EVAN DRUKKER-SCHARDL | UNITED WORKERS - WEEK 2
On Thursday night, the Baltimore Housing Roundtable held its regular meeting at the Impact Hub. The bulk of the meeting was abbreviated because the artists and activists who created an exhibition on the structural racism of urban housing policy in Baltimore and the Bronx were to give a tour of their exhibit at the end of the meeting. The piece, entitled “Undesign the Redline,” brings viewers into the history of urban structural racism in the United States using powerful visual storytelling and interactive elements that allow people to visualize how they interact with the system that redlining and similar policies created.
Halfway through the third section of the exhibit, I was overwhelmed. I knew much of the history that the presenters discussed (though not all of it), but experiencing the history in its entirety—from slavery to community development corporations—made it feel tangible and immediate. I became conscious, too, that many people in the room felt these policies every day. Unlike me, they live on the east or west sides, or in Remington or Midway. I struggled to communicate my position in the exhibition.
After the tour, the Roundtable reconvened, and a community leader led the group in a reflection. People spoke about where they fit into the narrative, and I decided that it would be a good idea to bring my Hopkins affiliation into the space. I wanted to illustrate bending privilege and manipulating institutions and bad actors to the benefit of anti-systemic movements like this one.
It didn’t come out so clear, but I think the point got across, more or less. We broke into small groups to discuss the future of the Roundtable, and the people sitting at my table expressed their desire for a grassroots movement for community leadership and control of their land and bodies. The meeting became an occasion for people to explore their shared vision for the Roundtable.
CHIJIOKE ORANYE | LIVING CLASSROOMS, PATTERSON PARK - WEEK 2
I call it, “the calm before the storm.” Summer camp starts next week and my boss Maritza has given me paperwork and small tasks to prepare for the big Uhaul of kids in our summer camp at Patterson Park. I come in everyday to work with 2 other interns and the 3 staff. The first intern Lauren, is from Stevenson University, while the other, Maddie, grew up in Baltimore county. Lauren works with communication: coordinating events with other sites that benefit the kids and reaching out to other nonprofit organizations in the area. Maddie and I will be directly involved in advising the kids once camp starts. She’s excited because she “loves kids.” But I’m worried for her. These students can be very aggressive, disrespectful, and violent. I’m not sure if she’s ever worked with inner city kids of color before.
My boss once told me that people think highly off me and that if I wanted to get an initiative up and running this summer, she will be all for it. I was interested in increasing the effectiveness of the Patterson Park’s outreach to the families in the local area. People usually hear of the free services the Park offers by word of mouth or from just being previously involved. What about those families that are scared to be out there socially because of their immigration status, or that are disconnected from social atmosphere of Patterson Park. I told my boss about making a survey for youth to get at the best ways to reach them, whether via social media, group message, phones, etc. She was supportive. Then I asked if she could help me print the surveys so I could start the next day. She replied, “You know Chi, maybe we could do this next summer.” Oh man. This will be an interesting
LAUREN RALPH | THE FRANCISCAN CENTER - WEEK 2
I’ve been known to be described as a bit of a softie. Apparently not everyone cries at dog food commercials when the dogs look really happy as they run towards their food. Many clients of the Franciscan Center have heartbreaking stories and in my first week shadowing our social workers, I’ve fought back tears through multiple interviews. What amazes me is the resilience and faith of some of the people I’ve had the honor of sharing in the story of. If you ask the average Johns Hopkins student how they’re doing, they’re more than happy to enlighten you on all of the struggles of attending one of the most elite universities in the world. Most of our clients enthusiastically respond to my “how are you?” with “better than I deserve!” or “I’m here and I’m blessed.” As one client calmly explained to me how he had slept outside the last three nights, I fought desperately to match his strength and steadiness. How is it that I’m supposed to be the one with the answers and the resources, when I have so much more to learn from our clients than they from me?
By Thursday, I felt emotionally exhausted and entirely powerless. There is just so much need in the world and I feel such frustration with my limitations and own inadequacy. In my quest to be better for our clients, I have begun to ask each social worker what they recommend to stay positive. My supervisors are incredible and have all given me tremendous advice for self-care. Though I want to maintain my empathy and compassion, I must make peace with my own limitations before I can be of the most service.
RUMSHA SALMAN | UNITED WAY OF MARYLAND, PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT - WEEK 2
This week was pretty slow and repetitive. I guess that’s a good thing because that means I’m getting more used to working the 9 am- 5 pm life.
I’ve started to recognize familiar faces on the bus during my daily commute. Every morning, there’s a woman carrying a big white coat who sits in the front of the bus. She most likely suffers from schizophrenia and gets pretty vocal about the other passengers.
I’m worried that she’s homeless and have been thinking about the prevalence of mental health issues amongst people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore city. My uncle who lives in Pakistan also suffers from schizophrenia, and I’ve found it very strange to compare their two situations. How is it that someone living in the United States can’t access the right medication and housing compared to someone living in a developing country?
My supervisor explained how it’s often the catch-22 of needing ID to get ID that prevents people suffering from mental health issues from getting the right help. He recently started a new project to help alleviate this problem by making ID cards for homeless individuals. They can then use this card to get a social security card or a non-driver’s license from the MVA. These cards are the golden tickets to accessing many resources like food stamps, jobs, and sometimes even shelters that they are ineligible for without identification. I learned how to use Photoshop to make the ID and made my first one for someone who came by our office. It felt pretty great, and I’m looking forward to more direct-service work like this during the rest of my internship.
CORINA ZISMAN | MARTHA'S PLACE - WEEK 2
On a shelf in the kitchen, they had a little angel figurine. Walking through their house, noticing the movies they kept next to the TV, and the smell of roasting chicken, all I could stare at was their figurine. The residents were showing me the places where the paint was chipped, and the fact that their fridge stopped working, but I found myself staring at the angel figurine rather than the old paint job I was supposed to be inspecting.
The figurine was the same one my aunt kept in her kitchen. My aunt moved many times when I was a child, but that Angel always was the first piece unpacked and placed in her kitchen. Seeing this piece of my childhood, this piece of New Jersey, in Baltimore, felt grounding. In a place where I am such an outsider, this subtle reminder that familiarity was not that far away allowed me to focus on the similarities I had with these clients. Instead of focusing on the vast differences in our upbringings, our friends, our surroundings, and our goals, the angel reminded me to focus on the simple things which connected us. Our taste in clothes, our choice in movies, our favorite snacks.
In the midst of this completely unfamiliar world, where horror stories were dropped like the norm, I had forgotten how important these simple connections were.