DIKSHANT MALLA - IMPACT HUB, WEEK 2
Last week I went to a talk where DevRock argued against Beyonce's critics who said she was capitalizing black suffering through her super bowl show. He said that although Beyonce is a multi- millionaire, her music is an attempt to bridge connections between the older and younger generation. By wearing a beret that saluted the Black Panthers, Beyonce allows her Behive, mostly composed of generation, to research what it means to wear a beret, or even at the most basic level research about the black panthers. This message really resonated with me because I also see myself as a connector, someone who is a middle-man. While I am certainly not saying that I am equal to Beyonce or that I am Beyonce, I do believe I am in a similar position. I know I am not an activist, I know I am not going to be the most effective grassroots community organizer because I do not feel comfortable telling marginalized black people what they should do with their community. In similar vein, I know I am not comfortable working in the private sector because I am not able to tolerate whiteness at 100. For a long time I was scared and frustrated because I know I didn't want to be in either end of this spectrum, but after starting working at Impact Hub I have learned to embrace the middle position I am in, as it is an asset that is valuable to guide the future of Baltimore in a equitable way. Now that I know I am a connector, hopefully I can make connections that can be beneficial to people, organizations and the whole city of Baltimore
TARAH FITZGERALD - UNITED WORKERS, WEEK 2
“Watch not to step on anyone’s toes,” this is what my cohort member and colleague was told after she met with me Thursday morning for some fair development chit chat and brainstorming over a cup of coffee at my new favorite cafe, Charmingtons. What could her supervisor have possibly meant? All she did was talk to me about my organization’s work around community organizing, and ask for some advice as she takes on the task of surveying over 5 neighborhoods in Central Baltimore. United Workers has over 15 years of experience with community organizing and now that I have had my orientation, I know how they work and have had some similar experience with canvassing and surveying in adjacent communities. It made complete sense that my colleague would ask for some advice, yet still her supervisor made her feel uncomfortable and challenged in her decision to reach out to me. It was this awkward and suspicious reaction to our meeting, that I began to notice the bureaucratic influence that has possibly shadowed her non-profit and several other non-profits around the city. It also made me realize how lucky I was to be placed at United Workers, a very liberal and righteous organization that does not let red tape or political objectives influence their fight for human rights in any way. I was able to talk to my co-workers and supervisors at United Workers about this incident in a way that was unfiltered and genuine and they offered the same candid response. I have come to realize that I am not someone who does well in a job or organization that is subjected and influenced by larger political aims. I have also come to terms with the fact that I am probably going to get fired, a lot, if I ever join an organization that places such restrictions on me. But, I guess that’s okay right? Shouldn’t I always be trying to get fired? Haha. I’m starting to really like that idea.
MOLLY HIRSHIK - FUSION PARTNERSHIPS, WEEK 2
Saturday mornings I usually sleep in, but not today. Instead, I woke bright and early and made my way over to Hampden where one of the managing partners, Polly, lives. We were having a staff retreat—the first in many years. I guess since it was at her house, it was more of a staff stay-cation. She had a beautiful arrangement of fruit, muffins, frittata, and yummy eats that it definitely had a retreat vibe in a bed-and-breakfast kind of way.
Fusion is going through a lot of changes as they scale up their operations. This development comes with the growing pains of having to formalize many of their processes and deal with uncertainties and decisions that will impact their future. In addition, the office is undergoing a renovation and expansion, which means that there’s no certainty your desk will still be in the place you left it the day before. Simultaneously, the normal work Fusion provides still needs to get done.
The point of the staff retreat was to address some of the changes and chaos. A human resources consultant, Francine, facilitated the retreat’s activities. After settling in, we did an icebreaker/warm-up activity that she called Telephone Pictionary. We each received a stack of index cards, with a common idiom related to conflict management on the top card. Some of these included “beating a dead horse” and “rubbing someone the wrong way.” We were first tasked with placing the first card in the back of the deck and then drawing our best pictorial rendition of the phrase on the following card. Once that was done, we passed them clockwise, and tried to interpret the drawing we received. Then we passed clockwise. This rotation happened a number of times until it had come full circle. Just like in the game telephone, the interpretations and drawings got more and more outrageous each turn, warping into something completely different than the start. It was a light-hearted and fun activity that highlighted the importance of clarity in communication, and how easily things can be interpreted in different ways. We then talked about types of conflict. Francine outlined four main types: conflict of values, power, economic, and interpersonal. We discussed examples of each and shared anecdotes about how we resolved each type in our personal lives.
For our last activity, we discussed the main types of conflict resolution: competing, which was assertive and uncooperative, accommodating, which was unassertive and cooperative, avoiding, which was unassertive and uncooperative, and collaborating, which was assertive and cooperative. The fifth was compromising, which was the middle ground of assertiveness and cooperation. We discussed pros and cons of each, and people shared which category they felt most represented them. Everyone spoke candidly and listened actively. I truly felt part of a community, much more than a mere group of individuals who work in the same place. The passion for their mission, for helping Baltimore, and the love they had for each other was apparent.
This retreat reminded me a lot of training meetings for Outdoor Pursuits, the outdoors program at Hopkins that I am an active part of. We had actually done the conflict management style activity before, and Telephone Pictionary is a classic game on the Outdoors Pre-Orientation trips I lead every August since coming to college. Outdoor Pursuits invests a great deal of time into self-reflection and personal development. Just like when these activities had made me feel at home with Outdoor Pursuits, I similarly felt part of Fusion’s small caring community. Last week I had settled into the Fusion workplace, and after this retreat I felt like a part of the Fusion family.
RYAN LUCAS - STATION NORTH ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT, WEEK 2
The past week was a great opportunity to further my current work at Station North, experience a variety of new situations, and continue to expand my knowledge about the community I'm working in and Baltimore in general.
The week began with attending the Maryland Arts & Entertainment Districts Annual Meeting, which was a conference of all 22 state-designated A&E Districts to discuss exciting things like public signage and grant writing! I kid, it really was interesting to see how Station North functions as an A&E district compared to ones designated in places spanning the Eastern Shore to near the West Virginia Border. My biggest takeaway from the event was the dilemma of what the idea of an "arts district" is trying to accomplish. Is it to foster a strong and vibrant artistic community? Is it an initiative to promote development through art endeavors? Or is it just a way to turn your town into a tourist attraction? It seemed like the third was what the majority of districts in Maryland chose, and Station North as a hub for artists, live/work studios, and galleries in Baltimore is a contrast to the aims and ambitions of the others. I hope to further explore the effects of the designation of Station North as an A&E district and what that means for things like gentrification in Charles North and Greenmount West.
The rest of the week has been a blur. I've helped search for possible foundations to reach out to for funding for the Station North Mini Golf Project, helped run an event on the Ynot Lot, and hung flyers around Charles North and Greenmount West in anticipation of our block party next Friday. Every day is something different which is an aspect of this internship that I really appreciate.
I think one of the most interesting and fulfilling parts of my internship so far is meeting and seeing important people and places in the art scene in Baltimore. I've crossed paths with Gaia (real name Andrew), a world-renowned street artist from Baltimore several times, and have gotten to know several of the most well-established galleries and studios in the city. It's a community I'm incredibly isolated from, being a Hopkins student the school isn't exactly known for its vibrant arts/music scene (don't get me wrong I'm not trying to take away from what does exist) so its one part of Baltimore I've been able to learn a lot about in such a short period of time. The internship could not be going better and partnering with my specific non-profit has certainly been the right fit for me.
I'm looking forward to the week ahead as we ramp up preparation for the block party. There's still a lot of work to be done and there's still plenty of promotion that needs to be handled so I'll certainly be incredibly busy in the next couple days.