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.

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/.

Freddie Gray And The Impact On Baltimore

Freddie Gray was arrested April 12th, 2015. Court documents claimed that Gray, “fled unprovoked upon noticing a police presence.” After Gray was apprehended an ‘illegal’ switchblade (which was actually totally legal) was found on his person and he was placed in the back of a police van “on his stomach, head first.” Gray asked multiple times for medical assistance, but was refused each time by law enforcement.

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Power Inside and the WINDOW Study

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Jacqueline Robarge, founder of Power Inside

Power Inside is a Baltimore organization that was founded by Jacqueline Robarge in May, 2001. Its original concept was a self-esteem group for about 50 women in the Baltimore City Detention Center, but Robarge had bigger ideas. She wanted to bring practices of harm reduction — the minimizing of harmful consequences of various behaviors and situations — to these women. Continue reading

Missing! Have you seen us?

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Upon the one year anniversary of the Baltimore Uprising and the murder of Freddie Gray, I noticed something very big missing from activism in the city, something that was there and prominent this time last year— Continue reading

Mass Incarceration in Baltimore

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By: Mariana and Christina

Mass incarceration emerged nationwide with jailing citizens at unprecedented amounts during Reagan’s war on drugs in the late 1980s. It was further encouraged, supported, and fueled by mandatory sentencing minimums for drug possession and many more correctional facilities opening under the Clinton administration in 1990s. Specifically in the Baltimore community, governor Martin O’Malley had a tremendous impact on the rates of incarceration with his zero tolerance policy. In 2005, under Martin O’Malley’s zero tolerance policy, there were 108,000 arrests in Baltimore City. The total city population at the time was 620,000. Continue reading