2017 Week One: Arts

picture of Naadiya HutchinsonNAADIYA HUTCHINSON | 901 ARTS

I am at a training, watching a previous video that the organization had made and they ask a young boy, what improvements he wants to see in his school. He thinks about it for a second and says “the school getting A/C”. Everyone in the audiences says words of agreement and snaps, as we all sit sweating in our seats of in a very crowded, and hot classroom at a local elementary school.

The U.S. government loves to stand on the pride that we are industrialized, modernized and a technology hub. Yet, the classrooms where students are supposed to take in this knowledge, in order to continue to advance society, don’t even have A/C or water. Or rather, the schools that have money and/ or white people have air conditioning, and an entire array of amenities (Baltimore County Public Schools just invested in county wide tablets), while poorer (blacker) schools go without basic amenities. Ben Carson, said that people in the “right mind set” can overcome whatever challenges are thrown their way, but it is physically unhealthy to be in confined rooms over 100 degrees, with a limited supply of water, or no water provided at all. All brains struggle to remain focused for long periods of time when going through distress, as a mechanism to put the most energy towards homeostasis and keep you alive. As a neurosurgeon, I would think Ben Carson would already know this, but regardless of scientific evidence, and speaking just on principal and morality, why exactly would we force some children to go to schools with such poor conditions, while others do not, if America is supposed to be the land of the “equal”?

photo of Jimmy Li CIIPJIMMY LI | JUBILEE ARTS

“It’s about respect, man.”

The words echo off of the subway car’s walls. A black young adult admonishes two black teenagers sitting across from him, while I try not to stare.

“Don’t do weed out here in the public in a subway car. Look at that young man sitting behind you, you’re doing it right in front of him!”

I don’t know whether to nod in agreement or to ignore the ruckus happening right in front of me. The smell of weed is very strong as the teenager in front of me rolls up another joint. He looks barely out of middle school.

I wonder, why is it that on a summer day at 5pm out of school, these two teenagers have nothing better to do than smoke a joint on a subway car?

Thinking back to when I was in high school, I was a very clean kid. I never did drugs or alcohol. I wasn’t really ever tempted, because I was so much more tempted by the possibility of working on a robot for my robotics team, or setting up lighting for my school’s drama production. I didn’t do it to get a good grade, to win, or even to get into college. I did it because it was incredibly, wonderfully, FUN, and it piqued my curiosity in a way that inhaling smoke never did.

Maybe these two teenager’s schools don’t have a robotics team. Maybe they don’t even have a functioning auditorium.

It’s why I believe my work in engaging youth in painting murals and attending arts classes at Jubilee Arts is incredibly important. Extra-curriculars like arts programs and robotics programs are incredibly important. They give every individual who participates in them a reason to work hard, a reason to live. A reason to decide not to hop on a subway car and roll up a joint.

picture of Osiris Mancera CIIPOSIRIS MANCERA | THE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY CENTER OF BALTIMORE AND CENTRAL MARYLAND (GLCCB)

I walked into the GLCCB building early the first day, so excited to get going and involved in the Pride Festivities. I imagined holding up various flags, painting my face, maybe even water balloons. Before all of that, I arrived early but ended up waiting outside of the office for almost an hour because the door was locked. Then and there I learned to ask questions and demand to be seen- this summer would not come easy as I believe I had expected. This week has been humbling because I have chosen to offer myself as a servant, ready to do anything and everything this office needs of me. And it has not gone unappreciated. The first way was really chaotic with staff members running around, me overwhelmed by the various colors, artwork and books in the office (although I have found some comfort in it as it resembles somewhat the JHU LGBTQ Life Office where I’ve worked for the past year) yet everyone took some time to sit with me and introduce themselves. They were so sweet and kind to me, expressing how grateful they were for me to be there for the summer. Little do they know, I’m the one who should be grateful to be involved in such a wonderful organization with such eclectic and successful people.

My word for the last day of orientation was “stoked” and that word could not be more true to my feelings than at this very moment. I hope to learn, grow, develop personally, and hopefully become a better advocate to Baltimoreans and my fellow human family members.

picture of Blessing Ogunyemi CIIPBLESSING OGUNYEMI | EUBIE BLAKE CULTURAL CENTER

If you’d asked me a week ago what I would be doing on Friday Night I would have probably mentioned something about hanging out with friends, watching a movie, or hitting the sac early.

What I wouldn’t have said was sitting in a room full of adults who were truly feeling the “funk” and enjoying it. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even have been able to start trying to explain what I thought “funk” was. However this Friday night I traveled back to the 70s and felt the funk and boy did I love it.

Now I realize I that none of that may make any sense to you but that’s alright, after all, it is my blog. Buuuuuut just to be safe I’ll try to break it down.

This week I started my summer internship at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center and I will admit that going in I was a bit worried about how all the things we’d learned and talked about during orientation would fit in.

Fast forward to me helping out with the Return to the Funk Music Show and staying well past my hours to experience and enjoy the programming. It was truly the first time I realized that spaces like this still existed in our day and age. Spaces where people could relax, let loose and learn about the past history by experiencing what others back in the day had been able to enjoy. I remembered getting a tour and seeing pictures of people dressed up at a club watching Cab Calloway and other performers and hearing the woman explain, “you know back in the days people dressed up to go out.” Here I was again hearing about how “back in the days people really dressed up to perform” and seeing some zebra print platform shoes walking past me while enjoying some amazing and funky songs. This was truly a place where I felt cultural programming clash with education, and I was in awe.

I started to understand the importance of having events like this and opening it up to the general public. I also realized the importance of so many other events, programs, and exhibits put on by the center but those realizations will have to wait for a future blog post.

Overall it’s safe to say that its been a good and informative week and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

picture of Jonathan Silveira CIIPJONATHAN SILVEIRA | WIDE ANGLE YOUTH MEDIA

On Thursday, I took one of the high school interns out to lunch during my lunch hour. We went to this Korean spot and he told me it was his first time eating Korean food. I don’t know why, but that stuck with me, but the first time I had Korean food was last year. We used that hour to talk about our lives and get to know each other. We talked about our girlfriends, what we do on the weekends, our futures. It was the best way to close out the weekend I would think. The time I’ve gotten to spend with a lot of the youth, whether it be helping out at a film shoot or inside of the office, has been invaluable.

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