2018 Orientation: Nonprofit Management

picture of Emma Maxwell CIIPEMMA MAXWELL | BALTIMORE CORPS

Overall I found orientation to be an incredibly valuable experience, but I have to admit that as a rising senior who is interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector post-graduation, the speakers we heard from definitely provoked more than a bit of stress. My overwhelming impression of the nonprofit world after this week is that it’s a small community, it’s often a bit ambiguous, and it can involve incredibly challenging work. But to be completely honest, I find the challenge of the work itself much less daunting than the challenge of navigating this murky world of getting involved and finding a job in a way that maximizes my impact.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reflecting about what my place within this sector of value-based work really is. I’m definitely sensitive to the fact that I am not a member of many Baltimore communities, and that even if I were to move here permanently and become more involved at the local level, I would never have the same experience and connection as someone who was been born here and has faced disparate obstacles. Of course that doesn’t mean I have no place in trying to contribute to the Baltimore community (or any other community for that matter), but it may mean that the best role for me is not necessarily as a direct community organizer, because there are certainly many people better poised than I am to take on that responsibility. This, in turn, makes me wonder how I can best work to ensure that those folks are the ones who have authority, power, and influence within the system. And I still don’t have the answer to that, but it’s definitely something with which I will continue to grapple and consider as I move through this summer.

In addition to career considerations, I also found the sessions on Baltimore and the relationship between Baltimore and Hopkins really impactful. Every single time I talk with someone who lives or works in Baltimore, I’m struck by just how small the community is. And I’ve come to believe that this smallness is a result of the intense love and dedication people here feel towards their neighbors and fellow Baltimoreans. I find it incredibly frustrating and disappointing that not only has Hopkins not managed to tap into this sense of connection, but instead has contributed in many ways to its disruption. We as an institution are doing a disservice to our students by denying them the opportunity to fully participate in the incredible Baltimore community, and far more importantly, we are doing a disservice to our city by failing to support and protect the residents here. In general I really love being a Hopkins student, and I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing educational opportunities I have here, but after this week I’ve started to more deeply understand the conflict between Hopkins and Baltimore and to feel an obligation to do work in this community that can maybe in some tiny way contribute to a shift in that relationship.

 

picture of Jessica Zhang CIIPJESSICA ZHANG | OUT FOR JUSTICE

We stood out like a sore thumb—six Hopkins kids carrying notebooks and drawstring bags walking through the streets of Freddie Gray’s neighborhood. Although we attend school a mere bus ride away from the majority-black community, an intangible yet irremovable divide of privilege and circumstance separate us from the residents.

As we pass corner stores and foreclosed row houses, eyes are drawn to us, the outsiders. Two police officers stop us and ask, “Are you guys on a field trip?” I feel a sense of discomfort with how out of place we must look in this neighborhood.

A local community leader, Daki Napata, notices us hovering beside a colorful mural. Realizing that we’re students, he begins explaining the historical significance of murals depicting influential African Americans like Billie Holiday. Despite feeling uncomfortable with the attention we were attracting, we end up spending an hour walking through the neighborhood with Mr. Napata. He introduces us to local community-members; we receive college advice, invitations for dinner, and insight on local activism. On the bus ride back to Hopkins, I reflect on the conversations, realizing how much knowledge I had gained about the neighborhood and its residents.

This experience resonates with a phrase said during one of our orientation panels: “Being comfortable being uncomfortable.” The discomfort I felt as an outsider in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood made my interactions with community-members all the more striking and memorable. I was able to recognize my privileges and biases as a Hopkins student while experiencing the perspectives of Baltimoreans in the community. This encounter made me realize that uncomfortable situations are necessary in order to challenge my existing perspectives and grow as an individual. As I get ready to start my internship at Out for Justice next week, I will work to find comfort in discomfort, using an open-minded attitude to seek challenges within the workplace and out in the wider Baltimore community.

 

picture of Irene Bantigue CIIPIRENE BANTIGUE | IMPACT HUB BALTIMORE

As someone whose extroversion is a defining part of their personality, I felt unsettled by my inclination to instead just listen to my peers during orientation. I often came home questioning why my thoughts did not similarly materialize as contributions to discussion, when this was usually as innate to me as smiling (By the way, I smile a lot!). At first, I negatively perceived my behavior. Yet the more I reflected on it, I realized that this was perhaps both a needed and timely personal development.

Many important messages manifested throughout the various panels and workshops, including serving with humility and recognizing our biases in our interactions. Nonetheless, the most salient message for me was also the simplest: to actively listen. In fact, the highlight of my week was the reaffirmation of this message in Sandtown-Winchester, which was one of the communities we explored on day three of orientation.

The night before, my peer mentor group planned matching outfits to display our mutual investment in winning. Yet as the day’s activities progressed, I noticed our group’s time and energy become increasingly redirected in reflecting rather than competing. By simply listening, we learned that beyond serving fresh poppay rolls, the Avenue Bakery’s mission was to educate its visitors through murals commemorating Sandtown-Winchester’s vibrant history as Baltimore’s epicenter of entertainment.

We also met Daki Napata, who we later learned is a life-long community organizer in West Baltimore, as he approached us looking at the mural of Billie Holiday and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Napata then helped us retrace our steps to other murals we initially missed, because we were so focused on arriving to the bakery without getting lost. Although we diverged from our initial competitive spirit, our ultimate decision to spend more time listening to one another reflect, Daki Napata, and the many community members who greeted him as we walked by, ended up being an overwhelmingly rewarding experience.

Unsurprisingly, the closing reception only further stimulated my excitement. I felt energized hearing the ongoing work of Baltimore’s civic leaders, and witnessing my peers’ excitement to work alongside them. Despite starting this week with an initial discomfort, I can now happily say I look forward to challenging it further over the course of this summer.

 

picture of Awoe Mauna-Woanya CIIPAWOE MAUNA-WOANYA | MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION

I came into the week half in disbelief that it was already summertime and the other half nervous because I had to be a role model/leader to all the first time CIIPers, however by the end of the first day, I was fully in “CIIP Mode”. Ending that first day with Rev. Brown sharing his perspective and some of his experience immediately had me thinking about myself, my place in the world, and how the work I’ll be doing this summer matters. The train didn’t stop there; every subsequent training module challenged me in some way. Going through the modules for a second time gave me the unique perspective of seeing how I’ve grown in the last year and how the presenters themselves have evolved. While some of the presentations presented their own problems, I can say confidently that they all sparked interesting and worthwhile conversations with my peers.

Now, enough about me! My favorite part about this orientation week was by far, meeting the entire cohort, especially the students in my group! The energy amongst the cohort was phenomenal. Each person brought not only their unique personality and perspective to the big group, but also their openness and flexibility. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride as the week unfolded. As for my specific group, I am excited to see what this summer has in-store for them. Each member of “Awoe or the highway” (our team name, lovely, huh?) is here for a reason and is determined to take this next step in their own journey. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can walk this journey with them and help them out however I can. They made being a group easy with their wit and infectious laughter. One specific reason I am excited for this group is because of our experience during the scavenger hunt. We went slightly off-script (and by slightly, I mean completely). We met with members of the community and learn first-hand some of the topics we’d been learning during the orientation. Best of all, we had the chance to talk and reflect and I believe that doing so at key moments can really turn the tide of any relationship so I am thankful for that as well.

Anyway, I am excitedly looking forward to getting into the swing of work and fun. I believe that this cohort’s ability to challenge ideas and have fun will make this an unforgettable summer.

 

picture of Morgan Ome CIIPMORGAN OME | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

During the last school year, there were many times when I experienced what you might call burnout. Pulling all-nighters for days, and then sleeping for fourteen hours. Crying from sheer exhaustion. No longer deriving joy from my studies and extracurriculars. Feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. It is an easy experience to identify, but a harder one to combat.

We discussed burnout, and its antidote, self-care, extensively during orientation. I learned that I am not alone in feeling burnt out here at Hopkins. I also learned that self-care is a necessary practice for everyone, but is especially crucial for those engaging in the community and social work. How can we take care of others if we are unable to take care of ourselves? One thing that resonated with me was being reminded that we can’t continue our work and we can’t contribute in meaningful and effective ways if we are too fatigued. For these reasons, doing basic things like sleeping and eating regularly, taking breaks, and paying close attention to your mental health is vital.

The truth is that the work that we are about to embark on will challenge, and sometimes, exhaust us. After hearing from change makers in Baltimore – everyone from community activists to local politicians – I better understand that creating social change is an ongoing challenge: the hours are long, the work is seemingly endless, and the process can be slow.

Despite my deep love and affection for Baltimore, there are times when it seems that the challenges that the city faces are insurmountable. The issues are too complex. I can’t possibly make a difference. When these doubts arise, I often remind myself of a quote from my favorite musical Hamilton: “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

This week, I found myself constantly looking around at my peers – all fifty of them – and feeling a sense of camaraderie and reassurance. For the next eight weeks, we will all collectively dive into the difficult, but important work of building a better Baltimore for everyone. We have the privilege of tending to the garden that others have cultivated for us. We have the opportunity to help community members plant more seeds. Maybe we will even become seeds ourselves.

 

picture of Rollin Hu CIIPROLLIN HU | FUSION PARTNERSHIPS

While in Penn North on Wednesday, there was an old lady who stumbled on the sidewalk and fell to the ground. One passerby went over to lift her up and I was next to her so I tried to help her up as well. I don’t mean to write this to feel all good about myself — it just happened like that.

While she was getting back on her feet, two Baltimore Police officers came over to see the commotion and immediately questioned the lady, “What have you taken ma’am?” and “What are you on?” while she continuously said that she wanted to go home.

“What have you taken ma’am?” “What are you on?” These are questions that carry the assumption that this old lady falling on the street is immediately because of hypothetical drugs in her system. It’s unlikely that an old lady in a different neighborhood with a different skin color would be asked the same questions. The BPD officers assumed the worst of her and that framed the way they treated her. These assumptions put a cap on her own capacity, her own agency, her own humanity.

I didn’t really know what to do. I sort of fumbled around and awkwardly made eye contact with my peer mentor group. We walked away from the situation as the old lady talked with the BPD officers. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do. I think I had good intentions but as Dr. Reverend Brown said earlier this week, “To hell with good intentions.” I really hope that old lady is alright.

I shared this story with my parents. Other than the typical skepticism and concern of me visiting West Baltimore, they cautioned me against doing something similar again. They read a story coming out of China where a Good Samaritan driving past an old lady fallen in the street stopped to help her up. Upon helping her up, she immediately accused him of being the one who knocked her over in the first place. The ensuing legal procedures were strenuous and many spoke about being dissuaded from helping others like that in the future.

I got upset with my parents for bringing up this point. They had tried raising me to be a “good” person who cared for others and this message was antithetical to the morals they drilled into my head throughout my childhood.

“Unfortunately, this is reality,” my father said. That’s true, it is an unfortunate reality. It’s unfortunate that the BPD officers assumed the old lady had to be on drugs to fall down the street and it’s unfortunate that that the old lady in China sued her helper. It’s unfortunate that we may assume the worst of others.

But that doesn’t have to be reality. Assumptions and perceptions are things that we can control. We may fail in doing that or our “good intentions” may not amount to anything but that’s honestly better than letting this unfortunate “reality” persist. For me, that ambiguous and somewhat bleak conclusion is what I believe this summer will be about.

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