2017 Week Five: Arts


(This blog post has nothing to do with my CIIP placement, but it’s important to me.)

What would happen if Baltimore decided to install a complete network of bike lanes? Could we connect more people to more jobs? Could we have safer streets?

The issue of cycling in Baltimore is very dear to me. I’m a big fan of less cars and more bikes, but as the ongoing killings of cyclists in Baltimore and throughout the state suggest, 3000 pound autos are also death machines for people on bikes.

As it stands, bike lanes in Baltimore exist almost exclusively in the “white L.” Judging by my not-so-scientific observations as I ride throughout the city, people who use bike lanes tend to be white and ride relatively nice bikes. It’s almost as if using a cycletrack is synonymous with privilege.

Thanks to the advocacy group Bikemore, Baltimore has in the past few years started to improve its cycling infrastructure for white commuters. The Maryland Ave cycletrack is useful for North-South travel through white neighborhoods. The controversial Potomac St bike lane goes through Canton, a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of non-Hispanic white residents in the city.

The questionably implemented Downtown Bike Network includes east-west bike routes on Madison, Monument, Preston, and Biddle streets. These connect central Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins medical campus, and thus they extend somewhat into East Baltimore. There are bus/bike lanes on Pratt, Baltimore, and Lombard streets, but the casual rider might not have the guts to be riding in an unprotected bike lane in downtown traffic—competing with busses, trucks, and drivers distracted by their phones.

The major fault of Baltimore’s current bike infrastructure is that the bike lanes don’t connect in a way that is useful for the everyday Baltimore city resident. There are no bike lanes that extend into the West side, and the only East Baltimore options end shortly after the JHU medical campus. Someone unfamiliar with cycling in city traffic might feel comfortable riding down Maryland Ave, but when they arrive downtown and need to travel East or West, they either have to ride on the sidewalk, which is slow and endangers pedestrians, or they have to ride with city traffic.

I have many mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand, I see the argument for the benefit of bike infrastructure. Bike lanes could connect West and East Baltimore to downtown. Drivers might learn to be more aware of cyclists, and traffic could be calmed. Less cars on the road might help reduce the city’s carbon footprint, and it may lead to more reliable MTA service.

On the other hand, I enjoy the feeling of riding with traffic, having the awareness necessary to avoid pedestrians, distracted drivers, and the senseless road rage that is so often targeted at cyclists.

I wish there were an easy answer. I wish the term “bikelash” didn’t exist. I wish the city would invest in this issue instead of relying on federal grant money. I wish there were an equitable way to make cycling in Baltimore a viable transportation option for more people. Most of all, I wish that issues of race and geography could be incorporated into the mainstream conversations on cycling in Baltimore.

picture of Naadiya HutchinsonNAADIYA HUTCHINSON | 901 ARTS


Despite continuous complaints that the modern generation lacks all communication and interpersonal skills, the push continues on to rely heavily on numbers as a way of understanding our communities. Since I’ve taken multiple math and coding classes, I understand the importance of data, though I believe that much of the research and data that is being collected could easily be answered by talking to the community. There are many that would likely disagree though, like the representative from the Baltimore City Police Department that said during the conference that the Police Department could not be held accountable until they had data. This statement came as a shock to me because the Police Department enforces the law, holding the community accountable to their actions, yet themselves cannot be held accountable. It also came as a shock to me, because what was life like before data? The era of data for everything is now, but previously, organizations weren’t operating with data servers, doing regression analysis and tracking location coordinates, so what did they do then? It could possibly be that organizations were never asked to be held accountable until now, which is why all of the problems of today are seen. But, constitutions and bills where created in order to set up departments and legislation that would hold people accountable, and those failed us, which is why we turned to data. Does switching to data address the root cause of why our accountability measures failed us? I think not, because I think the main problem is with WHO is in control of these departments and HOW the legislation was written. For people working in their own self-interest, aren’t the best to measure the success of a community program. So to me, data is important, but equal representation is more important. Data is just numbers, and people are so much more than the algorithm that their address or income is put into.


I work at an LGBTQ community center… but the topic I wanted to talk about this week was FOOD! Yes, food. Of course I know about intersectionality and the fact that queer people eat too (and that queer people are at a disadvantage when it comes to food security, as are people of color, people that are differently-abled, women, and of a low socioeconomic status) but that’s not where I’m getting at. I’m getting at the essence of food and its crucial and foundational role in the Baltimore community. I’ve always been a foodie. Of course in my childhood that meant delicately eating finger sandwiches and marveling at cereal bowls but now it’s more of a “conscious consumerism” type of deal. Very millennial, I know. But I think that there’s merit in being mindful of what we put into our bodies and the impact we have on this planet. That being said, I’m always seeking to know more and support restaurants and other establishments that are women/queer/black (and all of the very many other rainbow identities)-owned, that are environmentally-conscious, political, community-oriented, and just plain delicious. I’m always one to support a good vegan drumstick and cinnamon bun. That’s Land of Kush and Grind House, respectively. But back to the main discussion. This week I learned a bit more extensively about the centrality of food within marginalized communities. The difference between focus on food preparation and food presentation (which impacts architecture especially when dealing with open and closed kitchens), ingredients and the meaning behind “authenticity,” food blogging and its role in representing various cultures, as well as the process of and inspiration behind opening a restaurant (I’m thinking of Lane Harlan in opening Clavel, a Mexican Add to dictionary and taqueria that I love very much). This all began when I started a project to create a resource list of women-owned businesses in Baltimore (similar to the LGBTQ-owned and inclusive map project) which was sparked by a town hall meeting at the GLCCB where people voiced the sincere lack of knowledge of women-centered spaces in Baltimore. With projects like these, you have to be especially careful when researching because the worst possible thing you could do is be mindless and add a spot that is in fact not inclusive to certain groups of people which thereby alienates them further. I definitely didn’t want that and I am so glad that mindfulness is at the forefront of this week. Everyone can use a little guidance and introspection. And I’m hoping that this project will be especially useful to our community, I guess we’ll see.


This week during our bites session there was a question posed to us regarding how our goals had changed since starting our internships. This was something I hadn’t really thought of.

Before the internship began, I hadn’t known what to expect. I’d known I would be assisting with a gifted and talented music program but I hadn’t been sure of what else I would be doing. I decided to go in ready to do anything and help out in whatever way needed. My goals consisted of giving support wherever needed, doing a great job administratively and improving my organizations skills, learning more about how a non-profit was organized and run, and also making personal connections with those I would work with.

For a majority of the time during the preparation and early parts of the music program, I had been in more of an administrative position. However, I was soon introduced to a role that involved more teaching as I would chose a “lyric” of the day, discuss it with the students, and encourage them to think of it and apply it throughout the day.

I was happy that I got a chance to do something like that and thought my “teaching role” would go no further after all, we had three very talented music instructors. However, this week I got a chance to work with the students on improvisation. I led mini sessions where I would play something on my guitar and have them write some lyrics down for a bit. Afterwards we would go around and have them sing or rap what they had written down. After this, they improvised new lyrics or harmonies that went along with the guitar sounds. These sessions worked on their improvisation skills and challenged them in different ways than their normal class sessions did.

Coming back to the question of how my goals have changed since starting the internship, I believe these learning experiences have helped my goals evolve. I have now added teaching and helping students develop their improvisation skills to my list of goals in addition to continuously being open to new learning opportunities. I know, going forward, I’ll be able to use my skills to help the students develop theirs but most importantly, I’ll be given the opportunity to learn from those around me.

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