The Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University currently hosts Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, our current Museum on Main Street exhibition. Creating their companion exhibit, Democracy on Delmarva, allowed the staff at the Nabb Center to explore their Nutters Election House collection. The Nutters House is Wicomico County’s last surviving election house. Melinda McPeek, Nabb Center’s Curator of Exhibits and Engagement, writes about the process here.
In our last blog post, McPeek discussed the process of creating Democracy on Delmarva. Read that here.
When the Nabb Research Center was selected to host Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, it was the perfect opportunity for us to take on the monumental task of cataloging and processing a significant political collection in our holdings—the Nutters Election House collection.
Originally constructed in 1938, the Nutters District Election House is the last surviving election house in Wicomico County, Maryland. The Election House previously displayed the large collection of political memorabilia amassed by John Jacob, former president of the Wicomico Historical Society. In 2001, this collection was donated to the Nabb Research Center as part of the larger Wicomico Historical Society Collection. It contains over 2,500 objects and archival items from national, state, and local political campaigns spanning from 1820 to 2004. Included in the collection are hundreds of campaign posters and buttons, ballots, voter registration ledgers, and many campaign novelties such as McKinley’s soap baby and a Jimmy Carter wind-up peanut.
While the collection had been accessioned and inventoried, it had not been fully cataloged. In the year leading up to Voices and Votes, curatorial student assistant Sabrina Tarver, graduate assistant Marianna Agazio, and museum studies intern Samantha Steltzer researched, cataloged, photographed, and digitized items in the collection and entered the data into our PastPerfect collections database. Throughout the process, we were able to identify objects for possible inclusion in our companion exhibit, Voices and Votes: Democracy on Delmarva.
As part of a field study for the University of Maryland MLIS program, graduate student Nicole Kulp worked with Ian Post, our local history archivist, to process and complete a finding aid for the archival portion of the collection. The finding aid is available online here.
On display at the Nabb Research Center is just a small sampling of campaign ephemera from the collection. The Nutters Election House collection is a treasure trove for those interested in political history and campaigns, and thanks to Voices and Votes, this resource is now readily accessible and available to researchers and Salisbury University students.
Voices and Votes is on view at the Nabb Research Center through September 25. The exhibition then heads to Sandy Spring Museum, where it opens October 10. Learn more about Voices and Votes. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
On Saturday, Voices and Votes: Democracy in America—our current Museum on Main Street Tour of Maryland—arrived at The Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University. Each Voices and Votes host creates a local exhibit to complement the Smithsonian Institution exhibition. The Nabb Center presents Voices and Votes: Democracy on Delmarva, which explores expressions of democracy and highlights stories of rebellion, resistance, and perseverance that have shaped Delmarva’s past and present. Melinda McPeek, the Nabb Center’s Curator of Exhibits and Engagement, gives us some behind the scenes info on the companion exhibit.
When the Nabb Research Center was chosen to host the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition, Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, it provided an excellent opportunity to dive into our collections in search of stories that exemplified the themes of the exhibit on a local level. Over the past year, Nabb Center staff, students, and interns have been on a quest to find historical documents, images, and artifacts in our collection that would bring to life stories of the people and events that help shaped democracy on Delmarva. The results of this treasure hunt form the companion exhibit, Voices and Votes: Democracy on Delmarva.
Some of the artifacts uncovered include a dairy pail that played an important role in the Wicomico Woman’s Club campaign to keep milk safe from tuberculosis and a 1795 letter to Caesar Augustus Rodney from William Peery that provides a glimpse into the emergence of our nation’s two-party political system.
A curious collection of diplomatic gifts from Brazil led us down the path to discover Maryland’s connection to Rio de Janeiro and the late Governor Tawes’ role in President John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress—a U.S. effort intended to promote democracy and provide aid to Latin American nations. One of the most exciting finds was audio recorded in 1963 by WWDC radio reporters on the streets of Cambridge, Maryland that captures the civil rights movement as it was unfolding on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
The Nabb Center also reached out to local area museums and libraries to participate in the exhibit. Several organizations provided stories, photographs, and artifacts that helped broaden the narrative. We are extremely grateful to the Eastern Shore Public Library, Worcester County Library, the Ward Museum, Taylor House Museum, and the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum for contributing to the exhibit.
Being selected by Maryland Humanities to host Voices and Votes and participating in the Museum on Main Street program has been such a rewarding experience. We hope the Voices and Votes exhibits promote discussion and inspire our student and local community to think about the democratic process, activism, civic engagement, and how their voice really can make a difference.
Voices and Votes: Democracy on America is on view at the Nabb Center through September 25: the exhibition arrives at Sandy Spring Museum on October 10. Learn more about the exhibition here.
Nabb Research Center will follow specific COVID safety protocols. The Nabb Center will open to the public on August 30. Prior to then, it will be open to members of Salisbury’s faculty, staff, and student body: members of the public may visit the exhibition before that date on August 17, 19, 24, and 26 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. A docent will be stationed downstairs to provide entry. As of August 30, the Nabb Center will be accessible to the public Mondays through Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. through September 25.
Voices and Votes: Democracy on Delmarva is on view in the G. Ray Thompson Gallery on the 4th floor of Salisbury University’s Guerrieri Academic Commons through December 10, 2021. Can’t make it to Salisbury? View the exhibit online. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
Bill Peak is the Communications Manager and all-encompassing “Library Guy” at the Talbot County Free Library on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He is the author of the novel The Oblate’s Confession (2014). Bill writes a monthly article for The Star-Democrat about working at the Talbot County Free Library. Here, he reviews The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay,our 2021 One Maryland One Book selection.
We will announce details of our One Maryland One Book Author Tour: check back here or sign up for our enewsletter. This essay was originally published in The Star-Democrat on August 1, 2021.
One Maryland One Book—the Maryland Humanities program in which people all across the state read the same book at the same time—may well be the most popular program the Talbot County Free Library offers. Of course our younger patrons will disagree with me about this, extolling in its place Children’s Librarian Laura Powell’s Story Time, but every year hundreds of their older co-patrons check out and enjoy a copy of the One Maryland One Book. Which is not to say all is sweetness and light. From time to time we do hear a grumble. Pretty much every year at least one person asks me, “Why are the One Maryland One Books always so upsetting?”
Well, I think the answer to that question has to do with the program’s primary goal: “to bring together diverse people in communities across the state through the shared experience of reading the same book.” One of the easiest ways to bring people together and get them actively sharing their understanding of a book is to stir them up, and one of the easiest ways to stir someone up is to challenge his or her presumptions about a particular issue. We have a saying back home in Kentucky: “It ain’t the things you don’t know what gets you in trouble, it’s the things you know for sure what ain’t so.” But I have good news for our loyal One Maryland One Book fans, I can pretty much guarantee you this year’s selection—while it may challenge a presumption or two—will make you smile, make you laugh, and make you especially glad you were alive and kicking when Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights got published.
For The Book of Delights—trust me—is just that. Ross Gay is a poet, a college professor, and one very wise man. “One day last July,” he writes, “feeling delighted and compelled to both wonder about and share that delight, I decided that it might feel nice, even useful, to write a daily essay about something delightful.” For the next year, from his 42nd birthday to his 43rd, Gay carried a notebook with him wherever he went, and every time he saw or experienced something that delighted him, he sat down and tried to describe it. The result is this year’s One Maryland One Book—page after page of everyday charms that too many of us (your intrepid reporter included) fail to fully appreciate.
Let me share a single example out of the hundreds Gay offers. At some point during his year of delights, Gay participated in a parade in support of women’s rights. As the mass of mostly women and a few men marched along, a little boy who’d gotten separated from his mother appeared in their midst crying loudly. The crowd immediately rallied around the child, offering him hugs, asking what his mommy was wearing, and assuring him everything would be all right. Gay, who’s a tall man, picked up the little boy and placed him on his shoulders so that he could see out over the crowd … at which point the crowd’s chant changed from “We Shall Overcome” to “Find his mommy, find his mommy!” Which, of course, produced Mommy pretty quickly. Child and mother were reunited to the relief of one and all, but it was Gay’s description of the brief ride he gave the boy that delighted me, and reminded me of another.
Years and years ago, when I was young and working shrimp boats out of Tampa, Florida, trying to live up to my Ernest Hemingway-inspired expectations of what a writer’s life should be, I agreed one day, while in port, to accompany a young married couple and their little boy to the zoo. The Tampa Zoo, at least in those days, was nothing to brag about, a small park with cages consisting of iron bars and bare concrete pads—in most of which an animal paced back and forth pining for lost horizons. Still, we made the best of the sunny Saturday and, on a whim, as we walked along, I offered the little boy a ride on my shoulders.
I would have been about twenty-two then, little more than a boy myself, and it was, I’m quite certain, the first time I ever carried a child on my shoulders. But the child, in the way of children, was perfectly comfortable with his mount, patting my head as we moved from cage to cage and, occasionally, kicking my chest enthusiastically with his heels. I had long since forgotten those kicks and that day till I read Gay’s book, read of his experience in the parade, and it all came back to me—the sun, the cages, that little boy squealing in the air overhead—and it was a delight, a delight that, had I examined it more closely at the time, probably would have made me realize I wasn’t cut out to be Ernest Hemingway. Thank God. And I thank Ross Gay for bringing it all back to me, for making the day I carried a child, whose name I no longer recall, something special, something I will not, I hope, ever forget again.
Via Zoom, on Tuesday, September 7, at 6 p.m., and again on Friday, September 10, at 2 p.m., I will host a discussion of Ross Gay’s delight-provoking book. If you would like to participate, a few minutes before the appointed hour, please go to https://marylandlibraries.zoom.us/j/93737632015 and then type in 679571 as your passcode. I will also host the Easton Book Group’s Zoom discussion of the book on Monday, September 20, at 6:30 p.m. This group is open to all, so if that date works better for you, please email Susan Sherman at email@example.com no later than 5:30 p.m. on September 20 to let her know you would like to participate. You’re going to love Ross Gay’s delightful book.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
Kenneth Childs III of Hazelwood Elementary/Middle School and Lynn Rashid of Marriotts Ridge High School were named this year’s Maryland History Statewide Day Middle and High School Teacher of the Year, respectively. Maryland History Day also nominates these teachers for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award, facilitated by National History Day: results will be announced at the National History Day awards ceremony this weekend. Childs and Rashid discuss the Maryland History Day program.
When discussing history education, Maryland History Day 2021 Teachers of the Year Kenneth Childs III and Lynn Rashid both talk about the joy of witnessing student discovery, whether it’s preconceived notions about a subject or the topic of history itself.
“I love changing their thinking on how history should be approached,” says Childs, who teaches at Hazelwood Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City. “History is not a series of events that happened in a vacuum. I love when students learn that they’re actually in charge of the narratives in history.”
Lynn Rashid serves as the Media Specialist at Marriotts Ridge High School in Howard County. “I love watching [students] uncover something unexpected. Often, we encounter a topic or event from a brief reference source or documentary and walk away with understandings that can be superficial,” she says. “When a student uncovers something that challenges their understandings or assumptions, I love hearing about how that information has changed their mind or the course of their research.”
Students participating in Maryland Humanities’ Maryland History Day program create original documentary films, exhibits, performances, research papers, or websites exploring a historical topic of their choice. The program encourages critical thinking and helps develop skills in research and analysis, writing, and public speaking.
Annually, Maryland History Day at Maryland Humanities selects a Middle and High School Teacher of the Year statewide. The organization also nominates these teachers for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year Award, facilitated by National History Day. A committee of teachers and historians selects one middle school teacher and one high school teacher for the $10,000 national award: National History Day announces the winner at the virtual National History Day Awards Ceremony this weekend.
“Honestly, I feel so honored to just be nominated. It means so much to be recognized and honored for the award, especially with this current year,” Childs says. “Students learn to analyze and produce critical thinking skills. I…am getting middle school-aged students to engage in a high-quality level of research that some college freshmen hadn’t done before.”
For Rashid, the recognition takes on another meaning as Media Specialist: she teaches the research skills and evaluates the students’ work at every stage. “The recognition is significant because it highlights what can be achieved with collaboration between classroom teachers and media specialists,” she says. For five months, students meet with Rashid monthly for 3-4 days. “The dedication and support provided to the students throughout this five-month process is extraordinary and being selected for the award is an opportunity to honor the hard work of each of the staff members and students that I have the privilege of working with.”
Rashid, who has been involved with Maryland History Day for about twenty years, feels as if the program can benefit students no matter what they pursue later in life. “I think Maryland History Day a great opportunity for students to learn research skills that will not only help them in their academic lives but in their personal lives,” she says. “For any information need or inquiry, people need to consult multiple sources, then evaluate those sources to make an informed decision. Whether the students go to college or not, this kind of inquiry process is important for learning new things and producing well-founded arguments.”
Childs appreciate the amount of agency students have in the program. “It presents students with the opportunities to control their learning experience and offers a series of ways to deliver the information that they learned,” he says. “Students are allowed to find their own interests and do a deep dive into the history of it.” Rashid agrees: “The information they learn is shared in a way that creates meaning and understanding not only of our shared past but sheds light on our future potential,” she says. “I have seen students who are turned off by research become engaged in the process because they are researching a topic that has personal meaning to them.”
One of Rashid’s students, Nadia Ghaicepour, received the Award in Civic Engagement and Action (sponsored by Maryland Council for Social Studies) for her documentary on journalist and photographer Jacob Riis.
“I was very excited for her! Nadia worked on this project in addition to her four academic classes,” Rashid says. “She took the initiative to research this topic outside of her social studies course and she worked hard to create something that I think is not just an analysis of the past but a lens with which to look forward as we tackle our current societal issues.“
Both teachers have witnessed the impact of Maryland History Day participation on students’ self-esteem. “I have seen students who don’t see themselves as stand out students develop the confidence to try new classes and join new activities such as theater, as a result of completing and competing with their final projects,” Rashid says as she recalls one “one shy, quiet student” who created a performance. “We were blown away by his work and referred him to our theater teacher. His performance as the lead in Macbeth is one we still talk about at MRHS.” Childs also talks of how Maryland History Day has encouraged some students to be more willing to speak in public, especially if they pursue the program for more than one year.
Rashid talks about the change in history education in the past few decades. “The program encourages the students to create their own meaning and understanding based on the information they uncover. History instruction in the last 20 years has really moved in this direction,” she says. “Students are provided with documents, photos and other artifacts from the time period and asked to analyze them and draw conclusions.”
This differs from Childs’ own experiences with history education. “In school, I was taught facts. Even though I was good at remembering facts, I was never encouraged to immerse myself in the history,” he says. “History had no ramifications on my present-day world. I was not instructed to teach it any kind of way. I was lucky enough to be able to teach history how I always thought I wanted it to be taught to me.”
Jennifer E. Cupp is a multipronged supporter of Maryland Humanities. The seven-time Maryland History Day volunteer has also been a donor since 2015. A Training Consultant with the Veteran Benefits Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), Jennifer spoke to us about what makes our organization unique and the importance of the humanities.
Q: What drew you to Maryland Humanities?
A: I would say relationships. Aaron [Heinsman, Director of Advancement] and my sister have been friends since their days at the University of Texas at Austin…My husband and I moved to Maryland in 2014. Anytime I move to a new city, my desire is to be involved with the community wherever I’m at.
In 2015, Aaron reached out to see if we wanted to volunteer for Maryland History Day. My husband volunteered to be one of the [Maryland History Day] judges for the website and I volunteered to be one of the runners that directed students, parents, and sponsors knew where to go. Ever since that time, I was hooked. Once learning about and volunteering for Maryland History Day, from then on, I was hooked.
Q: What is the most satisfying part of supporting Maryland Humanities?
A: For me, it’s witnessing the actual impact and the potential impact of the reach Maryland Humanities has across generations, across [people of different backgrounds], things like that. An example of that would be One Maryland One Book (OMOB). Prior to COVID, I took the metro into the city for work and oftentimes I’d be on the metro, and different people would have whatever the OMOB selection is. Knowing there’s that one program that impacts the lives of different people, is an example of that impact and reach. If you want to sprout conversation with someone reading the OMOB you could.
Q: What makes Maryland Humanities a unique organization?
For me, what makes Maryland Humanities unique, it brings me back to what enriches us, whether it’s through reading or understanding our culture, our history of where we are. It allows us as a community to focus what makes us a community, a culture, and just brings us back to how a society should understand itself to improve itself. [Maryland History Day for example] allows students to focus on…students, teachers, on a single topic. For an entire school year, kids get to focus in on this collective thought process. Imagine if that were something that society did at every level, what we could accomplish and do. It’s just that exponential impact making a society understand itself, its present and its future. It’s something [exponential impact] that in my career I’ve sought.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
I just want to encourage others to get involved when it’s safe again. Sitting in a room [during Maryland History Day]. witnessing, especially at a junior level project. To sit in that room, they’re doing something many of us wouldn’t have done at middle or high school…they’re saying, ‘here’s a project that I’ve been working on, all year, allowing stranger…adults to judge them and give them feedback.’ And when you can make a connection with them…you can give them more resources. For example, one year a student did a project on the limited acknowledgement of the use of herbicides (Agent Orange) in Laos leading up to and during the Vietnam War. Through my work with the Veterans Benefits Administration, I was to provide information on additional resources (outside of libraries or online), the student could do in their research on this topic. These are the types of connections we can make across generations, backgrounds, disciplines, etc…when involved with an organization like Maryland Humanities.
Having humanities programs in communities, think about the people at the start of the American Revolution (flaws and all). They were reading books and speeches of their generation and earlier, within their immediate communities and the world, they were having conversations…they were having conversations about freedom from tyranny, right. They didn’t have as much distraction (in terms of social media, celebrity culture, etc). An organization like Maryland Humanities is taking us back to a place…where if we were to engage in that way again, where could we be? We can build a generation of people who can make revolutionary change,
You don’t want to lose sight of what the humanities and all the things that go collectively under the idea the humanities can do. That’s what encouraged some of the greatest things in the world to happen.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
Our Museum on Main Street tour of Voices and Votes: Democracy in America has launched: the tour kicked off Allegany Museum! For Museum on Main Street, a Smithsonian exhibition tours the state. Local host venues and their partners present companion exhibits and programs: this year, these exhibits explore our democracy, examine our civic responsibility, and reflect on how we lift voices in our communities.
Frostburg State University, one of Allegany Museum’s partners, created an exhibit that features memorabilia and Western Maryland people in public service. We spoke to Yelizaveta L Zakharova, Librarian at Frostburg’s Lewis J. Ort Library, about the companion exhibit and her experience.
Q: What and who does your exhibit include? Can you describe what each person is known for?
A: Our exhibit features notable politicians in Western Maryland who have dedicated significant portions of their careers to benefit our region. People highlighted include Senator J. Glenn Beall Sr., Senator J. Glenn Beall Jr., Cas Taylor, John Bambacus, and Lucile Roeder. Senator J. Glenn Beall Sr. and J. Glenn Beall, Jr., whose papers provided the foundation for the J. Glenn Beall Archives, were two out of the three only U.S. Senators to serve from Western Maryland. Cas Taylor served as the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994-2003. John Bambacus served as Mayor of Frostburg for four terms and in the Maryland State Senate for two terms. Lucille Roeder was the first woman to serve for the Cumberland City Council and first woman to become Allegany County Commissioner.
Q: How did you decide to participate in Voices and Votes?
A: I was recruited by Vic Rezendes, Vice President of Allegany Museum and the [Western Maryland] Voices and Votes host. Vic asked Frostburg to come up with a companion exhibit for the traveling exhibition and helped us come up with the theme for our exhibit.
Q: How did you choose the exhibit’s focus?
A: We had a discussion with Vic Rezendes and our Library Director, Dr. Lea Messman-Mandicott, early on where we decided to focus on local political leaders. The J. Glenn Beall Archives features several of these local leaders.
Q: After selecting the subject matter, would you discuss the process of developing the exhibit?
A: I decided to focus on five different political leaders and have our welcome exhibit feature memorabilia from the Albert and Angela Feldstein Collection. I asked Al Feldstein which local politicians from his collection he would suggest focusing on for the welcome exhibit case and he helped me pull that exhibit together. I was also very excited to get the opportunity to showcase the giant poster of Mike Steel from the Feldstein Collection (it’s about 10 feet tall!).
For the exhibit cases that featured the political leaders, I used materials from the J. Glenn Beall Archives and borrowed some materials from the Allegany Museum. It was suggested by leadership in the Allegany Museum to do an exhibit on Cas Taylor which I was happy to accomplish. I also worked with Sandra Roeder who helped provide personal artifacts depicting the career of her mother, Lucile Wilcox Roeder.
Q: Why is the topic, Voices and Votes, important now?
A: Democracy is making sure your voice is heard. Many of the political leaders I featured in our exhibit started small and started locally. One was a restaurant owner, another was raising two young children when she decided to go into local politics. The third was a Vietnam veteran and a college professor. Many of these people were not wealthy or from prominent families. The local residents made their voices heard and elected people who represented them here in Western Maryland. Every vote counts!
Q: What’s the most valuable part of being a host site’s partner? Can you discuss your experience collaborating?
A: It was a lot of work for me, but that is because I decided to be very ambitious! I am pleased with how the exhibits turned out. The Allegany Museum was very helpful when I asked to borrow materials for my exhibit. Being a partner is also an opportunity for publicity and attention on your institution from all the outreach Maryland Humanities does. I am hoping that my companion exhibits will be an opportunity for the local community to also learn about the J. Glenn Beall Archives.
Q: What would you like visitors to get out of the exhibit? The exhibit paired with the larger exhibition?
A: An appreciation for the amazing people who have done a fantastic job representing Western Maryland. I have learned a lot about these leaders’ careers and everything they have accomplished for our region. Cas Taylor made it his goal to make sure that Western Maryland got as many resources as possible, considering much of the industry had died by the time he became Speaker of the House. Without his efforts, it is quite possible Western Maryland would still not have an interstate. Without the efforts of J. Glenn Beall, Jr., there would be no Archives or political Institute on campus, neither would there be Canal Place [Heritage Park, Maryland’s first Heritage Area]. Lucile Roeder helped build up Allegany County a great deal while she was in office. The accomplishments are endless and it shows how dedicated our local leaders are to this region.
Q: What impact will this experience have on future Frostburg programming? On you? What impact do you imagine it will have on Frostburg students?
A: I hope students will get the chance to check out the exhibits! FSU is top among Higher Ed. Institutions for Civic Engagement every year. I hope students will understand how civic engagement benefits their community.
Q: What was your favorite part of the experience?
A: Learning about the pollical figures I researched, and the final product of putting together some higher-caliber display cases.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to include?
A: I want to thank Maryland Humanities for their dedication and hard work! The staff have been amazing to work with and I appreciate very much their efforts in promoting our exhibits and the video presentation we made of my companion exhibit.
Click here to watch the Voices and Votes Virtual Opening Celebration, which includes a segment with Zakharova. Learn more about Frostburg’s exhibit, including visiting information, at https://www.frostburg.edu/library/ or call (301) 687-4395.
Voices and Votes runs at Allegany Museum April 17–May 30, 2021. Allegany Museum is located at 3 Pershing Street in Cumberland .The exhibition will be on view Wednesdays through Sundays, 1:00–4:00 p.m. Learn more at alleganymuseum.org or call (301) 777-7200.
If you were creating a companion exhibit about the history of public service and civic engagement in your region, what would you include? Let us know in the comments!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
Global Health and Education Projects, Inc. (GHEP) is a recipient of one of Maryland Humanities’ Voices and Votes Electoral Engagement Project Grants. The organization will use the grant to host a a one-day virtual voter education and community conversation titled “U.S. Elections 101.” This workshop will educate participants on key aspects of U.S. elections, including the Electoral College, rules for voter eligibility, resources for voter registrations, and the differences between the U.S. electoral system and systems in other parts of the world. The event is geared toward Black citizens and immigrant groups, though all are welcome. We spoke to Romuladus Azuine, GHEP’s Founder and Executive Director.
Q: Can give a brief description of Global Health and Education Projects? How old is the organization?
A: The mission of the Global Health and Education Projects, Inc. (GHEP) is to eliminate health and education disparities or inequities in local communities in the United States and around the world by implementing programs that address the social determinants of health (SDOH) and human development. Social determinants are the underlying, root-causes of health and education disparities and poverty in our society. Our projects provide pipelines of access to opportunities and resources that help our community members break inter-generational cycles of health and education disparities and socioeconomic adversities. GHEP will celebrate its 10th year anniversary in August this year, so we are relatively a young organization.
Q: How did you come up with “U.S. Elections 101”?
A: GHEP focuses its programs around two major foci areas: health and education. Civic education (also known as citizen education or democracy education) refers to the provision of information and learning experiences to equip and empower citizens to participate in democratic processes. Many people don’t know this, but civic participation is a key issue in one of the five domains of the social determinants of health (SDOH), namely, the Social and Community Context. Civic education promotes civic engagement and support democratic and participatory governance. Civic education has been used to address a wide variety of political and governance issues (e.g. corruption, civic apathy or post-conflict reconciliation) as well as important social issues. Unlike in other countries, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the role of individual votes in the U.S. Electoral College system. When not well-understood, many people tend to think that it is not important to vote because the electors will elect whom they want regardless of the people’s votes. This misunderstanding can lead to poor civic education, voter apathy, non-engagement in civic participation and ultimately non-engagement in the democratic process.
Q: What is this project’s goal?
A: Our overarching goal here is to underscore the importance of civic education and participation as key planks of one of the social determinants of health. This project seeks to educate individuals from minority and immigrant communities on the key aspects of the U.S. elections that are similar to or different from other countries. Specifically, we are seeking to: 1) increase knowledge and awareness of the U.S. Electoral College; 2) understand the similarities and differences between the U.S. electoral system and selected systems in perhaps Africa and Latin America; 3) understand voter eligibility and resources for voter registration.
Q: Could you discuss the role the humanities–like history and literature–play in the U.S. Elections 101. How do the humanities help in the overarching goals of Global Health and Education Projects?
A: There is an age-long relationship between humanities and health. Specifically, the relationship between humanities and both healthcare delivery and health inequities are well-known and well-acknowledged in the literature. Experts agree that training in the humanities can help public health practitioners, medical practitioners, and those working within the field of health to better understand, relate to, and care for their patients or the populations that they design programs for. In fact, when it comes down to it, health care is fundamentally about dealing with people. Civic participation falls within one of the five domains of the social determinants of health (Social and Community Context), which is the underlying framework four programs.
Q: What couldn’t the organization not accomplish without the Maryland Humanities grant?
A: For many funders, presenting an argument that civic education is an essential component of addressing the social determinants of health is a long stretch. However, for Maryland Humanities, it was not so difficult pitching a compelling argument as to why a health non-profit organization should be educating the public on civic education. Without Maryland Humanities, I can tell you right away that there is no way this project would have been possible. The ability to present civic education in a non-partisan manner accessible to all people regardless of political affiliation is remarkably refreshing.
Q: How did you act when you received the grant?
A: We were very ecstatic. Giving us the ability to implement this work helps to lay the foundation for subsequent programming in this area of non-partisan civic education and participation. We are truly grateful to Maryland Humanities for finding this project.
Q: What pieces of U.S Elections 101 does the Maryland Humanities grant fund?
A: The Maryland Humanities grant funded the core components of the program. We had to leverage the goodwill of our volunteers and partners. It is important to add that all our 4 guest speakers are presenting pro bono. We are appreciative of their partnership.
Q: Why is this project important right now? In Maryland?
A: The 2020 Presidential election was a turning point in U.S. Electoral history. The Electoral College that was hitherto unknown was under the spotlight. Through all this, it was evident that unlike in other countries, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the role of individual votes in the U.S. Electoral College system. It is important for citizens to understand that they have power in the electoral process and that their voices count. For Marylanders, it is important to understand how they can engage with their elected public officials and have their voices heard.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: We are grateful to all our Guest Speakers for their time and expertise. [The Speakers are Barbara Crain, VP of the League of Women Voters of Maryland; Representative Dr. Oye Owolewa of D.C.; State Senator Malcolm Augustine of Prince George’s County; and Aisha N. Braveboy, State’s Attorney of Prince George’s County.] Having them as Guest Speaker truly brought out the importance they place on the voices of the people and their engagement in the electoral process. We applaud all our partners and our volunteers who worked hard to make this project see the light of the day.
VVEEP was funded by the ‘Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation’ initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Register for the event here. Learn more about GHEP here. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
Bold Beautiful Brilliant Girls Youth Empowerment Group (BBBYEG) is a recipient of one of our Voices and Votes Electoral Engagement Project Grants. As part of BBYEG’s mentorship program, youth have been learning about the processes used to suppress the votes of Black people, the Electoral College, and more. The mentees will collaborate and create a webpage on the bbbyeg.org site for younger audiences to visit and explore. This page will be used to educate and empower the mentees’ peers to learn about and reflect on the current state of our democracy. We interviewed twelve-year-old Brooke, one of the BBYEG mentees, about her experience.
Q: Can you tell me your name and age?
A: Brooke Lancaster and I’m 12 years old.
Q: How did you get involved in BBBYEG?
A: Well my mom introduced me to it. She’s friends with the leader.
Q: Can you describe the mentorship program?
A: Honestly, I love the program. It is a great opportunity to meet new people while gaining new information about certain things. It also helps encourage.
Q: Could you elaborate?
A:Well I have a mentor and she encourages me to try different things and express my feelings. The project was to highlight and educate people onto the website so they could gain more information.
Q: What kind of information?
A: The woman’s suffrage, the 19th and 15th amendment (which granted white women and Black men the rights to vote respectively), the electoral college, what the Democratic and Republican party are.
Q: What have you learned from the voting history project?
A: Well my topic was the women’s suffrage and the fifteenth and nineteenth amendment. The fight wasn’t easy. I learned that some of the leaders faced some discrimination like throughout the groups so that wasn’t easy as well. The group went to Congress a bunch of time, the House shut it down so they couldn’t get the amendment passed. But they kept trying over and over again because they weren’t going to give up. This was for the fifteenth and nineteenth amendment.
Q: What is your favorite part of the project?
A: My favorite part of the project was learning new information. Because I learned about this in school but not to this extent. And I think it’s nice to have projects that inform us so we can learn about what we didn’t learn about in school.
In school, I learned a brief part of it. I learned about the two main leaders, Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and I learned they fought but I didn’t learn it in depth. I didn’t know what the fifteenth and nineteenth amendment were. I didn’t really know the obstacles that they faced.
Q: What will you take with you in the future?
I think I will take the perseverance aspect from this project and I will apply it to my life. I don’t think I would have been exposed to this information. I think I will take an interest in writing.
Voices and Votes Electoral Engagement Project was funded by the ‘Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation’ initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Learn more about BBBYEG here. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
We recently awarded a grant to Main Street Connect, a community-centered apartment complex and community center where 25% of the apartments are designated for adults with disabilities. We are funding Conversations Matter, their free four-part series of events on racial justice that concludes on February 9. One session focused on disabled people of color. We interviewed founder Jillian Copeland about the project, and centering disabled people in antiracist education.
Q: Can give a brief description of Main Street Connect? How old is the organization?
Main Street is a lot of things and often hard to describe. Main Street is a nonprofit. Main Street is an apartment and community center and most importantly, Main Street is an inclusive community providing a place for all people to belong. Our mission is to create dynamic opportunities through affordable, inclusive housing and community engagement so people of all abilities can live their best lives.
Q: How did you decide to found Main Street Connect?
I have four sons. My third son, Nicol has developmental disabilities and medical challenges. When he was about 14 years old I began to explore what his future would look like. It started with google searches which was the springboard to virtual visits and local research. I was extremely disappointed to find a lack of opportunities in inclusive housing, programming and employment and thought it was unacceptable. That thought was the moment Main Street was born.
Q: How did you come up with Conversations Matter? Has the project changed since its inception, due to COVID-19?
Our Conversations Matter series was conceived during a conversation I had with my dear friend Donte Brown…After the passing of George Floyd, Donte and I, along with the rest of the world, were outraged and sat down to have a conversation about what we could do–a Black male and white privileged female—to effect change. The next day I sat with my Main Street staff and shared this dialogue and experience. Being a leader in the equity and inclusion space, we determined we have a responsibility to start this critically important conversation and hopefully effect change.
Q: How did working with disabled people impact how you put the program together?
Creating an inclusive space for people to belong means that we serve and provide programming for all people—all ages, stages, cultures, races, etc….As we created our Conversation Matters, and as we create all of our programming, we understand universal design and inclusive strategies are needed so people of all abilities can access our programming. On our Conversations Matters resource page, we have provided resources of various reading levels and different modalities. Additionally, this series offers accessibility options including line captioning and sign language interpreters and various opportunities for feedback and evaluation. Lastly, we share agreements prior to starting our program to ensure all voices are heard and conversations are respectful.
Q: Could you discuss the role the humanities–like history and literature–play in the Conversations Matter? How do the humanities help in the overarching goals of Main Street Connect?
History and literature both play a huge role in our Conversation Matters series. We learn from history and from literature and both are used as resources and a springboard for these important conversations. Our first session in our series focused on local black history. We felt it was important to start there, so people understand what happened and how we arrived to our current state of injustice.
Q: What couldn’t the organization not accomplish without the Maryland Humanities grant?
We are so grateful to receive funds from Maryland Humanities. Our Conversation Matters series is free of charge to all of our 200 participants because of the funds we received from Maryland Humanities. Additionally we are able to give a stipend for our many incredible and inspiring presenters and panelists who shared their experiences and expertise and empowered and educated our audience.
Q: How did you react when Main Street Connect received the grant?
We were THRILLED when we learned we received the grant. We sent an email to the team and our thought partners which was replied with several smiley faces and celebratory emojis! Thank you to Maryland Humanities for validating the need for conversations like these to occur, for helping us promote social and racial justice. Thank you for providing an equitable space so we all have the opportunity to participate in conversations, to learn from our history and to take social action.
The final Conversations Matter event is February 9 and is open to the public. Previous events in the series are available to watch online. Learn more. Grantmaking at Maryland Humanities is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the State of Maryland, and private donors. Grant awards are specifically funded by the Maryland Historical Trust in the Maryland Department of Planning. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.
The Maryland Women’s Heritage Center and Museum (MWHC) is one of is a recent recipient of one of Maryland Humanities’ Voices and Votes Electoral Engagement Project Grants. Tomorrow (January 28) at 4:00 p.m., MWHC hosts a virtual panel, “The Next 100 Years: Continuing the Work of our Maryland Foremothers,” to explore issues and strategies for promoting a stronger, more equitable democratic process. Jean Thompson, Volunteer Researcher at MWHC, writes about women’s current and past civic engagement.
Vice President Kamala Harris has paid homage to suffragists and voting rights activists for their valor and toil. A full century after the passage of the 19th Amendment confirmed women’s right to vote, the suffrage movement informs the historic moment of Harris’s inauguration and the future for women in political participation. Voter mobilization and political action by women, especially women of color, have been credited with making Harris America’s first female vice president.
“Women achieved political power through civic engagement, and that is a powerful legacy of the suffragists that we must always remember,” says Diana M. Bailey, executive director of the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center. “The suffragists never intended to win access to the ballot and then set that power on a shelf to gather dust.”
As we train our sights on the next 100 years, one lesson of the suffrage movement is that civic engagement and political involvement are as essential to the exercise of democracy as the ballot itself. How will women shape the nation’s evolving and uneasy democracy into a “more perfect union”? What barriers must be overcome to address women’s agendas for equity, family, health, education, and response to the pandemic, which has forced women from the workforce in disproportionate numbers? The call to action is clear.
“It is important for my voice [to be heard] as a Black mother, social worker, and advocate to overcome the unequal gender norms that plague our democratic processes,” says Jocelyn Route, Bladensburg, Md., Ward 1 Council Member, and a 2020 newcomer to public office. “I could only make true change by pulling from my ancestors’ bravery and strength to continue to fight for human rights for all, effective and transparent government, and equality. I am motivated by my children who ask me to change unfair practices. I share with them ‘I don’t have that much power, but I can make a difference.’ I truly work hard for them, longing to make life a little bit better.”
Council Member Route will be among the panelists discussing women’s civic involvement during The Next 100 Years: Continuing the Work of Our Maryland Foremothers, an online conversation January 28, 2021, from 4pm to 5:30pm. Joining her will be Elaine Apter, First Vice President and Program Chair of the League of Women Voters of Maryland; Alice Giles of the League of Women Voters, Howard County; Jacqueline Gray, Diversity Chair, AAUW Maryland; and Odette Ramos, Baltimore City Councilwoman, District 14. The conversation will be moderated by E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and associate professor in the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University.
This virtual event, sponsored by the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center with support from Maryland Humanities and The Voice and Votes Electoral Engagement Support Grant, is nonpartisan, free, and open to the public. Register here.
Ever since St. Mary’s County landowner Margaret Brent asked the Maryland General Assembly for the right to vote in 1648, Maryland women have fought for a rightful place in American democracy. In what became a multigenerational quest to gain what Brent was denied, suffragists employed sophisticated strategies for galvanizing support for voting rights. By 1920, farmers’ wives had gathered to hear suffrage speeches on the Eastern Shore, Black clubwomen on Baltimore’s Druid Hill Avenue had taught voter preparation classes at the city’s Colored YWCA, hikers had leafleted along byways in Western Maryland counties, marchers (some pushing baby strollers) had paraded in downtown streets, picketers had stood as sentinels in front of the White House in Washington. Many suffragists had overcome derision, prejudice, and sometimes violence in their quest for access to the ballot.
Within two years of the 19th Amendment’s passage, Harford County voters elected Mary Eliza Risteau to represent them in the Maryland House of Delegates, a first for a woman. In growing numbers, women began running for office. For others, the 19th Amendment did not deliver, an uncomfortable truth that still reverberates today: Through voter suppression, many Black citizens across the South were denied the ballot, and only through continuing political action did they gain voting rights in 1965. The 19th Amendment did not provide universal suffrage for women: Native American women began receiving U.S. citizenship and the right to vote in 1924, and Chinese immigrants in 1943.
Yet here we are: Today, a woman who is African American, Asian American, and a descendant of immigrants has an office in the West Wing. The challenge for American women now is to ensure that all citizens – and the next generation of women – understand civic responsibilities including voting, thinking critically about legislation, advocating for change, understanding others’ viewpoints, voting mindfully, and leading. The technology and tools of voting rights and activism change but the fundamental need for an active and informed electorate endures.
“My grandmother, Margaret L. Smith, a sharecropper who grew up in Council, N.C., influenced my work ethic and reminded me that if ‘I want something done the right way, I must take the lead and encourage those around me to join in…,’” said Council Member Route. “I don’t take my grandmother’s sayings lightly because I have witnessed power in numbers, and she is the brave Black woman that helped shape who I am today.”
Voices and Votes Electoral Engagement Project was funded by the ‘Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation’ initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.