2019 Week 6: Neighborhood Improvement/Community Organizing

Jacob T HeadshotJACOB TOOK | MADE IN BALTIMORE

This week was a pretty major week for me, and not just because of Artscape. The last couple of days, I was pretty busy working in the store — which was amazing, by the way. I’ve gotten to meet such an amazing range of makers who’ve come into the store, as well as the people who turn out in support of that community. My last few weeks of work have given me the foundation I need to engage in literate conversations with people on behalf of Made in Baltimore. But of course, at the end of the day it’s been great just having human conversations and learning so much about the amazing people in this city.

But beyond Artscape, I also made a lot of progress on my main project this week. I met with three retailers — the Maryland Historical Society’s gift shop on Tuesday, the MICA store on Wednesday and Doubledutch Boutique on Friday. I know that I’m building up to a backlog, especially because I have at least one more visit scheduled for this week. Looking ahead toward the end of the program, I know I’ll be challenged to keep myself on pace with consistent work quality. But I can recognize and prepare for that.

What does that mean for me? Well, it means that the fun part is over (mostly). Practically every other day this week I went around the city where different business owners invited me into their spaces, shared with me their stories and answered all my questions. That came with its own challenges — balancing being friendly and staying on task, representing Made in Baltimore, trying to make my job seem effortless. Sitting here typing this, that sounds like an exhaustive mental load (and after each one of those visits I felt that load). But in the moment, something usually clicks and lets me just get down to it.

Now is when the focus shifts to me, though. It’s all well and good for me to a retailer, ask a bunch of questions and let the information just pour into my brain. Processing that, on the other hand, shaping that experience and presenting it, doing justice to the story but also making sure it’s useful for Made in Baltimore. That’s what lies ahead, and reminding myself of the importance of that will help me power through it with more purpose.

 

Barae H HeadshotBARAE HIRSCH | UNITED WORKERS

I knew about United Workers (UW) before working there, partly because I knew CIIP alums who had worked there, and partly because their activists and members were active in other spaces around the city and on campus. Because UW works on fair development, encompassing affordable housing, environmental justice, and workers’ rights, we intersect with other organizations on many fronts.

I will be attending the 29th Street Community Center’s Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday, providing information about affordable housing, how to get involved with the Charm City Land Trust (one of UW’s fair development initiatives), and how to get involved with organizing for affordable housing and fair development for poor and black communities in Baltimore.
UW works with other community organizations in other capacities as well: this weekend, I attended one rally in support of the Hopkins nurses’ right to unionize and against Hopkins’ practice of suing low-income patients for medical debt, and another rally against ICE’s deportation policies and detention camps. Representatives from UW (apart from myself) were at both rallies, and one UW leadership organizer spoke at the anti-ICE rally about his experience immigrating from Guatemala. Because UW works on various issues affecting poor and marginalized people, and teaches political education and leadership development, it is easy to see the intersections between our work and other racial/social justice/economic efforts happening around the city.

Two weeks ago, I presented at the Sunrise Movement’s Baltimore hub monthly meeting (the movement behind the Green New Deal) and on Thursday, Sunrise members who heard my presentation came to UW to help phone bank for our upcoming permanent affordability rally. One of my projects has been researching other community organizations in the areas we work, and identifying their services and ways we could collaborate. Finding these intersections and points of collaboration is really important to me — too often, organizations try to “reinvent the wheel,” and end up providing services that are already being provided somewhere else. As I move forward in organizing, I hope to continue finding and building connections, and expanding the network of people and organizations working together for change.

 

Janaya B HeadshotJANAYA BROWN | FRANCISCAN CENTER

This summer I thought that I would be able to take on a big project and connect the center to other service providing organizations in the area. Ever since last year, I realized that many centers provide similar services a few blocks away from each other, but have no clue how they could work collaboratively. I have to remember to humble myself continually and recognize that eight weeks is not enough to make all of these connections.

I can say that in the time I have been able to reach out to different organizations, even without much to show for it. As I say again, my most important thing is to complete the job that I have in front of me. I enjoy working with clients and hearing different people’s stories. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that people missed seeing you on a day where you had to be out of office. It was not until I had to take time away that I knew people noticed me here at the desk each day.

For me personally, I had a rough week due to different medical issues. It became the most important to remember that the job I had to do would force me to overcome those problems. I spent a day answering phones, serving clients, ankle elevated on a chair or hopping around on the other foot. Sometimes, pushing through is what you have to do when people depend on you to get the job done.

As I near the last couple of weeks, I will continue to persevere through medical issues because we have clients going through so much more and always arrive with a smile on their face. I want to provide that same energy as they are able to. Everyone experiences hardship and my project is to at least be a small light of hope in the darkness.

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