2018 Week 4: Food Access and The Environment

picture of Amanda Donoghue CIIPAMANDA DONOGHUE | BIKEMORE

On Tuesday, I found myself at City Hall witnessing an investigative hearing on the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD). As I walked into the Council Chamber, my mind wandered back to the hearing I’d attended just a few weeks before. At that time, the committee was determining whether Ryan Dorsey’s bill to remove an appendix from the fire code should be brought to second reading. While the BCFD adamantly oppose the bill, its advocates argue that it hinders development in the city, especially when it comes to bike infrastructure. The appendix was adopted just a few years ago, and it does not exist in many other cities like Baltimore.

The committee requested that the BCFD explore ways to make progress on development with the appendix still in place. Just one day later, my supervisor – the Executive Director of Bikemore – came home to find the BCFD filming a video presumably documenting their inability to fight fires on streets with bike infrastructure. The hearing began with this nine-minute video of BCFD officials slowly navigating their largest trucks around the Maryland Avenue cycle track.

Council members questioned the Fire Chief at length about the video – why did he create the video when he was instructed to do the exact opposite? Why did he choose a street with bike infrastructure, when there are plenty of streets made narrow by parking? Why did he choose the Maryland Avenue cycle track when it isn’t even impacted by the bill? Why did he choose that specific block of an over two-mile long cycle track? And what was even the point, considering that the video didn’t even seem to prove that the BCFD couldn’t fight fires there?

Next came my supervisor’s testimony, read aloud by Ryan Dorsey. She detailed the long-standing history of online and in-person bullying that cyclists have experienced from BCFD members. A female cyclist, who would later testify in-person, was assaulted by a man who weaved his pick-up truck (donning a Baltimore City Fire Department decal) in front of her while she was riding in the bike lane. He then pulled in front of her, got out of his car, and screamed “I still hate you!” before driving away. There has been no progress in identifying the offender.

She also spoke of her neighbor, a city employee, who was assaulted by a firefighter at a public meeting after he advocated for cycling. The video of BCFD “unable to protect the public” was taken outside both of their homes. Council members were not pleased. They questioned the Fire Chief for over an hour about the incidents. He first denied any knowledge of aggression from members of his department, but after this testimony he was forced to concede that he knew of “only those two incidents” since they were, in fact, reported directly to him.

I was stunned. This is unacceptable behavior from public servants whose job it is to protect the residents of Baltimore City. Like most kids, I grew up revering firefighters as heroes. This doesn’t change my respect, but it does make me think before determining someone’s personal moral status based on the career they’ve chosen. Certainly not every firefighter is complicit, but those who are have brought distrust unto their entire department. No one deserves to question whether the BCFD will actually be there to help in your time of need. And right now, cyclists all over Baltimore are experiencing that uncertainty.



With the holiday off and no more grant applications, this week was pretty relaxed at Made in Baltimore. A lot of my work this week offered me a more personal connection to the Made in Baltimore business cohort. Our lookbook shoot was last weekend, so I spent time this week coordinating product pickup with the featured makers. It was really nice to see the makers face-to-face and have the chance to compliment them on their work. We’re also making PSA videos about buying local, so I worked on transcribing videos of interviews with local makers. Transcribing is admittedly a tedious job, but it was worth it to see the personal narrative of the makers we’re working to support. A lot of Made in Baltimore’s policy work involves maintaining industrial zoning for affordable spaces, and it was interesting to listen to people’s stories of how they grew out of their home-based production spaces and needed to find something else.

Now that we’re making these awesome lookbooks and videos, I’m helping to create distribution plans for them. I was in touch with different local theatres/film events this week to distribute our PSA, and compiled a list of various retailers that we can send the lookbook to. One of the things that I simultaneously love and hate about working with Made in Baltimore is that it makes me want to go spend my money on all of these cool local products…and furnish my non-existent future house.

As with every week, I’m appreciative to be around my CIIP cohort. Every Sunday, a group of us sit at Bird In Hand for a couple of hours. As we sip our coffees and work on miscellaneous things, we have the most interesting conversations about Baltimore issues, identity, and other meaningful topics. Not everyone at Hopkins is willing to just casually break out into those conversations, which is why I love being a part of CIIP. As the weather *finally* cools down, I’m looking forward to another beautiful, productive week in Baltimore.



I am going to have to prove myself to many people, I’ve come to realize.

In this work, proving yourself means consistently being there. It means showing up and shaking someone’s hand, giving them a hug, or just relating in a form that is comfortable, reassuring, and begins to build meaningful relationship – not for the purpose of doing emotionally extracting or harvesting work, but for the purpose that we need to support one another to build the world we want to see and to not repeat some of the oppressive structures, tendencies, and practices that we see in much of society.

I say all of this because of a few unanswered emails this past week, really. I didn’t go meet with Reverend Brown until Friday morning, at which point most of my work had consisted of emailing a list of people he’d asked me to reach out to so that we could talk to them about information to add to their newsletter. Only one person responded to me. The same thing happened earlier when I’d asked people about coming to our Community Market the week before.

I felt simultaneously disheartened and unsurprised at the lack of responses. I mean, they have literally no idea who I am beyond my once sentence of introduction. They’ve never heard my voice much less seen my face or had a conversation with me. Why would they reach back to me anyhow?

The difference between me and Reverend Brown within this work, then, is our pool of relationships. He has done the hard work of traveling around the coast and the country to meet with people just to see them in person and show up. Because of those moments and days, people care. They want to write articles about him, will offer up information and resources to share with the Network, and pull on him for when they have questions about faith, farming, or racial equity.

I’ve done approximately .2% of that relational organizing work. It feels deeply important, both to sustain the work that we’re doing and also to sustain ourselves. I’ve heard many times now that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” To me, it means that we don’t have a movement without people. And you don’t have people if we don’t have a way to sustain the communities that we build and organize.

I used to consider myself to be an extremely shy person, decently introverted and afraid of speaking to strangers when the situation didn’t necessitate it. But, most situations necessitate speaking to people I’ve not had the pleasure of encountering before at this point in my life. I hope that I’ll be able to work past some of the initial anxiety I feel about that and become slightly more comfortable with conversations of those I don’t know very well – that is, after all, what will carry us on.



Hearing Erricka Bridgeford speak this week at the Midpoint event was very motivating for myself personally. In line with the distractingly hot room, there was truly a sense of burning hope and desire for change in Baltimore as Erricka told more and more of her story. I thought it was particularly inspiring to hear about how the idea of the Ceasefire came about. Although she didn’t explicitly say that it was missed opportunity or a mistake to pursue it further when the idea was first presented to her, I thought it was particularly inspirational to hear how when she did decide to pursue the idea of holding a ceasefire she went it head first, all in, and with little apprehension. I think adopting that attitude as young people is especially important to continue to work/fight/strive for sustainable just change in society. I guess you could say that the main point I took out of her speech was one of hope, I hope to live up to and embody as I learn more about Reservoir Hill, the issues that people there face and how those issues change as the community begins to change.

I realize now in the fourth week that I haven’t really talked much about my work at the Farm Alliance of Baltimore so here it comes! Isabel, one of my supervisors at Whitelock, connected me with the Mariya, the director of FAB, and I have been working there since the first Thursday of CIIP! I have been helping out mostly with website development and it has been a time learning WordPress. Despite the headache I get from using WordPress, it has been very satisfying to create something that is tangible that is published for the world to see. Learning about this type of organization that bring people doing similar work, in this case urban agriculture in Baltimore City, together has highlighted the importance of collective action in social change. I enjoyed learning about the different farms in Baltimore, I always feel so urban farmer-y when people ask me about farms and urban ag in Baltimore, which I love!!

Interestingly, FAB has it office at the Clifton Mansion, Johns Hopkins’ old mansion in Clifton Park. As I biked more throughout the city I have really gained a new perspective of urban structure and design of the city. Its really interesting to the think about how most Hopkins Campuses and buildings all seems to be on hills. Everyday on my way back from Whitelock I have to bike up the Hill that Homewood is on. Every Thursday that I go to Clifton I have to bike up the hills that the Eastern Campus and the Clifton Mansions are on. Peabody and the Med Campus are no exceptions. This placement seems to seamlessly play into the narrative of Hopkins in Baltimore. Being on hills not only makes our campuses less accessible but also creates a weird power dynamic where Hopkins seems to be on top or higher up that most other people, organizations and structures in the city. Sad to think about if the placement was intention, what the intention was behind it, and how that has played into the perception of Hopkins from Baltimore residents. Hills are not fun (!) both in terms of biking and power dynamics.



This week, I communicated with patients at the Joy Wellness Center in French, despite never having learned French. A wife and husband who only spoke French were scheduled for private wellness appointments, and I was the one who had to make the reminder calls and interact with them. I translated what I was going to say using Google Translate, then relayed the information in considerably mispronounced French. The process was slow and frequently frustrating as we had to type our responses out, especially when I was trying to figure out the details of the medical certificate that they requested. I wanted to say so much more to make them feel more welcome, but the conversation was reduced to its bones as we each aimed to convey information as efficiently as possible. Small gestures took on an increased level of importance; simply smiling and taking on a warm tone of voice were ways I connected with them.

Only after they left did I learn about their current situation. My supervisor told me they had fled their home in an African country (that I won’t disclose to protect their privacy) due to unrest. Their whole town was essentially burned down, and in the process of leaving they were separated from their young daughter. They’re currently homeless and trying to get their paperwork in order while dealing with a myriad of medical issues and job hunting.

From this interaction I realized how I take for granted the power of language and ability to communicate with others. Language can be a handicap that can bar a person from jobs and so many other services. It was already nerve-wracking and annoying for me to try speaking French through Google translate, yet that couple is dealing with so much more than imperfect communication: trauma from witnessing the destruction of their home, fear from navigating a completely foreign country, and an unstable housing situation, among so much more. Reinforced too was the fact that you never know what someone is going through, which renders treating everyone with empathy and compassion all the more crucial. By treating people differently based on their background – whether it’s nationality, ability, race, gender, etc. – we diminish the ability to connect with them simply because they’re human. At the end of the day, the one thing all humans share is our humanness. I think people forget that sometimes, or believe it’s not enough of a reason to treat people kindly. That needs to change, and it’s up to every individual to create that change.

Quotes I came across this week:

• “We forget how powerful we are.” – Erricka Bridgeford at CIIP’s mid-point event

• “People who connect with other human beings, even strangers on a train or in the checkout line, report brighter moods…the key is to actively seek pathways that will help us transcend ourselves and escape the echo chamber of our minds.” – Samantha Boardman from the article “This is Actually ‘the Key’ to Happiness”

• “You make your path by walking it.” – Grace Lee Boggs in the documentary American Revolutionary

• “She was not flawless, perhaps, but perfect.” – Patrick Rothfuss in The Name of the Wind



This heat at the beginning of this week was brutal. The weather was unbearable but I was able to learn a bit from it. On top of what I have experienced in the previous weeks, this heat was able to teach me much more. It made me understand that once it reaches a certain temperature, it is no longer productive to try and work certain jobs that leave one most exposed to the heat. In attempting to complete these jobs one would spend more time trying cool off rather than accomplishing anything substantial. I also came to appreciate why farmers traditionally start working at such early hours. It is a worthwhile strategy to work in the cool of the morning than to fight the heat later on in the day. Not only does waking up earlier make working easier and more enjoyable, but it also makes it more productive.

This week while driving to work in the early morning I was witness to the manifestation of some of the issues that plague Baltimore and its residents. The social issue of homelessness and substance abuse are an unfortunate reality for many residents of Baltimore, including those of the Sandtown neighborhood. On the corner a block north of the farm there is a liquor store where I witnessed a man beating himself, screaming, and contorting on the pavement in front of the store just after sunrise. While I was stopped at a traffic light, I saw multiple people walk right past the man, careful to stay out of the range of his flailing hands, and continue on their way down the sidewalk. Their indifference seemed to indicate a degree of familiarity with the issue, but to me the reality of the situation was bizarre. Coincidentally, that morning I was tasked with collecting garbage that had accumulated across the farm. While picking up the trash I found an assortment of Eppendorf tubes and glass vials scattered all along the curbsides. I figured that these vials were in part responsible for the scene I had witnessed earlier that morning.

The market this week was a blast. The weather turned around and allowed my coworker and I to nearly sell out of all of our vegetables. Working with the farm has been a wonderful and enlightening experience and I am looking forward to seeing what next week brings.

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