Dikshant Malla - IMPACT HUB, WEEK 1
My first week has been awesome. On my first day I attended the opening of the Foundry near Port Covington and got to hear political figures like Elijah Cummings speak about the importance of manufacturing in Baltimore. I also had a chance to sit in on two team meetings about the work we are doing and offer suggestions to improve how we function in the future. I also got to attend two events, one where Impact Hub hosted Lester Spence and another one about Hip-hop in Palestine and the interconnectedness between Baltimore and Palestine. Tonight I will be attending my friends play about the Baltimore Uprising from a youth activist perspective, which I am very interested to see! This has been such a hectic week both on and off my work site, but I am so humble to have these great experiences already in the first week and cannot wait to see what's going to happen next!
Tarah Fitzgerald - UNITED WORKERS, WEEK 1
MLK was executed by the US Government. This is the belief of Willie the Baptist, discussed in his interview with Jan Rehmann published in the book Pedagogy of the Poor. This reading was my first task as an intern at United Workers. Every Tuesday we have an organizers meeting where we discuss a weekly reading, as well as, the challenges we are facing and develop solutions together to combat them. In this reading I was educated on the life of MLK, as a long time leader, and not just the author of the famous “I have a dream speech.” I learned that he was not just a civil rights leader, but a human rights activist. MLK was widely supported as a civil rights leader, the government and the public alike, he even won a Nobel Peace Prize. However, when MLK turned his energy toward human rights and not just civil rights, which Willie explains ended up only profiting the upper-class black population, MLK lost that administrative support. I learned it wasn’t the theory of civil rights that the government supported, it was the implications of the theory. With slavery illegal, the South lost its work force and the North could finally compete with the Southern industry and production once again. The result of the civil rights campaign, also serviced the wealthy black population disproportionately. The end of segregation opened the doors for black people to many businesses and schools, but if you didn’t have the money for the business or for the supplies and transportation to get to the schools, did it matter that you couldn’t get in in the first place? MLK realized the disparity in the success of civil rights and therefore created a new campaign, the Poor People’s Campaign. This campaign was meant to reach past racial divides and unite the poor so that they could rise up against the systematic oppression that kept them from ever overcoming poverty. Willie explains that it was this campaign that scared the government, it was anti-Vietnam and highlighted many of the systematic measures taken to keep the poor in their place. MLK was actually forbidden any media coverage of this campaign, no one would give him airtime or interviews because of the decline of administrative favor. It is this example of systematic oppression that we don’t read about in the textbooks it is hidden from our knowledge. Willie believes the transcripts of the assassination trials of MLK shows that it was not just the act of a “lone racist” that led to MLK’s death, but an “execution” by the US Government.
Through the discussion of this reading I realized the importance of creating your own media in order to tell your own authentic narrative. United Workers has their own media team that creates videos and tells stories on topics of housing, healthcare, and environmental justice free from the censorship of hegemonic forces. It is this free narrative that will not only free our media, but free our society from the labels the hegemon has placed upon us to further divide us. We discussed that it is the class system set up by the hegemon: Upper, Middle, and Lower, that keeps the poor divided and powerless. We must create a new language that actually depicts our current realities. The middle class has fallen; we must recognize this. Until we create a new language that reflects those who have enough and those who do not, we will never be able to truly unify those who are suffering in the way that MLK imagined. We must revive the Poor People’s Campaign, and that starts with organizations like United Workers taking the control of our narrative back from the oppressor.
Ryan Lucas - STATION NORTH ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT, WEEK 1
I would have never thought that my first task at my internship for the summer would be looking at wholesale prices for mini golf putters. But there I was, going on minigolfamusement.com to see how much a club would cost (it would set you back around $9.95 if you were curious). This past week, I was thrown right into the hurricane of a non-profit with only three staff members, writing grant proposals, sending out newsletters, finding potential corporate sponsors, and dealing with a forgotten painting left at the Ynot Lot.
The primary project I will be working on this summer is the installation of a public, artist-designed mini golf course that will span the Station North district, starting in Penn Station and having subsequent holes in several plazas and spaces before returning to the Station. Our organization received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and now we’re spending a significant amount of time figuring out how to actually implement it. There’s a ton of logistics to plan regarding having this come to fruition, and much of my day to day routine is devoted to figuring out how to make this work, whether looking at previous examples of artist-designed courses in Minneapolis and Indianapolis or analyzing disability access requirements that the federal government has created for mini golf courses.
The most valuable component to my week so far was the tour I was given of the Station North area on my second day, where I was able to see the community that I was working in for June and July. We walked through the residential areas of the district, then visited OpenWorks, an organization under construction that later this year will open up a community workshop across from Greenmount Ceremony. Visiting OpenWorks and seeing the variety of projects that have emerged recently in Station North have shown to me the creative spark of this city, the innovation that has emerged from brilliant artists and entrepreneurs. There are plenty of organizations that have emerged in the district in recent years that are fulfilling a need. The Tool Library allows people to rent out equipment to complete their projects, and Impact Hub is enabling startups to actually create their products. Additionally, I’ve loved learning about the art scene in our district. There’s a culture and flair to Station North that is apparent in buildings like the Copycat and the dozens of galleries and studios that exist. I met Gaia on Wednesday, who is arguably Baltimore’s most famous street artist. Connecting with Baltimore’s artistic community is a daily occurrence with this internship, and it only makes me more excited for the next seven weeks and everything else that is in store.