began at UMBC but, still feel that single stream recycling and composting should be the goal for sustainability campus wide.

The final step was to record and edit the video. This process was the simplest part of the entire project because all the information was already at hand; all I needed to do was apply it. I went around the Commons and recorded all of the key informative areas that deal with recycling in the building to build a narrative about what is being done at UMBC and how people can be part of the sustainability of UMBC. The only major issue I ran into during the recording process was the quality of on screen talent. I feel that I should have evaluated Kaitlin’s and Sidney’s public speaking skills along with their knowledge of UMBC sustainability.

After the video was made, I sent it to Sustainability Matters to see what use they would make of this video. To this point, I have not heard anything back from them. I felt like I had nothing to show for the all of work I put in so I started a small petition with about 50 signatures that says that people would like to see UMBC green campus to continue to develop through single stream recycling and composting all over campus.

I am a graduating senior so I can not continue what has been started. I would like to call on someone to continue being an activist of sustainability on campus. I prose that someone takes the idea of single stream recycling and composting being campus wide to the Prove It! Selection Committee (Committee that funds student ideas on campus) so they can fund this and bring it campus.

Forward with Activism

As stated in the beginning, Activism is hard. I learned that when trying to make a difference, nothing goes as planned. You need to be flexible and level headed so you can make a positive out of all roadblocks towards your goal. Learning this also showed me that I am the type of activist that won’t give up and will always find a way to get my message across. This project started as a message about college athletes and ended as avocation of sustainability. I found a way to still be an activist despite nothing going to plan, I feel like a very resilient activist. Overall, I have learned that activism is a very noble way to spend your time. It is hard work but if you stick with it and give it a lot of effort, you will make a difference and more importantly earn the respect of peers in the activism specter.  

By: Justin Milton

Sexual assault on college campuses

Sexual assault on college campuses

For my activism project, I made a website (Link below) to educate and share stories of sexual assault victims to create an environment for people to share their experiences through the comment section. My first blog post was a story from a fellow UMBC student who shared her story. This blog is very important to me because it is about a topic that I care deeply about. I think it is so important to have more conversations about sexual assault in college campuses because as the banner says above, 1 in 4 women will experience date rape or attempted one during their time in college which should not be acceptable.

Throughout this project, my relationship to activism changed a lot. I always thought activism was about marching, protesting and something grand and big. I never thought I had enough stance or voice to participate in my own activism. However, as Dr. Kate said, activism can be through everyday action. Although making this blog was something pretty small, it really made me feel like I was participating to make a world a better place, and I’ve learned that I can do activism that way and that it doesn’t need to be this huge fancy event.

https://mybodymyconsent660782643.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Talk About Teen Dating Violence!

We chose to focus our activism project on spreading awareness of teen dating violence among high school students through a series of posters. Teens tend to start dating at the beginning of high school, but with dating- there also comes dating violence. The point of this project is to spread awareness of dating violence and persuade teens to start talking about the signs and symptoms associated with abuse in a relationship so they can identify and prevent it.

Continue reading

Human Trafficking in Baltimore

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Example of false advertisements that are known to lead to unsolicited work

 

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Example of false advertisements that are known to lead to unsolicited work

Our activism project was the consolidation and narrowing down of a much broader set of ideas. We realized that we all shared a passion for wanting to support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault but didn’t know where to start. We struggled with trying to find groups to partner with around campus and Baltimore, but after several dead-ends and unreplied-to emails, a phone call to TurnAround solidified an opportunity to start a non-perishable food drive. TurnAround is a private, nonprofit agency that provides counseling and supports services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. They have their central office in Towson, MD and a second branch in Baltimore City. The food that we collected through this drive will be used for survivors who are put into emergency shelters and housing.

We brainstormed many ideas on what we wanted to do as our activism project, going from buttons to interactive flyers to giving talks to elementary/middle school kids about internet safety, another issue that leads to human trafficking. We finally came to the consensus of doing a non-perishable food drive, but aspects of it had a few flaws. One of our main issues was finding spots that would bring in the most donations. Although, once we actually started the canned food drive, we ran into other unexpected problems.

After the first week of the drive, we were not getting the results we anticipated so we decided to think of alternative ways to spread word. We decided to reach out to student organizations and send them an electronic version of the flyer and a brief description about who the drive will be helping. We asked them to forward it to their listservs and instructed them to put the items in the residential halls or to contact one of us if they wanted to meet up instead. The list of student organizations we were contacted were: HLSU, CSA, Sign of Life, VSA, PhiDE, SGA, Unicef, WILL, We Believe You, Women’s Center, and Community Directors of Residential Halls on campus. Most of the organizations were more than happy to assist us, while some did not respond. While emailing these organizations did help, one-on-one conversations with officers yielded the most action. That kind of personable communication helped spread the word and expose our drive to people who don’t just live on campus.

Putting boxes in residential halls worked because college students who live on campus usually have a great amount of non-perishable items that they eat themselves. With our time constraint as the main limitation, this was the most convenient way to collect the items. However, we could have been more successful if we included more public locations, such as grocery stores, libraries, gyms, and different areas around campus, such as the Commons, Women’s Center, and other departments. Having a longer time span for the drive itself may have also allowed for more food to be donated due to the longer duration it would be exposed. We could have also had advertisements posted around the school and surrounding neighborhoods to increase donations. We could have included hygiene products, like feminine products or toiletries, or clothing in our drive. This would not only increase the amount of donations received but also help TurnAround gather more supplies beyond canned foods and non-perishables.

Before the project, many of us had an performative relationship with activism, understanding the need for activism and the need for civic engagement, but not engaging. We could easily share and retweet articles and posts about causes that need supporting or injustices that need reporting, anonymously behind our monitors. However, once galvanized by this opportunity to make actionable change, we learned how it was too easy to leap and tackle a project larger than we were prepared to alter our prior passivity to accomplish. As an activist, we learned how easy it was for us to take on a more ambitious project than we had the capacity to complete. We learned the importance of having series’ of smaller, actionable goals to get towards our ultimate vision. We learned about how much of activism is done behind the scenes. There’s only so much that is going at and actively doing things, making change. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Activism is also supporting those actions the hidden bulk of work including networking with multiple moving parts, waiting for responses, preparing material, and maintaining personal needs around the project. We’ve learned the importance of those hidden responsibilities in activism and how much activism is done beyond what can be seen or heard.

We have also learned that activism can be very challenging at times and the unforeseen obstacles that you face, can be very discouraging but you must never give up and find a way to get around those obstacles. Being an activist is not easy, you must prepared to change your approach and how plan to execute your plan. There will be some setbacks but you have to keep pushing. They ladies at TurnAround told us, that no amount is too little and as long as you are doing your very best to help others, you will make a difference.

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Food collected at Potomac Hall

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Food collected at Patapsco Hall

 

A Heroic Change

 

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A Powerful POSEition

 

The Scene is Set

Our group chose the issue of the lack of representation of minority groups in comic books and how that can affect the readers. This includes people of color, women, individuals of all shapes and sizes, and the LGBTQ+ community. To complete this project, our group held a table at the Commons Mainstreet where students could come over and hear what we had to say. To attract more people, we had a large cardboard cut out of Groot (as seen in attached photos), a large collection of comic books provided by Mehr, and free merchandise from a local Baltimore comic book store called Cosmic Comix.

Our group invited people to the table and attempted to create a discussion and raise awareness and like any activist, we collided with negative comments, arguments from people we thought would be on our side, and differing opinions. Continue reading

BREAK THE STIGMA!

BREAK THE STIGMA!

YOUR Mental Health Matters

This is the focus of our activism project, and throughout the semester our goal manifested itself in different ways. In the brainstorming process, we all recognized our passion for bringing awareness to the mental health resources on and off UMBC. Our project was partly inspired by our complaints towards the counseling center on campus, but also our recognition of its importance as a resource for improving students’ mental health. To start this project, we initially planned on consulting the counseling center and see what we, as students and activists, could do to improve the atmosphere of the center.  Along with consulting the counseling center, we wanted to bring awareness to mental health online as well as in person. With that in mind, we created an Instagram account and planned on making flyers and stickers.

 

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The Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/mental_healthactivism/?hl=en) @Mental_HealthActivism was created so that we could reach people who were not yet ready to talk about mental health out loud. Activist projects start off with stepping stones, each new stone is a new level reached. We did not want to push people and make them uncomfortable, creating a bad perception of mental health outreach. We wanted to give people a chance to talk about mental health or become aware of its importance through social media. The instagram page starts off with information about mental health and also some events that took place on the UMBC campus about mental health. The posts then go to videos about people talking about what mental health means to them, the stigma they feel surrounding mental health, and anything else that relates to mental health. This goal was to get people comfortable with talking about mental health and in hopes that seeing and hearing people talk about mental health would then get people more comfortable with the idea of mental health and hopefully take the stigma away. We worked on attempting to get the Instagram page publicity, but we learned that it was very difficult. Obtaining followers and getting likes on your posts is strenuous and does not always happen. However, we have learned through this that you do not need a thousand likes on a picture of 100 followers, you just need to make a difference in someone’s life. That was our goal with the Instagram page, to hopefully get someone more comfortable about mental health even a little more than they were before. The social media posts and flyers were meant to touch on the importance of mental health and reducing the stigma of reaching out for help regarding mental health. We found that making posters was an easy and accessible way to get information flowing about the mental health resources on campus.

We hoped that students would walk in the commons and see our flyer and take note of the capability they had to receive help and wellness.

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After some advice from Dr. Kate, we realized that we could achieve our goal of bringing awareness to mental health without talking to the counseling center. Realistically speaking, we had one semester to complete our project, and trying to change the counseling center’s system might have been difficult for our group to achieve. We easily accepted this change, especially since we wanted to focus more on bringing awareness on campus.  For the rest of the project, we focused solely on strengthening our awareness campaign.

One thing that we would do differently was to engage with other people and their opinions more. We found it difficult to find time to interview different people about their perspectives of mental health on college campus. If we had taken more time to interview people, we may have been able to gather different data to be able to better approach our issue with a diverse mindset. In addition, it would’ve been in our best interest to start some of our projects earlier than we did.

Our relationship with activism changed tremendously throughout this experience. First, we developed a greater appreciation for activists who dedicate their lives to their cause. It was hard enough as full time students attempting to get together and plan activities or poster designs in the semester. The amount of effort one needs to contribute to an issue they are passionate about should never be underestimated. Secondly, we learned that being activists doesn’t always mean touching one hundred people’s lives. Sometimes, activism is making small changes that will set of a chain reaction into something bigger, and this is perfectly fine. Finally, we learned that activism is more than just action. It is a change of mindset that one must have in order to reach people. Our view of outreach definitely grew throughout the semester.

We learned that one of the best ways to reach people is simply face to face. That one connection can change a person’s entire outlook, and possibly catalyze to many more!

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