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 baltimoretraces.org

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

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, Reacts to the Freddie Gray Story on The Marc Steiner Show

Kimberly MoffittOn April 23, WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show hosted a panel discussion on reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died of a spinal injury a week after being chased and tackled by police officers in Baltimore. The story has drawn national attention and has sparked widespread discussion and debate.

Kimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, participated in the discussion along with several longtime community organizers and activists, including Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and Executive Director of Orita’s Cross Freedom School; Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West, a man who died while in police custody in July 2013 in Baltimore; Megan Sherman, Producer at The Real News Network; Tim Wilson, co-Director of On Our Shoulders; and A. F.  James MacArthur, blogger for the Baltimore Spectator, who spent several months in jail in 2013, following a standoff with the police.

During the program, Moffitt discussed her viewpoints on the city’s reaction to Freddie Gray’s death and analyzed some of the language used by city officials in discussing the case. To listen to the powerful segment in its entirety, click here.

Kimberly Moffitt, American Studies, and Donald Snyder, Media and Communication Studies, on The Marc Steiner Show

Kimberly MoffittOn March 31, Kimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, guest hosted The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA Radio. During the program, Moffitt led a cultural roundtable segment on youth and social media and Confederate flags on license plates. Donald Snyder, senior lecturer of media and communication studies who developed and teaches a course entitled Social Media: Networking and Mobility, participated in the engaging discussion and reflected on the meaning of social media for today’s youth.

Donald Snyder“People made questionable decisions before social media. The key distinction is that social media creates a sort of permanence to those bad decisions,” Snyder said. “And in thinking about that issue, the point becomes in terms of the young people, is making sure they are understanding the implications of the decisions they make.”

Other panelists included Catalina Byrd, media consultant, political strategist, and co-host of “No Hooks for the Hip-Hop Chronicles” on WEAA and Dr. Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead, assistant professor of communication and affiliate assistant professor of African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland. To listen to the segment in its entirety, click here.

Mill Stories to be Screened at International Film Festivals

46-Mill-Stories-640x425A film by Bill Shewbridge and Michelle Stefano has been selected to be screened at several prestigious film festivals in May and June. Produced by Shewbridge, professor of the practice of media and communication studies, and Stefano, visiting assistant professor of American studies, Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point Steel Mill is a documentary based on the stories gathered through the “Mill Stories” project. The project seeks to document the sociocultural impacts of industrial decline and help amplify the voices of those affected by it in the Baltimore region.

The documentary has been selected to screen at three upcoming film festivals: the 14th Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic Film (Bristol, UK, June 16-19, 2015), the 12th International Congress of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) Film Program (Zagreb, Croatia, June 22-24, 2015), and the Workers Unite! Film Festival in New York City (May 19, 2015).

UPDATE 4/28: This event has been cancelled. The organizers are working to reschedule at a later date. For the latest updates, please visit baltimoretraces.org. Locally, on April 28, Mill Stories is scheduled to be screened at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park from 6-8 p.m. For more information on the event, click here. For more information on the “Mill Stories” project, click here.

Clifford Murphy, American Studies, in The Conversation

In February, Smithsonian Folkways released Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, a box set and book dedicated to Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter – an influential country musician in the early twentieth century. Clifford Murphy, an ethnomusicologist and adjunct lecturer of American studies, published an article in The Conversation which examined Lead Belly’s legacy and lasting cultural impact.

Clifford Murphy

“But beyond his influence on (mainly white) musical artists, the collection is significant because it shows how Lead Belly defied the racial categories of blues and country (as black music and white music, respectively) – stereotypes established by the burgeoning record industry of the Jim Crow era that persist today,” Murphy wrote.

In the article, Murphy honored Lead Belly’s influential musical legacy an analyzed the cultural context in which he performed.

“Thankfully, Lead Belly’s Smithsonian Folkways Collection defies those cultural reductionists who would suggest that firm racial categories of blues and country ever truly existed, and that “traditional” singers were uninterested in – or, worse, corrupted by – popular music. The set’s 108 tracks may be a small sampling (Lead Belly claimed to be able to sing 500 songs without repeating one – and he likely knew far more). But a bi-cultural reality glimmers within the set’s five CDs,” Murphy added.

To read the full article titled “Lead Belly’s music defied racial categorization,” click here.