Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, on Midday with Dan Rodricks and WBAL-TV

Following the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week, Kimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, was a guest on WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks to share her thoughts and perspective.

Kimberly MoffittMoffitt said that she is largely focusing her energy on what she is teaching in her classes: “I try to talk to my students and educate them on what the power structures are that exist in American society that are implicitly embedded in ways where we carry out certain actions in life that impact other groups of people in very negative ways,” she said.

“We can talk about housing policies, public education, a wide range of issues…the legal and judicial system and how that inadvertently or negatively affects people of color in this country. Those are the issues that I think students in particular who are young need to have access to and to see in order to understand how problematic the actual structure is.”

The following day on WYPR, Moffitt covered Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s announcement that he has advanced non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other local and national news topics. Earlier in the week, Moffitt appeared on WBAL-TV to discuss Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys, a charter school opening in the fall in which she is a co-founder. To listen to and watch all of the segments, click below:

Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys (WBAL-TV)
Talking about Charleston (Midday with Dan Rodricks)
Midday Politics (Midday with Dan Rodricks)

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, Responds to Rachel Dolezal Story on ABC 2 Baltimore

Kimberly MoffittKimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, was interviewed by ABC 2 Baltimore for a segment that explored the fixed nature of race in society following up on the Rachel Dolezal story. “We’re so comfortable to fixate people into boxes to say this is where you belong because of skin hue because of the activities you do,” Moffitt said.

Commenting on race as a social construction, she added: “I also think that it proves to us that as much as we as individuals would want to embody or claim our own racial categories, the reality is society dictates that to us and we don’t have control over that.”

“For members of the black community it’s a major struggle because we are used to people appropriating blackness, but we’re not used to people trying to embody blackness and actually assume it by phenotypically changing aspects of who they are in order to be seen as something that they aren’t,” said Moffitt. “For those of us who live and breathe this every day, it’s not something that we can put on and then take off.”

To watch the full segment, which originally aired on WMAR-TV’s 11 p.m. newscast on June 16, click here.

On Thursday, June 18, Prof. Moffitt was again interviewed for a live segment on ABC 2’s 6 p.m. newscast about the Charleston church shooting. Check back here for video of the segment to be posted soon.

Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, on The Marc Steiner Show

Kate DrabinskiFollowing a series of stories in City Paper about The Wire, WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show held a panel discussion on June 9 to examine the television show and its representation of Baltimore. Kate Drabinski, lecturer of gender and women’s studies, was a guest on the program and discussed the importance of watching the show with a critical mind.

“Part of me worries that The Wire is so good in terms of drama that people think watching the show means that they understand the depth of what’s happening in Baltimore and the complexities of the histories here and the complexity of the lives that are lived here,” Drabinski said.

Kimberly MoffittIn a separate program on June 4, Kimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, was a guest host for a segment on budget cuts and restructuring at Baltimore City Schools in response to the announcement that 159 staff positions were eliminated. Moffitt facilitated a discussion with Dr. Roni Ellington, associate professor of mathematics education at Morgan State University; Bobbi Macdonald, executive director of the City Neighbors Foundation; and Jimmy Gittings, president of Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association (PSASA), AFSA Local 25, who began his career with BCPS in 1971.

On June 16, Moffitt was co-host for an in-depth, two-hour segment on education in Baltimore including discussions about layoffs, the school budget, community schools, and alternatives to the current school system.

To listen to the segments in their entirety, click below:
Wrestling with the Wire
Baltimore City Schools: What Will be the Impact of Budget Cuts and Restructuring at North Avenue?
Education in Baltimore: Two-Hour Special

Clifford Murphy, American studies, Examines Country Music’s Misogyny and Centralization in The Conversation

Clifford MurphyLast week, country radio promoter Keith Hill made a controversial comment about female singers that many decried as an example of country music’s misogynistic politics. In an article for The Conversation, Clifford Murphy, an ethnomusicologist and adjunct lecturer of American studies, provides a broader context, writing that the comments show how the centralization of country music has helped create a misogynistic environment.

Murphy describes how women have had a long history in country music, but often have a difficult with the country music industry when they go against expectations of female country stars. “The popularity of female country stars threatens Nashville’s obsession with defining…what is country music, and what country music is,” he writes.

Murphy also points to the centralization of country music as contributing to the problem of misogyny as it gives a few industry insiders the power to silence outspoken artists. He gives the example of the backlash against the Dixie Chicks when they criticized then President George W. Bush. “Popular, powerful women in country music voiced a political opinion that may have resounded with many of their loyal fans, but ran counter to the conservative politics of country music’s brand. Their resulting disappearance from country radio was nothing short of political censorship,” he notes.

Click here to read “Keith Hill’s comments about women in country music cut far deeper than misogyny” in The Conversation.

American Studies and Media and Communication Studies Students Produce Radio Series for The Marc Steiner Show

As part of the Baltimore Traces: Communities in Transition project, several American studies and media and communication studies students produced a radio series about two Baltimore neighborhoods in transition: Greektown and Station North. Baltimore Traces is an interdisciplinary project and collaborative teaching innovation that produces audio and video oral histories focused on Baltimore residents and neighborhoods.

On Friday, May 22, the radio series aired on WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show. Bill Shewbridge, professor of the practice of media and communication studies, worked with students in Michelle Stefano’s class, a visiting assistant professor of American studies, to produce an audio journey through the East Baltimore neighborhood of Greektown. The project brought students into the neighborhood where they conducted interviews with local residents and workers to explore the identity, history, and complexity of the community.

Businesses on Eastern Avenue in Greektown. Photo by Marouane Hail.

Businesses on Eastern Avenue in Greektown. Photo by Marouane Hail.

Students in Nicole King’s class, an associate professor of American studies, produced a three-part series on Station North. The students conducted several interviews to get a sense of a neighborhood that has been undergoing a great deal of transition. In one of the segments, a student captured audio at Red Emma’s Coffeehouse as workers fed school children and provided a safe place for the community the day after the Monday, April 27 unrest in Baltimore.

To listen to the complete audio segments, click below:
UMBC Students Present Baltimore Traces: Greektown in Transition
UMBC Students Present Baltimore Traces: Station North in Transition

The Baltimore Traces project is ongoing and expanded in the spring 2015 as part of a Hrabowski Innovation Grant, “Baltimore Stories: Emerging Media Across the Curriculum.” Previous collaborations as part of the project include Mill Stories (Michelle Stefano and Bill Shewbridge) and Mapping Baybrook (Nicole King and Steve Bradley). There is a public event scheduled for June 2 focusing on Brooklyn-Curtis Bay and Sparrows Point that will feature members of the two communities who will discuss the challenges they face and possible futures. For more information, click here.

Baltimore Traces: Communities in Transition (6/2)

Sparrows Point

Join the Baltimore Traces project team for an event focusing on two Baltimore communities and their shared legacies of industrial development: Brooklyn-Curtis Bay and Sparrows Point. The event will feature Mapping Baybrook, a media-based documentation of projects in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay and a film screening of Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point Steel Mill. Members of the Sparrows Point and Brooklyn-Curtis Bay communities will also discuss the challenges they face and possible futures. (Note: this event is rescheduled from April 28.) 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Chesapeake Arts Center
194 Hammonds Lane Brooklyn Park, MD

This is a free event. Parking is available.

For more information visit

This is event is funded in part through the UMBC BreakingGround initiative
and the Hrabowski Innovation Fund.

UMBC Faculty Provide Perspective and Reflect on Recent Events in Baltimore

In response to recent events that have transpired in Baltimore over the last several days, several UMBC faculty have engaged in thoughtful reflection and dialogue in the news around the complex challenges facing the Baltimore community. The substantive commentaries come from different viewpoints and add various perspectives to the ongoing conversation of the past week’s events.

John Rennie ShortIn The Conversation, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short wrote about three background factors that should be considered when asking why the violence and riots took place in response to the death of one young man: the momentum of the police brutality narrative, the lack of trust between police and minority black populations, and the stifled economic opportunities and limited social mobility of many inner-city residents. “This country needs to address structural issues of poverty and economic opportunity as well as immediate concerns of how we make the streets safer for all our citizens,” Short wrote.

Kate DrabinskiKate Drabinski, lecturer of gender and women’s studies, wrote about decades of disinvestment in Baltimore and uneven development that have disadvantaged largely low-income communities. “One of the dangers of seeing the riot as an event is precisely this danger of losing historical perspective about the ways the neighborhoods burning on television are the very ones that have been cut off from the growth of the city’s downtown core,” she wrote. Drabinski was also featured in a Bicycling Magazine article about her observations of Monday’s events.

Kimberly MoffittKimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, examined Baltimore City Schools and the important element of focusing on the mental health needs and frustrations of many students. “Now we are faced with the next generation of marginalized youth who demand to be heard, even as they are seen as counterproductive by those who continue to ignore their physical, academic, and psychological needs to be successful in an educational setting,” Moffitt explained. She also participated in a roundtable discussion on Southern California Public Radio about her thoughts on this issue.

Rita TurnerRita Turner, a lecturer of American studies, wrote an article for The Conversation that focused on environmental health issues: “Environmental injustice may seem like a secondary issue in the face of massive police brutality, poverty, and civil uprising, and I don’t suggest that it should preempt conversations about other forms of systemic racism. But as we talk about the devaluing of black lives and black bodies that has taken place in Baltimore and across the country and the world, we cannot ignore the ways that this manifests in a subtle and constant disregard for the health of marginalized communities,” she wrote.

Sue-Goodney-Lea__2013-239x300In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, Suzanne Lea, an adjunct professor of sociology, wrote about an in-depth study she conducted with her students to examine trends in police deadly force incidents that have occurred in the Baltimore/DC area over the last 25 years. The column outlined five key findings from the research, including the vast majority of incidents occurred early in an officer’s career. “Too often, without a video, police officers are exonerated via internal investigations based on rules that prioritize officers’ accounts. Let’s start collecting the data we need to track and systematically examine such incidents and use it to challenge and improve upon our policing until it fully reflects the integrity of our American ideal of equality under the law,” Lea wrote.

Amy BhattIn the Huffington PostAmy Bhatt, an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies, examined the question “what does it mean to be safe?” In her article, Bhatt discussed her experience living in the Federal Hill neighborhood and provided a closer look at discussions of property, race, and resources in light of recent events. “When we talk about safety, we need to look beyond our neighborhoods and ask how we decide who stays safe and who does not,” she wrote.

Tom SchallerIn his column in the Baltimore Sun, Thomas Schaller, professor and chair of political science, discussed the impact of inequality on the past week’s events. “Rather, the fact of social protest is prima facie evidence of political disgruntlement, and of an extant imbalance between those who wield power and those subjected to it. When these inequities persist and have no other form of expression, there will be unrest. And in this case, those suffering from Baltimore’s power imbalances are disproportionately black.”

Chris CorbettChristopher Corbett, professor of the practice of English, wrote a column in Reuters in which he discussed his observations and experience living in Baltimore for 35 years after moving from Maine. In his article, “Baltimore’s truth in Freddie Gray’s life and death,” Corbett examined the history and current state of many of the city’s neighborhoods in the context of the events of the last several days.

Jana Kopelentova Rehak, a visiting professor of anthropology, recently published an article on her applied anthropology collaborative project in Baltimore in partnership with Habitat for Humanity to address urban inequality, poverty, and health in relation to housing.

To read the complete news coverage, click below:

Baltimore riots: the fire this time and the fire last time and the time between (The Conversation)
Why Baltimore burns for Freddie Gray (Baltimore Sun)
Baltimore’s truth in Freddie Gray’s life and death (Reuters)
Baltimore cyclist catches riots in action (Bicycling Magazine)
Keeping ‘Us’ Safe in Baltimore (Huffington Post) 
Freddie Gray: death by legal intervention (Baltimore Sun)
The slow poisoning of Freddie Gray and the hidden violence against black communities (The Conversation)
Baltimore could become key election issue (The Philadelphia Tribune)
Black and young in Baltimore: a roundtable discussion (KPCC Radio)
With little choice, O’Malley defends Baltimore tenure (Washington Post)
Mayor Martin O’Malley Versus Governor Martin O’Malley (Governing)
Riots invoked as lobbying tool (Baltimore Sun)
Media coverage and politics (Midday with Dan Rodricks) 
Practicing urban anthropology in Baltimore