2021 Week 6: Virtual Internships

HUIYAO CHEN | BALTIMORE JOB HUNTERS SUPPORT GROUP

Connecting dots is a particularly salient theme for this week. During the Bites session, we talk about the topic of immigration, which is very informative and eye-opening, especially when I learned that Baltimore is a sanctuary city while Maryland is not (a sanctuary state as a whole). This discussion reminds me simultaneously of a Trevor Noah stand-up I watched earlier this week and a Twilight Zone episode “Point of Origin” I watched last week, both hit on the topic of immigration. Trevor took the topic in a humorous way by saying that “if you don’t like/want immigrants, then stop eating their food also. At the end you’ll find yourself left with plain potatoes”, and he teased about how native Americans would be sarcastically interested to “hear more” when “Americans” are complaining about immigrants who “take our land and steal our job”. The Twilight Zone episode chose a more thrilling way by presenting how a white privileged woman, Eva, while laying pity on her colored + recently arrested (due to lack of documentation) babysitter, Anna, was herself sent to the camp, detained, and eventually rejected by the government and her own family because she was identified as an intruder from another “dimension”. The idea delivered by the narrator was to emphasize that we are all immigrants in some way. And I have mixed feelings about such messages. On the one hand, I really appreciate and do endorse the content, that “immigrant” should not be stigmatized or alienated in anyways, and the “non-immigrants” should be aware of ones’ own immigration history on one dimension or another. But here also comes the tricky part: it is clearly not enough with just the message. People’s minds may change, but they don’t change easily, and they are constantly under the influence of larger political conditions and societal norms. And people learn from their surroundings and their leaders. So even with such thought-provoking and plausible messages on dropping one’s entitlement, I do believe that people are forgetful (about history as a whole and past of themselves) and that large efforts from multiple different levels are required.

Another very interesting point where dots are connected is when we were discussing the proportion of Asian immigrants in Baltimore and how using this “Asian” category might be problematic. This reminds me of my discussion with my friend the other day when I was asking him where do these different racial/ethnicity groupings that we encounter in the U.S. all the time come from + what’s the basis. And the answer is not sure, and probably problematic. He said himself that in his past international studies research, even the well-cited papers have been constantly altering the categories of race, which is pretty frustrating academically, as one would not be able to have a uniform way of grouping data collected from different studies. Moreover, we agreed upon that each “racial group” is oftentimes not really ONE group at all. Taking “Asian” as an example: there are East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, North Asia, Central Asia, and Western Asia. And each “Asia” contains drastically different countries and people that often times have distinctive characteristics, not to mention in each country there could also be even more differences. And I am assuming similar for other racial categories. And this is where the problem emerges: what do we mean and who are we trying to refer to when we use race as a category? Would we care to look comparatively within-group and between-group and study if between-group differences are significant enough for leaving the within-group diversities aside; and what does the (statistical) significance mean? Is it okay to use a significance to squish groups into “groups”? This would definitely be a topic that I would love to learn more about.

CIONNE GATES | BY PEACEFUL MEANS

One of the main objectives of the Peace Camp is to enlighten our students on the assigned peace heroes of the month. For this year, all of the icons being presented are women in color directly involved with different sectors of their community, and this can strengthen the notion of how sustainable social work can appear in multiple ways. Specifically, Francia Elena Marquez is an Afro-Colombian environmental activist who has been protesting against the government for illegal mining on ancestral lands for natural resources like coal and diamonds. With this one extraordinary women, the kids are able to visualize a community organizer doing social work in another part of the world that supports initiatives towards a healthier Earth.

Given each week is a new peace hero, we have a variety of lessons that approaches the core values of the hero through other adjacent lessons in math and science. When we were discussing the importance of Stacey Abrams against voter suppression for communities of color in the South, I taught my math class ensuring the students become acquainted with each other socially through the personal data of their lives. As they all were able to equally participate and voice their preferences for specific interests, the concept of systematic oppression of certain voices through exclusion of voting elucidates the significance of a democracy. Moreover, another nonprofit organization called Art with a Heart volunteers their time on Fridays to make arts and crafts with the kids relevant to the champion, such as making homemade buttons decorated with social issues we support. Uniquely, my placement at By Peaceful means has improved my personal understanding of the world in addition to the ways we can have effective discussions with others about the positive strides to making the world a better place. Going forward, we can work with more nonprofits that have niche objectives to enlighten the students about some icons in their local community and how it has made impacts on the culture of our world.

KUSH KATARIA | JUBILEE ARTS

This week was pretty good for my internship at Jubilee Arts. My placement Jubilee Arts is a community based arts non-profit that provides art classes to the communities of Sandtown-Winchester, Upton, and surrounding neighborhoods. There are a lot of other art focused non-profits throughout Baltimore and partnered with CIIP. I could definitely see some collaboration with the other art focused non profits, specifically those focused on youth. Art can provide people with a voice and a chance to express themselves and every youth should have the opportunity to learn and practice art. I could envision a combined art show or art walk between all these youth community arts nonprofits.

Jubilee Arts does more than just art classes. I am currently working with their Youth in Business program, which gives youth a chance to work in a team to create a t-shirt design and then go through the entrepreneurship process of selling those t-shirts. This program teaches kids the basic skills of design and entrepreneurship, giving them the tools to start their own businesses one day. This program definitely overlaps with some of the education and career development nonprofits that my fellow CIIP interns are a part of. Education and career help/mentorship are so essential for these youth in Baltimore. Having a guiding hand and learning about career planning can provide youth the tools necessary to take a hold of their lives. In the Youth in Business program, once a week we have a goal planning workshop led my another community member. In this we discuss with youth, who are anywhere from 15-20, what their personal goals are in life and how they can reach it. In this discussion based section, I was able to hear about the challenges youth in Baltimore face to achieve their goals. I common theme that I saw was that every one has a goal, but there are just so many barriers to achieve it, whether it be family commitments or lack of guidance, that people sort of give up.

Last week an alumni mentor shared his story. He talked about how he didn’t want to end up like his peers at school, doing minimum wage jobs or just simply surviving. He said that he didn’t want to just be surviving, he wanted to live. He was always interested in design, but never really pursued it until he met the amazing people at Jubilee who gave him support and encouraged him to follow his goals. It then hit me how important having a support system is and people who are there with you to push you towards your goals.

FATIMA MENDOZA | OUT FOR JUSTICE & OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER JAMES TORRENCE

Well, I have the pleasure of not just having one placement, but two. Because of that, I am constantly dealing with intersections across placements. I intern at both Out For Justice and the Office of Councilman James Torrence, and in both places I have been dealing with issues related to returning citizens and other issues post-incarceration. At Out For Justice, the organization is dedicated to those issues, while with the councilman I see a variety of issues. At the Office of Councilman James Torrence they deal with a plethora of issues. For instance, my job is to do research on offices of returning citizens, food insecurity, and garbage disposal. Because of the nature of the councilman’s office, I’m exposed to a vast array of issues that intersect with the other placement areas. I have also gotten the chance to sit there and listen to the whole list of issues going on in District 7 and their ideas/plans that the councilman and the team has for solving them. However, even with Out For Justice, which is primarily focused on criminal justice, that work I have done there has intersected with issues of employment, job training, mental health, substance abuse, and food access. Recently, I have been in charge of compiling the weekly newsletter, so it’s been my job to be on the lookout for events that may be of interest for the people. This means that I have gotten to familiarize a bit more with different organizations and issues across Baltimore. At the moment, I’m also doing research into incarceration and recidivism rates. Something that I have noticed is that the studies on these topics are very male dominated, and so I have made it a point to be cognizant of that and specifically look into how studies and organizations deal with women and their reentry as well.

MELANIE PILLACA-GUTIERREZ | OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER ZEKE COHEN

At a city council office, intersectionality and collaboration can be found at every corner of the work that passes through the office. During my time as an intern, I have been able to see this firsthand. This past week was the monthly meeting of the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan work group, which consists of community leaders and organizations in the four target neighborhoods of Southeast Baltimore. While the Councilmember Cohen and his office are the facilitators of the, they have collaborated closely with the work group on it’s recent progress – such as lighting upgrades and addressing public safety concerns.

One organization that is part of the work group is Dundalk Renaissance, a community design organization, which has spearheaded the action of creating new neighborhood gateway signs which will improve the sense of place and spruce up the appearance of the entrances. In order to address public safety concerns, the councilmember’s office has organized a Graceland Park Task Force which meets regularly to address the activity of people engaging in sex work or victims of sex trafficking in the area, one of the four target neighborhoods. This task force has teamed up with HER Resiliency, a non-profit that conducts outreach to individuals like this in Baltimore. Despite the pandemic, they are still making progress in successfully providing services to these individuals. The task force serves as a useful avenue for them to learn about community concerns and knowledge that could help them in their outreach strategies. This past week I also was able to work with an administration member of a local elementary school in the Graceland Park and O’Donnell Heights community, who is interested in organizing a community resource fair right before the beginning of the upcoming academic year. Our office was able to assist in submitting the Special Events application to the Department of Transportation in order to ensure road closure and food permits for the event. The city council office successfully serves its constituents by working with other organizations to both assist and uphold their own missions of serving communities in Baltimore.

SUZY SCHLOSBERG | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

I cannot believe that I’m going into the second to last week of my placement. This summer has flown by, and it feels like I literally went into my first staff meeting a few days ago. Now, I’m about to head into my last. When I think about the work that I’ve done this past month and a half, I feel proud of all that we’ve been able to accomplish despite the virtual and remote challenges. I think one of the hard things I’m realizing as we wrap up is accepting that what I’ve been working on is one piece of a much longer, greater process, and even though I won’t be able to see all the projects I’ve worked on to their end, I do believe (and hope) that my support has been meaningful. On collaboration, I’ve witnessed a lot of ways in which CBP works with other CIIP placements— all summer, we’ve been working with Danae and Minju at 29th Street Community Center to iron out the Outdoor Programming Series. We have also been continuously working with Sigrid and Maura at Station North to contact and book artists, musicians, and performers for the events. I wonder if we drew out a web of all the connections between CBP and other placements, how much of Central Baltimore we could cover? I’ve seen how important these connections are for making things happen in the city— we wouldn’t have been able to book all the awesome musicians we’ve had at our three past Outdoor Programming events if Maura and Sigrid didn’t have the expertise in that area. As I go into the final stretch, Aaron and I have been having more conversations about how we could foster those connections in my professional future; I mentioned that I was interested in going to law school and pursuing law as an instrument for advocacy, so Aaron forwarded me the contact information of a Maryland State Delegate who used to be a lawyer for Earth Justice. I appreciate so much the amount of effort and care that Aaron (and the rest of the CBP team) is putting into making me feel like I have access to all the networks and opportunities that they do. We’ve also discussed briefly what it could look like if I continued working at CBP next semester through the CIIP extension program, and after thinking more about it, I’ve realized that I’m not quite ready to leave yet. I would love to continue supporting these projects as much as I can. I never would’ve guessed at the beginning of this program how attached I would become to this organization and the people I’ve met—when I do get back on campus in the fall, I’m definitely going to visit the office and go on a tour of all the places I’ve been thinking and talking about but have yet to see.

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