2019 Orientation: Policy/Law/Government

Grace R HeadshotGRACE REN | MARTHA’S PLACE

Going into orientation for a second year, I prepared myself for moments of boredom and repetition that I assumed would occur from hearing the same things as I did last summer. In no way did I expect the tumultuous emotions I experienced throughout the week or the hours of reflection I would do even after coming home; in no way did I expect to find myself in one of the most loving, supportive, and safe spaces I have ever felt in my time at Hopkins. This past year was extremely difficult for me and at many times, I was paralyzed with the fear that I had stopped growing into the person I wanted to be; however, this past week showed me just how much I have changed from last summer and how the way I process information has become so much deeper, how the way I think about others has become so much richer. During the TAG activity about identities and which ones we feel the strongest about, I was struck by how precarious the human condition is, yet how special it was that we were somehow able to create a magical space outside reality that embodied diversity and vulnerability. I’m not sure about other people, but I felt that it was with this energy that we would create the summer.

That being said, I did find myself struggling with a question that was brought up on the first day of orientation: who is not in the room right now? I often found it difficult to connect each workshop we went through to how this new knowledge would help those not in the room. Often, I had no answer; often, I became angry – why does it matter if we do these activities if we cannot come up with an explicit way that it will benefit Baltimoreans who do not have the privilege of sitting with us in our space? Why does it matter if we talk about our discomfort without relating it back to the causes of them, which directly relate to why certain populations are not in the room? By way of habit, I wanted an answer and a direct guide to how we bring our new knowledge into new communities and our new internships. I guess I am still learning to grapple with this and I hope that it is something I will learn to embody this summer, without anger or guilt or judgment.

 

Faith B Headshot

FAITH BROWN | YOUTHWORKS

This week’s CIIP orientation as a whole was a pleasant surprise from what my original expectations were. I assumed we would be listening to lots of presenters about cultural competence as well as how to engage with Baltimore as a student of Johns Hopkins, and though we did cover these things, the speakers and activities were so much more than generic presentations. Starting with the warm welcome from the CSC Director, Misti McKeehen, through Naadiya’s final presentation about the relationship between Hopkins and Baltimore City, I learned tangible skills and concepts that I can take from Orientation and utilize both in my placement this Summer, and in my future academic and professional endeavors.

Some personal favorite parts of this orientation experience were the moving presentations on day 1 from Tia Price at Wide Angle Youth Media as well as Reverend Dr. Heber Brown III from the Black Church Food Security Network. I also learned so much from the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition representative, and I (along with several other members of the cohort) look forward to getting OEND trained by Reah in the near future! Although I was intimidated at first, I truly enjoyed utilizing the different forms of public transit for the scavenger hunt, and grew very close to my peer mentor group through our journey attempting to navigate the different parts of the city.

I feel that the networking/presentation session at the end of the week was a great way to finish up the Orientation, and it was exciting to see everyone get to explain their placement and their plans (however tentative they may be) for the Summer. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all 50+ members of this year’s cohort. I have never experienced an atmosphere quite like this where every person seems so positive and genuine in their interactions with one another as well as with the city. It is an exciting feeling to become so close with so many people in such a short amount of time, and I am excited to see how our relationships with one another and with our communities and organizations develop throughout the Summer.

 

Josh L HeadshotJOSH LEE | BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Orientation, though challenging and exhausting, was a worthwhile experience. There were smaller personal challenges, such as constantly meeting new people and going slightly deeper into their stories than typical interactions would allow. But there were also challenges that would strike me to the core and make me question certain aspects about myself. For example, Reverend Brown and his passion for the city of Baltimore and social justice made me question why, as a Christian, justice was often times not a priority in the churches I grew up in and even in my own personal faith. My brief conversation with Reverend Brown after his talk helped to open my eyes to ways in which the church can, and should, serve the Baltimore community—something I plan to do more of by volunteering with his organization.

The scavenger hunt on Wednesday was also a good experience in that I was able to see more of a holistic view of Baltimore and experience parts of the city that I either did not know about or would not normally have ventured out into with my typical group of friends. Whether it was going out into the Lexington Market and eating crab cakes or visiting the Arch Social Club, I feel that I have a broader sense of the city, outside of the White L. However, one thing that struck me and challenged me was the feeling of being viewed as outsiders or tourists by Baltimoreans. While in Sandtown-Winchester, a lady half-jokingly asked if we were tourists and told us that we were in the wrong part of town—that we should go to places like Inner Harbor instead. It was difficult to shake off the outsider status as we were walking the streets of different neighborhoods, making it difficult for me to know how I, as a Hopkins student from outside of Baltimore, should seek to engage with the community in a posture of humility and sensitivity that has historically not been practiced by the Hopkins community.

Lastly, the activities with the Theater Action Group was very poignant—being able to listen to a bit of people’s stories and seeing where people stood in the questions about our identities opened up conversations among the cohort. I was very interested in noticing patterns among my peers, such as when a person would remain in the same category for “Identity that was most talked about in my family” and “Identity that I find it most difficult to talk about,” for example. I wished that there was more time for dialogue in that activity, but it was able to create avenues for deeper conversations with the cohort and I appreciated that everyone was willing and open to discuss these difficult topics. These aspects of orientation, while challenging, were also some of the most enjoyable and made the past week a very thought-provoking and difficult, yet rewarding experience.

 

Sam M HeadshotSAM MOLLIN | MARYLAND TRANSIT AUTHORITY

Like any new experience with new people, the first day of orientation was a little daunting (and not just because I gave myself five minutes to complete a fifteen minute walk to FastForwardU). While I ended up finding people I already knew and making new friends in the cohort, there were still plenty of challenges throughout the week other than getting myself situated.

Orientation, above all else, really requires you to be open to new experiences. Before this week I could never see myself agreeing to do the 2 minutes of zumba we used to get ourselves energized during breaks, and wouldn’t have even been able to tell you what a soul train is, not to mention actually doing one. Along with requiring coordination that I 100% don’t have, the real challenge of these activities, other workshops, and orientation as a whole, was to make yourself vulnerable in front of a group of 50+ people that you haven’t really gotten to know. Overcoming discomfort was awkward in the moment for a lot of orientation, but getting over that hurdle will likely be helpful in moving to my internship at the MTA, and the many real-world moments of discomfort that I won’t be able to shy away from.

Along with the general challenge of overcoming discomfort, another key challenge orientation was confronting my own relationship to Baltimore. As a white Hopkins student, orientation helped illustrate how my background and my power as a Hopkins student has significance as I interact with the rest of Baltimore during my internship. While learning this aligned roughly with what I already knew about the history of Hopkins and Baltimore, the most impactful part of this aspect of orientation was the idea of leveraging my privileges to create a better world for those who don’t have them. Pastor Herbert Brown’s story of using his position of power as a male preacher to challenge societal norms by referring to god as a woman resonated with me as a way to challenge existing ways of doing things for those who can’t as effectively. Now that orientation is over, I’m excited to use my new comfort with discomfort and understanding of ways to use privilege for good to help contribute to the MTA for the rest of the summer!

 

Alyssa W HeadshotALYSSA WOODEN | BALTIMORE OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY

Having been a Hopkins student for three years, coming into orientation I felt like I knew Baltimore and the social issues it faces fairly well. I’ve talked to native Baltimoreans, read local publications and gone out and explored the city for myself. I even consider Baltimore more of a home to me than the suburban Massachusetts town where I grew up. But if last week’s orientation taught me anything, it’s that I will always have more to learn about this city and the people who inhabit it.

I was surprised to find that I hadn’t heard of most of the community partner organizations that the other interns will be working at this summer. Even my own organization, the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, was somewhat unfamiliar to me – I didn’t know much about the specific programs they are working to implement throughout the city.

Nor had I heard of – or been to – many of the restaurants, museums and other attractions the peer mentors talked about during their Summer in Baltimore presentation. I realized that when it comes to food and entertainment, during the school year I rarely venture beyond the same few neighborhoods and locations. I’m definitely planning to change that this summer – during the Baltimore scavenger hunt, I noted a few promising spots I hope to revisit over the next few weeks.

In addition to learning about new Baltimore organizations, businesses and social issues, I also learned quite a bit about myself. Orientation forced me to closely examine my values, what I hope to get out of my internship, and how it will play into my broader life goals. I’m still not entirely sure what those goals are – or if I will even end up working in the government or nonprofit sector – and I still don’t know what awaits me at the Office of Sustainability over the next two months. But I’ve come to terms with not knowing, and with the fact that I’ll never stop learning new things about Baltimore and about myself.

 

Natalia W HeadshotNATALIA WOO | OFFICE OF THE STATE’S ATTORNEY

Throughout the orientation, I became paralyzed and shameful about my associated privilege- my socioeconomic, Hopkins affiliated, and able body. I was ashamed that I was entering a community as an “outsider” and afraid that I would not be accepted. Most importantly, I was afraid that others would not be able to look beyond the stereotypes associated with my privilege- ultimately, invalidating my personal identity, individuality, and passion to engage with the community. Especially as the workshops progressed, I kept wondering where and how an Asian American could fit into the narrative of Baltimore, where it was described to be very polarized into blacks and whites. Especially, through the cultural competency workshop, I was more challenged by my placement into the Baltimore community. Midst the discussion of microaggressions, a question arose about the whether there was a difference in the validity and weight between racism from a white to a black and “reverse” racism from a black to a white. The conversation soon began to be directed towards a conclusion of a differentiation and justification between racism. Some people’s racism became “prejudice.” As a member who did not fit into either one of the two communities, I became more self conscious about my race. As an Asian American who has faced racism from both the black and white communities, what does this racism mean for me? Do I even have the right to feel invalidated by the “Reverse” racism or “prejudice”? However, other workshops began to empower and guide me. Yes, I need to be conscious about my privileges, but I should not let it paralyze and prevent me from serving my purpose in the community. As Reverend Brown shared, “bend your privilege towards social justice.” I should not be embarrassed about the privileges that I could not choose before birth. I should only be embarrassed if I use my privilege to continue fueling the dominant and stereotypical narrative of ignoring others. I had forgotten about humanity and had only focused in on myself; I need to listen; I need to be open as the community would be open to me; my individuality is validated; I will be okay. The fears that paralyzed me about my identity and role coming into the community were only fueled by the same energy of judgment. I need to let go of this judgment and self hatred, shaped by other stereotypes from a place of privilege, and focus on the shared humane similarities. By the end of the orientation, I was excited, no longer scared, to embrace the Baltimore community formed by other humans like me and let go of my own prejudices about myself.

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