Here you can find transcripts of all Humanities Connection segments—both those broadcast on WYPR and those that are exclusively podcasts—beginning in 2019.
Autism Through a Literary Lens
May 16, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How can language used to write about autism make an impact on public discourse? The Writer’s Center in Bethesda explores this and more in “#OwnVoices: Autism Through a Literary Lens,” a one-day-only symposium. The event focuses on characters and writers with autism and features workshops for autistic individuals and parents of autistic children, as well as a panel. Panelist and writer Hannah Grieco is the mother of an eleven-year-old son with autism as well as a former teacher. Her byline has appeared in The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and more. Today, Hannah talks about how her son’s influence on her writing and how writing can help create a more inclusive world for those with autism.
HANNAH GRIECO: I started writing because I wanted my son to read about characters and experiences that felt both familiar and appealing to him. There just weren’t stories about kids like him, and the rare ones we found that included unusual, outlier kids painted them as characters who learned, over time, to become more typical. The story arc was always one of a character who changes to fit the world around him or her, and thus, finally, finds acceptance.
But I wanted something different when my son looked on the shelves at his school library. He wasn’t interested in fiction. Why would he choose to read about make-believe worlds that were just as exclusionary as the one he lived in every day?
I wanted to write about him and his friends. About a different kind of world.
As I wrote more and more, I began to also notice a lack of parenting and education pieces that addressed autism in respectful, elevating ways. Just like in fiction, most of the articles and essays out there focused on changing autistic kids. They emphasized the hardships of special needs parenting and of teaching atypical learners. They celebrated when kids were able to integrate into society, not as themselves, but as modified, “fixed” mirrors of the neurotypical children around them.
Any attempt at inclusion of these kids that were so “other” in nature was highlighted as inspirational. As if it was a great sacrifice, worthy of praise, to accept such children into the school and community. And the more I learned about autism and autistic thinkers, the more frustrated I grew as a parent and educator. Why was inclusion about my child changing, instead of the world learning to appreciate and embrace what was different about him?
It became my life’s goal to write about disability, parenting, and education in a way that reframed the conversation.
I want to encourage authentic representation of autistic people and characters: in articles in newspapers and magazines, in books and short stories, on TV and in the movies.
My son has to work hard to comfortably move through this world. He deserves some accommodation in return. He deserves to be seen as a human being with gifts and needs. Just like any other human being. I owe this to him and all the autistic people I love, all the autistic writers whose words I read, the autistic and neurotypical parents alike who love their autistic children.
It’s what we all owe to the people around us that we push to the margins, that we overlook so thoughtlessly instead of taking a second look and discovering the many gifts we’ve missed.
STEIN: “Autism Through a Literary Lens,” supported in part by a Maryland Humanities grant, takes place on June 8. Learn more about the event at writerscenter.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Voices of Baltimore Youth
May 9, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Did you know that since 2013, a student-produced literary magazine has featured feature the poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork of 450 students in Baltimore City Public Schools? CHARM: Voices of Baltimore is a literary organization as well as a magazine. Whitney Birenbuam, Humanities teacher at Midtown Academy, and Executive Director of CHARM, tells us more about the organization.
WHITNEY BIRENBAUM: “Daybreak in Baltimore.” “At Thirteen.” “Alternate Names for Her.” “My House on Conkling Street.” “We, Too, Sing America.”
These are titles of poems and prose published in the most recent literary magazine from CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth, both a student-produced magazine and literary organization. CHARM was founded on the importance of kids’ voices.
As a middle school Humanities teacher for thirteen years, I saw that my students learned the most when their work had a real purpose, and served an audience outside our classroom walls. They wrote podcasts calling citizens to action around gun violence. They published a book of immigration narratives from our school. I knew the impact this work had on my students, but was routinely surprised at the reaction from adults: “Middle schoolers wrote this?”
It was with this conviction—that kids’ voices matter and have a real place in our city’s discourse—that CHARM was born. Our mission is to help young people develop the skills of successful writers, cultivate a love of writing, and amplify their own voices. Since 2013, we have published seven literary journals with poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork from 450 students from more than 35 Baltimore City Public Schools.
CHARM magazine is produced by a dynamic student editorial board made up of middle and high school students from across the city. They determine what is published, as well as the design and feel of the magazine.
We’ve recently expanded our programming to further develop and celebrate youth voices. Our Young Writers Workshops are opportunities for youth to develop their writing skills through engaging, small-group sessions with local authors. The roster of authors includes D. Watkins, Elissa Brent Weissman, Sheri Booker, and journalist Erica L. Green. What better way to develop your own skills and confidence than working with a real author?
This year, we are piloting two new programs that drill deeper into skills and content. Through the Class Book Project, we partner with a teacher and class to develop a book based on class content, and publish a book of student work. CHARM Creative Writing Clubs offer young writers ongoing support with their writing, and take inspiration from famous works.
CHARM magazine’s student editors just completed production of a volume titled CHARM: For Your Inspiration that consists of nearly 50 pieces inspired by famous writers. They exemplify the varied and vibrant voices within our city–voices that are wise, passionate, silly, thoughtful, resilient, angry, hopeful, and deserving to be heard.
Ninth grader Marian Tibrey, here with me today, was inspired by Langston Hughes’s “I, Too” and wrote her own version” “We, Too, Sing America.”
STEIN: Learn more about Charm, a Maryland Humanities grantee, at facebook.com/CharmLitMag. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Water/Ways at Baltimore County
May 2, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Did you know more than 100,000 creeks, streams, and rivers flow toward the Chesapeake Bay across parts of six states? Historical Society of Baltimore County’s James G. Keffer talks about the history and stories of water in the County. The Historical Society is the first of six Maryland sites to host Water/Ways, a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition brought to smaller communities across the state by Maryland Humanities. Local Water/Ways host sites add their own local exhibits to complement the Smithsonian’s exhibition.
JAMES G. KEFFER: Water is perhaps the most fundamental ingredient of life on our planet. It makes up most of our bodies and covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface. Our cultures and societies have been greatly shaped by our proximity to, use of, and reverence for water. Our relationship to water, while obvious on the surface, runs much deeper than most of us think about on a daily basis.
The Water/Ways exhibit explores the influence of water on our past, how we connect to it in the present, and why we must fortify and secure it for our future. We will also tell the local water story of Baltimore County and our surrounding region. Less than 7% of the total area of the United States is covered in water, while that number is 12% for Baltimore County, and 21% for Maryland. When you look at a map of water in our region, it is clear that you are always near water, even when you don’t realize it.
From the earliest times, the bay and its tributaries were central to the lives of indigenous people in the region. People who colonized Maryland harnessed the power of water to fuel industry with a variety of types of mills. The location of the fall line between geological levels made this possible. Iron, gunpowder, cotton duck canvas, flour, paper, and more were manufactured at mills in Baltimore County. The next time you drive in the county, notice how often you find a road or place with mill or falls in the name.
The harbor and bay were a highway connecting our region to the world. The Port of Baltimore has been notable for many different exports over its history such as flour, oysters, and steel. In the other direction, over a million immigrants entered the country through the port.
To serve the growth of our communities, engineers controlled the flow of water to provide clean drinking water, create a sanitation system, and generate electricity. These advancements were not achieved quickly or easily. Now, we must balance this growth with the need to sustain the health of our rivers, streams, reservoirs, and their watersheds. We rely on our waterways for our essential needs, but also for our enjoyment. We vacation at the beach, sail on the bay, and tube on the Gunpowder River. Our collective love of activities like boating, fishing, swimming, and eating seafood like crabs and oysters, demonstrates our remarkable focus on water-based recreation in Maryland.
With the help of 33 partner organizations, there will be over 70 public events, complementary exhibits, and educational programs in support of Water/Ways. The exhibit will be free and open to the public from May 25th through July 6th at the Historical Society of Baltimore County, located inside the historic Almshouse in Cockeysville.
STEIN: Visit marylandh2o.org for information on Museum on Main Street and for local listings. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Weaving a New Narrative at Towson University and Beyond
April 26, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: “What Were You Wearing? Weaving a New Narrative” is an installation revealing pervasive cultural attitudes about sexual assault while working to change those attitudes. Molly Cohen, a theatre artist and graduate of the Department of Theatre Arts at Towson University, talks about her work on the installation. This project is funded in part by a grant from Maryland Humanities to Towson University.
MOLLY COHEN: A couple of years ago, one of my professors, Julie Potter, came across an article on social media about the exhibit called the “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Installation. The exhibit originated at the University of Arkansas in 2013. Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hierbert were inspired by Mary Simmerling’s poem “What I was Wearing.”
The first installation was a collection of stories from survivors of sexual assault on campuses. The stories hung next to recreated outfits bought at thrift stores. The installation has since been recreated at a number of campuses in both the United States and in Europe. When Julie came across the article about these installations, she was immediately interested in doing it on Towson’s own campus. She felt that as a costume designer, teaching about design and character building, body Image and the history of dress, it was within her wheelhouse. We are both passionate about the topic of sexual assault, and the assumptions we make about people’s character based on their attire.
Julie and I both wanted to create meaningful work around this topic for our research and scholarship: We also wanted to give this powerful idea a greater production value and visual impact. I was awarded an undergraduate research grant from the University in the fall semester of 2017, and our work began. We began thinking of how to move the conversation beyond the original theme that survivors are not responsible for their assaults and incorporate the history of the original collection of antique clothing that Julie manages and curates at Towson University. We decided we would look for historic, true stories of local people who were assaulted in different decades and add them to this display of outfits for a greater impact. Assault has always happened. No matter what type of clothing was in fashion, assault happened. That fact is striking when you look at the collection in the exhibit. Through the process, we re-named it “What Were You Wearing? Weaving a New Narrative” and the stories we found helped to illustrate a point about how deeply held these notions are in the history of our culture.
We also focused on ways to incorporate interactive elements meant to focus on positive outcomes like body reclamation, freedom and empowerment in dress, and survivor strength. We then put outfits and private viewfinders holding slides of an outfit and a story in 4 locations, 3 on our campus and 1 in MICA’s library. We hoped by putting pieces in different locations we would generate more exposure to this important topic.
Julie and I also gained access to the Baltimore Sun archives. With the research help of librarian Joyce Garczynski, we dug through those archives for stories about sexual assault. That process was unsettling and also illuminating. We found that, naturally, what made the papers were almost exclusively stranger attacks until the 1940s. Even then, “date rape” was mentioned only a handful of times. What stuck out as repetitive was the number of times we read statements like, “she was at a bar,” “she had been drinking.” “it may have been consensual.” Judges often dismissed charges of rape, even blaming the women for fabricating stories. Additionally, we gathered more recent news stories that continue to discredit accusers by calling attention to their choice of dress. We included a case from 1852 where there was a court ruling that victims and witnesses should not be deemed not credible based on their “character”, their profession, the fact that they were drinking, but women continued to be discredited for those reasons and still do today. This became the theme we wanted to accentuate.
This discreditation leads us to understand better why people don’t always report assault, and how, whether we consciously consider it or not, it’s part of our internal narrative to wonder if the victim did anything to bring it on themselves. Objectifying women, historically, is so much a part of our culture that it is almost impossible to consider a woman, a victim, without wondering what she looked like.
The exhibit developed through this research, resulting in 16 chosen stories and outfits dating between 1852 and 2017. Examining our local history helped us show how deeply these attitudes are woven into the fabric of our history and culture. Once we recognize that, we can work to change it.
STEIN: The installation closes on April 30. Learn more about the project on Molly’s post at mdhumanities.org/blog. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Faith Community Dialogues on Immigration and Race
April 18, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How is one partnership encouraging open and honest dialogue about faith and race? Drs. Felipe Filomeno & Tania Lizarazo – professors at University of Maryland, Baltimore County – talk about “Honest Conversations: Faith Community Dialogues on Immigration and Race.” The partnership between UMBC and the Latino Racial Justice Circle is funded with a grant from Maryland Humanities.
FELIPE FILOMENO The practice of dialogue is a long-standing human tradition with a goal of achieving mutual understanding and shared meaning about a given issue, not to win an argument. Dialogue can feel like a lost art, especially when we approach contentious issues.
TANIA LIZAZARO: In the project Honest Conversations: Faith Community Dialogues on Immigration and Race, UMBC and Latino Racial Justice Circle bring together members of local communities to talk about religion, race, and immigration. Race and religion are essential to how the United States – and Maryland in particular – have experienced immigration. Today, about 15% of Maryland’s population were born in another country.
FILOMENO: In the Honest Conversations, participants meet once a week for three consecutive weeks. They share personal stories, feelings, and ideas about immigration and its connections with race and religion. Participants talk about commonalities and differences between immigrants and native-born citizens. At the end, participants discuss actions they and their faith communities could take to cope with racism and other issues involving immigration.
A trained facilitator is present in every dialogue session to guide the conversations and enforce ground rules for effective dialogue.
LIZAZARO: As a strategy to share what we learned during the dialogues with a broader audience, we use digital storytelling, a collaborative process of creating narratives mixing images and audio. Participants in the dialogues volunteer to create these audiovisual stories in collaboration with research team members to extend the conversations. Storytellers decide what to highlight and which images to use to tell the story of their experience as participants in the dialogues.
FILOMENO: Committed to recognizing and producing knowledge that circulates beyond the university, Honest Conversations centers community members as storytellers and agents of change while recognizing the multiplicity of perspectives and voices represented in the communities and conversations.
The result is the possibility for solidarity across differences when we decide to listen to each other and work together.
LIZAZARO: Our first Honest Conversations happened between February and March at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Baltimore City. We had engaging conversations and learning moments. Based on this project, we will also produce the Latino Racial Justice Circle Guide for Faith Community Dialogues on Immigration, which will be available to the public for free on June 30 on the Latino Racial Justice Circle’s Facebook page.
STEIN: For more information about this programming, visit facebook.com/LatinoRacialJusticeCircle. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
The Humanities, The Outdoors, and Social and Emotional Development
April 11, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How is Outward Bound using the humanities in its outdoor programming to enhance young people’s reflection, leadership skills, and more? Kelly Reynolds, Instructional Designer at Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound, talks about the organization’s Character Curriculum.
KELLY REYNOLDS: This January, the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development released its findings. The commission spent two years listening, watching, and researching students and educators from around the country.
Here is an excerpt from their introduction:
“Children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, and values to succeed in school, careers, and in life. They require skills such as paying attention, setting goals, and collaboration… Attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. …values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. …and the ability to think critically, consider different views, and problem-solve.…”
The consensus is that these are not skills and attitudes that young people just attain naturally. They must be repeatedly taught, modeled, and practiced.
The Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School believes that young people should be given rich opportunities to learn and practice skills such as group decision-making, perseverance, reflection, problem-solving, self-management, and peer leadership. Our goal is to help students learn those skills in their classrooms AND on the trails and rivers of the mid-Atlantic.
We found that sometimes, when youth came through our programming, they experienced it like a field trip: you go, you come back, and you fall back into old routines and habits— even if you learned helpful skills the week before. We wanted to help schools, teachers and (most importantly) students, to deepen the impact of their Outward Bound experience in their own lives and schools!
So we got to work. We designed a set of sessions–the Outward Bound Character Curriculum—that students work through before participating in an Outward Bound program. These sessions help students start to think of themselves as leaders, as people who can overcome challenges, and as effective communicators, while still in their everyday classroom.
Character Sessions take a few forms: students may engage in a Socratic Seminar on a relevant topic. Ron Berger, Dina Strasser, and Libby Woodfin discuss the Socratic seminar in their book Expeditionary Learning- Management in the Active Classroom. Socratic seminars “promote thinking, meaning-making, and the ability to debate, use evidence, and build on one another’s thinking.” This style “engages students in complex thinking about rich content and teaches students discussion skills.”
Students may also read a historical biography on a famous leader and identify what character traits the leader exhibited. They might listen to a series of important speeches and discuss what communication traits made those speeches inspiring or impactful. The students may work through a problem-solving activity where they practice and then reflect on their actions. The humanities offer a wealth of content from which students can draw out ideas and lessons on character.
We know that learning is much stickier when it’s repeated and applied. And that’s just what is happening when students are learning about those skills in the classroom before they put them into practice on an Outward Bound course. But we didn’t stop there! We know that learners also need time to reflect and connect their experiences to their lives. So we developed a second set of sessions. Social, emotional and character development is a complex and dynamic set of skills! Students can walk away from programs with personalized and unique takeaways.
We wanted to help teachers lead guided reflection back in their classrooms. These sessions help students translate the individual skills they utilized on an Outward Bound program back into their own classrooms and communities.
Because we believe, to quote poet Archibald MacLeish: “There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”
We look forward to seeing new ways to fulfill our mission in the future! We’ll continue to work to create powerful experiences that help young people develop crucial skills for a better world.
PHOEBE STEIN: For more information about Outward Bound and its Character Curriculum, visit outwardboundbaltimore.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Students Sharing Stories Through Film
April 4, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How is a local organization providing an opportunity for young people to share their stories through film, and to speak publicly about their own work? Jessica Baroody-Saada, Events Manager at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Foundation Parkway Theatre/Maryland Film Festival, talks about the Baltimore Student Film Showcase.
JESSICA BAROODY-SAADA: A young deaf man explores the social scene of his new college.
A returning veteran processes his traumatic stress.
Self-portraits document struggles with depression, and answer the question “Why do black lives matter?”
Documentaries of neighborhood heroes and mentors.
Animations, 16-millimeter shorts, triptychs, and cinematic poems.
These are the kinds of stories we hear and images we see at the Baltimore Student Film Showcase, now in its third year at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theatre in Station North.
At the student showcase, young storytellers from Baltimore city and county have the chance to present and speak on behalf of their work on the big screen. It gives them the opportunity the Maryland Film Festival gives to established local and visiting filmmakers when they screen their works, either at the annual international festival in May or at special screenings throughout the year. This program enriches young people with the invaluable experience to confidently share their stories and discuss their work with audiences while they reflect on their creative processes alongside peer producers.
The Maryland Film Festival pursued the Parkway Theatre to provide a year-round home for bold, independent, and emerging cinema. Originally built in 1915, this newly revitalized theater is located at the geographical center of the city at the southwest intersection of North Avenue and Charles. This uniquely positions the Parkway as a destination and hub where Baltimore’s young film and media producers can express themselves, share their stories, hone their skills, network with other peer producers, and hopefully collaborate with one another in the future.
These are scholars from programs like Wide Angle Youth Media, Baltimore Youth Film Arts, the new Film and Visual Storytelling Department at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and the City School Media Team at Baltimore City Public Schools. Showcase participants also come from Root Branch Film Academy, New Lens Productions, and Griot’s Eye Program.
Students from Johns Hopkins and MICA, who are both partners for the film festival and Parkway, presents an incredible body of work, as do students from the programs at Stevenson, UMBC, Morgan State, Towson, and the University of Baltimore.
These showcases are a mosaic of student-produced film and media that include diverse genres and formats from all over the Baltimore region; documentaries, personal essays, animations, narratives, science fiction, Avant-Garde, and more. The variety of content demonstrates the incredible creativity and diversity of perspectives of students in the region.
Baltimore students curate these showcases through youth-led screening committees. This offers even more opportunities for young people to collaborate and engage with one another, and organize and produce a program that is emblematic and representative of the region as a whole.
With the support of Maryland Humanities, we have been fortunate to expand these showcases to occur quarterly. The Spring Showcase will take place on Tuesday, April 30th at 7 pm in the historic Parkway Theatre. The program will be comprised of high school and college-produced film and media works and will be hosted by Johns Hopkins Professor Lester Spence.
PHOEBE STEIN: Learn more about the programming at the Parkway at mdfilmfest.com. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Shared Place and Poetry in Salisbury
March 28, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Salisbury Mayor Jacob Day will soon announce the city’s first-ever Poet Laureate to coincide with the annual Salisbury Poetry Week, April 1 – 7. Tara Elliott, Salisbury Poetry Week’s founder, tells us more about this year’s week of programming. Elliott is also an English and Language Arts Teacher at Salisbury Middle School. She received the Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award, presented by Maryland Humanities, in 2018. Launched in 2017, Salisbury Poetry Week is supported in part by a Maryland Humanities grant.
TARA ELLIOTT: In 2017, Salisbury Mayor Jacob Day issued an official proclamation making the first week of April Salisbury Poetry Week. Eastern Shore Voices – a collective of local educators, students, poets, and more – created the week of poetry events to instill a sense of shared place through the community. We also wanted to introduce poetry as way to explore our changing world, and to provide multiple opportunities for Eastern Shore citizens of all ages to develop and hone their writing skills, and to enjoy the written and spoken word.
In partnership with the City of Salisbury, we host a Poet-in-Residence in Salisbury for a week-long series of writing workshops, open mic nights, classroom visits, after-school workshops, and poetry readings. Former Salisbury Poets-in-Residence include Fulbright Scholar and the author of the upcoming The Suicide Son James Arthur and Frostburg State University Professor of English and the author of The Story of Ash, Gerry LaFemina.
This year, we’re proud and excited to welcome author of four volumes of poetry, Jane Satterfield, Associate Professor of Loyola University’s writing department. Her latest book, Apocalypse Mix, won the 2016 Poetry Prize from Autumn House Press.
During Poetry Week, we’ll pilot a lesson plan designed by our current Poet-in-Residence. This year, dystopia takes the forefront and students will compose poetry focused on science. This lesson will be shared with all middle and high school English Language Arts teachers in Wicomico County for use in their classrooms.
In addition to hosting the Poet-in-Residence Jane Satterfield, we’re excited to award the first ever Salisbury Poet Laureate title. The two-year appointment will introduce the work of a significant local writer with the goal of increasing awareness and appreciation of Salisbury’s rich cultural life, expressed through poetry.
Salisbury is known as the “Crossroads of Delmarva”, and as such, we cherish our yearly Eastern Shore Voices poetry reading, featuring seven Eastern Shore poets in addition to our Poet-in-Residence. Our region’s reputation as a home for amazing writers is growing. This year’s reading takes place on Thursday, April 4th from 7 – 9 PM in the Worcester Room of the Salisbury University Commons. Mayor Day will also be in attendance to announce the inaugural Salisbury Poet Laureate!
We’re overjoyed at the partnerships that successfully foster the poetic voice of our city, which include community ties between our public schools, libraries, writer’s associations, art studios, colleges and universities. We’re also thankful for the past patronage of the Perdue Foundation, as well as foundational and ongoing support from Salisbury Wicomico Arts Council, and further significant support from The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and of course, Maryland Humanities.
PHOEBE STEIN: Learn more about Salisbury Poetry Week at facebook.com/EasternShoreVoices. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Fashion as Historical Documentation
March 21, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Did you know that an article of clothing can be interpreted as a historical document? What can we learn about figures from Maryland’s past by looking at what they wore? Allison Tolman, Chief Registrar and Associate Curator of the Fashion Archives at the Maryland Historical Society, tells us more.
ALLISON TOLMAN: Articles of clothing are excellent tools for museums to tell stories from their region’s social history. Fashion historian Lydia Edwards writes in her book, How to Read A Dress, “[Clothing] can be the ultimate signifier of a person’s gender, age, class, employment, and religion down to more subtle indications such as aesthetic predilection, political standpoint, and marital status.” We select our clothing every day as a representation of ourselves to others. This was as true in the eighteenth century as it is today, and we can learn a lot about people and families from the past by looking at their clothing.
At the Fashion Archives at the Maryland Historical Society, there is a child’s dress from the 1860s. The dress is lined with 5 different fabrics visible only on the interior. This tells us that the mother was frugal, reusing bits of fabric and trimmings from her own dresses or other children’s dresses to save money during the Civil War. The Archives also include a pale pink evening gown, designed and worn in the 1940s by Claire McCardell, a native of Frederick, Maryland. On the gown, we can see a dirtied hem and many repairs to the skirt and underarms, which tell us that the dress was a personal favorite of the designer. It features many of her signature, self-named “McCardellisms,” such as a yard-long sash, proving that she really did design clothing that she herself wanted to wear.
We can also learn a lot by looking at what people choose to save and donate to museums. For example, the Ridgely family of Hampton Mansion in Towson, Maryland donated a royal blue, watered silk gown in nearly pristine condition. Worn by Margaretta Sophia Ridgely, the gown dates to a trip to Europe trip she took with her husband Charles Ridgely around 1870. The dress is in such great condition for a sobering reason: Charles Ridgely died in 1872, after which Margaretta Sophia went into mourning. She then wore only black and dull dark shades until her own death in 1904. Perhaps Margaretta Sophia chose to save this dress as a memory of a good time with her husband just prior to his death, or in hopes that her daughter Eliza would one day wear it, just as some save their wedding dresses today. The dress was clearly important to her, as it was so carefully preserved until its donation to the Maryland Historical Society in 1956.
Clothing, even decades or centuries after it was worn, is symbolic of the person who wore it. Using close examination, we can uncover untold stories from Maryland’s history through the people who lived it.
STEIN: Tollman recently wrote a guest post on the Maryland Humanities blog: read her entry at www.mdhumanities.org. Visit mdhs.org to learn more about the Maryland Historical Society. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Brown Girls Museum Blog
March 14, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How are two women pushing past the gatekeeping that sometimes occurs within cultural institutions? Amanda Figueroa and Ravon Ruffin started Brown Girls Museum Blog, a platform that aims to promote the visibility of people of color, especially women, in the museum field and in academia.
AMANDA FIGUEROA: In 2015, Ravon and I met and learned that we both had a desire to lend our voice to the museum field—as an outlet and as a resource for those coming from marginalized communities navigating institutions. Museums often perpetuate the barrier between themselves and their proposed community; a relationship that needs renegotiating. We insert our presence in these spaces so that the institution can live up to its promise: to hold space for us, our communities, and our stories.
Conversations on art become tired when the language we tether to fails to expand the field and our ability to see. Words like: diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, and bias become the same, interchangeable, and more dangerous. Much like our existence, these words cannot be collapsed.
RAVON RUFFIN: As two brown girls, our paths to museums reflect the communities we come from, and the radical shift in politics that must occur in order to support those communities. Our approach to the museum field is guided by our academic interests in critical theory, performance studies, and cultural geography.
FIGUEROA: With these interests, we take to digital spaces to amplify the voices of artists and culture workers of color, and hopefully, broaden the scope by which black and brown people see themselves as stakeholders in local and national cultural institutions. We see opportunities within the museum industry that lack institutional support, which privilege some and silence others. We created our platform to raise our voices to the conversations being had without invitation. It is why we proclaim, “If we don’t tell our stories, who else will?”
RUFFIN: When we empower visitors to make meaning on their own terms, we make room for multiple lenses in our institutions, although it requires that we share authority and acknowledge our privilege. Decolonizing the institution is uncomfortable work, but that’s how you know you’re moving in the right direction.
STEIN: Learn more about Figueroa and Ruffin’s work at browngirlsmuseumblog.com. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
The Multifaceted Legacy of Ida B. Wells
March 8, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Did you know that journalist, suffragist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells was also one of the founders of the NAACP? Harford Community College will host screenings of Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice, which includes selections of Wells’ writing read by Toni Morrison. The screening complements figures of Wells and Mary Church, on loan from the Great Blacks in Wax Museum. Sharoll Love, Student Diversity Specialist in Harford Community College’s Office of Student Life, tells us more.
SHAROLL LOVE: Most known for her fierce opposition to the lynching of Black people in post reconstruction America, Ida B. Wells conducted investigations, compiled statistical data and published her findings. This work challenged the false narrative of black men raping and assaulting white women throughout the south as an excuse to murder innocent men, women and children.
Born on the eve of emancipation, Wells learned that freedom from by the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments was only theoretical. The abrupt termination of reconstruction and the resulting political concessions to appease southern interests sought to maintain slavery and left Black Americans unprotected – legally, socially and politically.
Nevertheless, Ida asserted herself. In 1883, she fought Tennessee’s “Separate Car Act.” The Act relegated black passengers to substandard accommodations, violating the Constitution’s 14th amendment. Ida won her case in 1884, only to have the decision reversed in 1887 by the state’s Supreme Court.
Committed to exposing and stopping the lynchings of innocent people, Wells traveled the country and abroad to galvanize support. Her seminal works include Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. Her books, editorials and public appearances all served as a platform to shine a floodlight on the atrocities committed through mob violence.
Ida lived a full life as an activist, entrepreneur, journalist, wife, and mother to four. In 1896, she joined hundreds of black women from around the country in Boston to organize the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. They addressed their needs and aspirations. They discussed how race intersected as well as issues such as education and programs for youth, voting rights, housing, fair labor contracts, hunger, health care, social security and world peace.
Refusing to be relegated to the rear, Ida defied organizers of the Women’s Suffrage March in 1913, saying “Either I go with you or not at all . . . I am doing this for the betterment of my whole race.” Consequently, she marched alongside the white delegates of her home state, Illinois. Ida died at the age of 69 after having lived her life in service to humanity. Because of her vision, we are a more just society today.
The wax likenesses of Ida B. Wells and first president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, Mary Church Terrell, are now on display at Harford Community College. Located at the campus’s Hays-Heighe House, the figures are on loan from Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum until June. Their presence at the college is sponsored by Harford Community College’s Soar2Success program and the Harford Community College Library.
STEIN: Harford Community College will screen the documentary on March 12 at 12:30 and 1:40, and on April 18 at 12:30. Learn more about the college at harford.edu. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
The Why Black Lives Matter Curriculum
February 28, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How can the humanities help teens process current-day issues and create a more equitable society? Staff at Wide Angle Youth Media have developed a curriculum called “Why Black Lives Matter: Discussing Race Through Film, Photography, and Design.” The curriculum pairs youth media projects with instructional content. Dena Robinson –Wide Angle Youth Media’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Facilitator – tells us more.
DENA ROBINSON: It has been 400 years since the first documented enslaved African stepped onto America’s shores. Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012 for being a black boy who dared to wear a hoodie and walk where he “did not belong.” Freddie Gray had his spinal cord severed as he took a “rough ride” in the back of a Baltimore Police van. The narratives of countless others are deeply ingrained in this country’s historical consciousness, and that pain is as American as apple pie. This is the historical context in which Wide Angle Youth Media’s work currently sits.
Each year, Wide Angle Youth Media’s students self-select a theme that will be the home for that year’s media and design work. This past year, students self-selected the theme “Why Black Lives Matter.” This theme is relevant, resonant, and incredibly raw. Students chose this theme to acknowledge a long-held truth in Black communities in the United States and around the world — although people of color make up a global majority, Black lives largely do not matter. As such, Wide Angle’s students spent a year grappling with everything from race and identity, to intersectionality and liberation. Students learned that, although Black people have made contributions in nearly every institution, their access to power has largely been infringed upon, and their contributions have often gone unrecognized. Students learned about racial disparities in the criminal justice system, healthcare, and education. They also learned about the contributions Black people have made to the humanities, political science, art, history, and other academic pursuits.
As a direct result of this learning, Wide Angle staff worked together to create a Black Lives Matter Curriculum. The curriculum responds to the humanities field, which played an integral role in the development of ideas around race, identity, and whiteness that continue to this day. The curriculum uses design thinking principles to teach students to think critically about the texts they engage with. Design thinking is a lens used by designers that allows them to build empathy with the audience they’re designing for, so that they can define the problem they seek to address, and then engage their audience in feedback loops to refine their project. When applied to something like the humanities, design thinking becomes an equity-based offshoot, called equity design.
The Why Black Lives Matter curriculum includes lessons on the school to prison pipeline, restorative justice, and racial disparities in the health system. Ultimately, the curriculum is intended to guide students towards collaboration, liberation, and resistance. With this curriculum, students can engage in the conversations I only wish had been part of my experience growing up in a country that has yet to have a period of racial reconciliation and healing. Through this curriculum, the humanities push students and citizens to think critically about who has a seat at the table, who has been deprived of having a seat at the table, and where we can go from here. It is our hope that Wide Angle Youth Media’s Black Lives Matter Curriculum can begin to push Baltimore, and the country, in that direction.
STEIN: Maryland Humanities has funded the Why Black Lives Matter curriculum with a grant. Learn more about curriculum and Wide Angle Youth Media at wideanglemedia.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
The Katipunan Filipino-American Association of Maryland and “Locating Filipino Americans in Maryland: Our Immigrants Journeys”
February 21, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How can immigration experiences shape behavior, storytelling, and humanities scholarship? Dr. Maryanne Akers, Board Member at Katipunan Filipino-American Association of Maryland, shares her perspective. Maryland Humanities recently awarded the organization a grant for their project entitled “Locating Filipino Americans in Maryland: Our Immigrant Journeys.” Akers is Dean and Professor at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning.
DR. MARYANNE AKERS: Immigrants offer perspectives that may be missed by those born here. The Filipino journey to America has its roots in the 1500’s when seafarers landed in Moro Bay, California as part of a Spanish fleet. However, it was in southern Louisiana during the mid-1700’s that the first a Filipino settlement was recorded. Since then, waves of immigrants came as the United States forged and built their colonial relationship with the Philippines. Farm workers, nurses and doctors, school teachers, college educators, cruise ship workers arrived in surges —- many pulled by gaps in the American labor force and the promise of being economically uplifted in this land of opportunity.
Filipino immigrants have had a long journey. Our experiences are complex and multi-faceted. As a Filipino immigrant myself, I came to this country to pursue a Ph.D. in urban planning. My intention when I left the Philippines in 1984 was to learn as much as I could and then return to serve my country. But going back was not one of those paths that appeared before me. I stayed. But I am persistent about serving my homeland. I travel there every year to give lectures, conduct research about topics like women vendors, street architecture and every day urbanism, and heritage preservation. I go back to re-discover and re-learn our Filipino ethos and ever-evolving cultural soul.
Filipinos are marginalized, even in contrast to other Asian American groups who also face marginalization. For example, when Asian Americans are cited, the journalists imply or give emphasis to the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and, to a certain extent South Asian Indians. Filipinos are hardly mentioned. We are invisible but we are everywhere —- scattered in schools, health facilities, government offices, retail stores, parking garages, employer homes, and elsewhere. We are invisible because we often mute our voices, some intentionally and some without realizing it. We bend our heads in submission. We try not to make waves, hesitant to draw attention. Often, feel we are “inferior”, “not worthy”, “not good enough” or “inconsequential” because colonization’s impact on how we perceive ourselves.
All these behaviors contribute to a dearth of scholarship in the humanities, film, and other storytelling endeavors. But Maryland Humanities is changing that significantly. They believed in us, Filipino immigrants, and the power of VOICE. Maryland Humanities has opened the door of opportunity to amplify our experiences and exclaim that we are a people of value who contribute to American society and the world.
The Maryland Humanities grant will allow the Katipunan Filipino American Association of Maryland to document, analyze, and reflect on our immigrant journeys. We have planned for multiple projects to glean compelling aspects of our experiences settling in Maryland. There are almost 50,000 Filipinos living in the state and we will conduct in-depth interviews with a group of 15 Filipinos who have diverse backgrounds and varying insights. We will also hold book conversations on two literary texts that reveal common and distinct immigrant stories, an event at the Philippine Embassy to feature a panel of immigrants, an art and photography exhibit, and a book launch that describes these immigrant realities.
The Maryland Humanities grant jump starts us. Supporting this project will empower the Filipino immigrant community to shape a collective narrative that embodies the vibrancy of our stories. We will proudly share our cultural tapestry made of rich memories and traditions that continue to connect us with the motherland, and at the same time, honor intricate patterns that weave our struggle and celebration of survival, adaptation, and integration. We have merely scratched the surface, but we are on the roll. Maraming Salamat sa Inyong kabutihang-loob. Thank you, Maryland Humanities, for your generosity.
STEIN: The first event in Katipunan’s series is a discussion of Elaine Castillo’s novel America is Not the Heart at the Cockeysville Public Library on February 28. Learn more at katipunan.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
The African-American History of the B&O Railroad
February 14, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Did you know before serving on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall worked on the B&O Railroad? A new exhibit at the B&O Railroad Museum explores the railroad’s African-American history. Kris Hoellen, the museum’s executive director, tells us more.
KRIS HOELLEN: Best In Service, our new temporary exhibit this month, consists of paintings and photographs from the B&O archives not previously displayed. The artwork honors the unsung known service of African Americans and the contributions they made to the railroad. The exhibit features original paintings by American illustrators Dan Content and Roy Federick Spreter. Commissioned by the B&O in the early 1930s, these artists painted full-page, oil-on-canvas scenes of railroad service used for creating advertisements for publications such as the Saturday Evening Post.
Photographs show the roles African Americans held on the B&O, including a photo of the dining crew that served President Roosevelt. While the jobs provided by the B&O offered little to no advancement, they were considered elite for their time period.
The exhibit also features Thurgood Marshall, Fearless M. Williams, Charles Wright and Maggie Hudson who were all B&O Railroad employees at one point. Thurgood Marshall, the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, worked as a waiter and porter on dining cars while earning a college degree at Lincoln University. Marshall obtained his position with the B&O because of his father, William Canfield Marshall, who was a B&O Railroad porter and waiter. Fearless M. Williams – [Thurgood] Marshall’s “Uncle Fee” –, also served the B&O for 46 years as a floor porter for executive staff. Williams ultimately became a prominent member of the Baltimore business community.
Musician Charles W. Wright began his 33-year career with the B&O Railroad in 1884 as head butler for B&O president John W. Garrett. In 1910 he was promoted to head cook for B&O president, Daniel Willard.
Maggie Hudson, born in Shuqualak, Mississippi in 1919, moved to South Baltimore in the early 1940’s because she heard that the B&O Railroad was “hiring girls”. The B&O hired Maggie in 1943 as one of its first female African-American QUOTE “porterettes,” a position she held for 36 years. This year on April 13, Maggie will turn 100 years old, still living in Baltimore, making her the oldest living known B&O Railroad African-American employee.
While the B&O offered positions for African Americans and supported the Union causes during the Civil War, the B&O also had a complicated history with race relations. Beginning in 1912, the B&O began publishing an employee magazine, where African American employees were rarely depicted. From 1913 through the 1920s, several of the magazine covers featured caricatures of the African-American employees along with cartoons and other offensive images. Several of these images are on display in context in the exhibit.
This exhibit offers a unique snapshot into American culture and history as portrayed through the photographs and paintings of African-American employees of the B&O Railroad.
STEIN: Best in Service is open through February 28. Learn more about the exhibit at BORail.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Political Reform in Nineteenth-Century Maryland
February 7, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Just last year, Johns Hopkins University Press published a history of our state: the second edition of Maryland: A History, which covers 1634 to 2015. Today, co-author Sue Chapelle brings to life Maryland in the 1800s as she shares a chapter of the book, amended for radio. During this time, national, state, and local governments became more involved in social and economic problems than they were previously. Some alliances were undermined, new ones were formed, and Maryland saw the introduction of political machines.
SUE CHAPELLE: Political organizations called “machines” emerged in the late 1800s: in exchange for votes and kickbacks, politicians would offer favors, ranging from jobs to government contracts to individual financial help in times of need. Reform groups in Maryland and beyond quickly challenged these machines, calling their tactics unethical.
These groups decried the machines’ corrupt practices, the political payoffs (called graft), and the favor swapping. They criticized politicians for tolerating dirty streets and hazardous working conditions. As their power grew, the reformers won elections in some cities and states across the country. The reformers collectively known as progressives included Democrats, Republicans, and members of a third party called the Progressive Party, with a capital P.
In Baltimore County a coalition of reform Democrats and Republicans known as the Potato Bugs beat the machine in 1875, but the machine Democrats regained control in 1877. Progressives were active in many counties, including Prince George’s, Montgomery, and Anne Arundel.
In Baltimore City in 1885, leading opponents of machine bosses Arthur Pue Gorman and Isaac Freeman Rasin joined together in an organization called the Reform League. Charles J. Bonaparte, the grandson of Napoleon’s youngest brother Jerome, was one leader of the Reform League. The organization crusaded for fair elections and supported efforts to enact civil service reform by putting government jobs under the control of a nonpolitical, nonpartisan commission instead of the bosses.
The Maryland reform movement gained momentum when Charles H. Grasty bought the Baltimore Evening News in 1891. Grasty used his newspaper to attack abuses and reveal scandals about well-known public figures. The News attacked the high prices and poor service of the Consolidated Gas Company. It criticized the telephone and streetcar companies for their high rates and poor performance and suggested that a public utilities commission be created to regulate the operations of all such companies.
Grasty published an exposé on the city’s street-paving contracts: who got them, why, and how much money changed hands as part of the deal. He ran a series of articles on slums, pointing up the city’s failure to regulate housing standards and to collect garbage in poor neighborhoods. He revealed the inner workings of the Policy, an illegal lottery run by the Democratic Party to raise cash for campaigns. Grasty’s work kept readers informed, and some them then voted to remove from power the bosses of the political machines. However, due to the strength of the machines, these successes did not always last.
Over the years, support for the progressive movement grew. Finally, in 1895, progressives won their first big victory in Maryland as reform candidates swept elections across the state and began to enact the programs they had campaigned for.
STEIN: Chapelle co-authored Maryland: A History with Jean B. Russo an a team of local historians. Learn more about the book at press.jhu.edu. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Deepening Student Engagement with History Through Art
January 24, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: How can schools and museums team up to give students agency and deepen their engagement with history? The Sandy Spring Museum in Montgomery County and the Barnesville School of Arts and Sciences recently collaborated for a student exhibit entitled, “Honoring Our Past, Celebrating the Future.” The museum’s Marketing Director, Lauren Peirce, and the school’s art teacher, Sarah Eargle, tell us more.
LAUREN PEIRCE: We gather community to build a sense of place and belonging. At Sandy Spring Museum, we support community-driven cultural arts and educational programs. In recent years, the museum has evolved from a traditional history museum into a dynamic, participatory cultural arts and humanities community center. So when we started talking about a partnership with Barnesville School of Arts and Sciences to celebrate its 50th anniversary, we knew the classic, docent-led, guided tour experience no longer aligned with our mission. We worked closely with the school’s faculty to create a program for their middle school students that was both engaging and empowering.
SARAH EARGLE: This partnership with Sandy Spring Museum melds beautifully with Barnesville School’s emphasis on cross-curricular education. The experience was designed to have students explore how artists can be inspired by history. As the school’s art teacher, I follow a progressive educational philosophy called “Teaching for Artistic Behavior,” whereby every student is viewed as an artist and the art room their shared studio. Students develop skills common to all artists, yet design and produce artwork that is completely their own. The museum’s own progressive vision and diverse collection proved an ideal laboratory to explore this concept of “history as artistic inspiration”.
PEIRCE: We took down the proverbial velvet ropes and opened the doors to collections storage to allow students an up-close experience with the artifacts. The students visited the Museum in November where they learned how to safely handle museum objects. We entrusted the students to carefully interact directly with historical collections and provided them with the tools to do this. This empowered them to connect with material culture in ways that were largely inaccessible to them before. We believe that by making the museum experience multidimensional and multi-sensory, students can transition from passive consumers of information to active agents of historical interpretation.
Students examined biographically-grouped artifacts assembled around 4 key historical figures from the area: 1920s major league baseball legend and lifetime Sandy Springer Jack Bentley; store owner, postmaster and bank founder Alban Gilpin Thomas; 19th-century shingle maker, landowner, and free-born African American Remus Hill, and suffragist Mary Bentley Thomas. Students also explored a permanent historic installation and a temporary artisan’s exhibit.
During the visit, students demonstrated an observable intensity and interest when examining the objects relating to suffrage and slavery. These objects included original letters penned by Susan B. Anthony, manumission papers releasing enslaved individuals from bondage, and photography of both figures.
By contrast, interactions with objects representing baseball player Jack Bentley and businessman Alban Thomas naturally elicited different reactions. Students appeared animated, delighting in the finer details and direct connections such as clothing materials and graphic design features. They enthusiastically noted direct comparisons between historic and contemporary culture embodied in the objects.
EARGLE: We planned the interaction so that students experienced a balance of both structured and unstructured engagement. They were invited to create artwork inspired by either the items from the collection specifically or the general field trip experience. The range of resulting artwork is equally divided between directly referencing the museum’s collection – like a mixed-media piece that speaks to Women’s Suffrage – to tangentially relating to the physical space the museum inhabits – such as paintings inspired by the museum’s rustic grounds. The artwork, alongside many of the inspirational museum objects, are currently on display at Sandy Spring Museum in an exhibition titled “Honoring our Past, Celebrating the Future”.
The diversity of work in the exhibition embodies new perspectives on the people, places, and things of the community’s history. Authentic artmaking experiences play an essential role in developing these perspectives and children’s relationships to the past. Through creating, students are empowered to look critically at the past and present, and to visualize the kind of future that will belong to our youngest members of society.
STEIN: The Sandy Spring Museum is hosting a free closing reception on February 2 at 4:00 p.m: the exhibit officially closes on February 3. Learn more at SandySpringMuseum.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Humanities and Young Baltimoreans
January 24, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Published in LA Weekly and Ms. Magazine, Baltimore native Jordannah Elizabeth returned home to teach after the Baltimore uprising. She talks about the impact of her mother instilling a love for reading at a young age, her love for humanities, and their value for a young person Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
JORDANNAH ELIZABETH: When my mother visited my home in Baltimore in June, she sat at my kitchen table of a large lunch I prepared for her and my older brother who was in town from his military stay in South Korea to receive his MBA. My mother boasted to our guests about how she implemented D.E.A.R (Drop Everything and Read) in our household and upbringing. She would also always say, “Readers are Leaders!” when I was a child. While D.E.A.R is a nationally recognized independent reading campaign, the program was a way of life in my family’s home. My mom was a single mother who made sure we all went to the library together every weekend. Her diligence, which never felt forced, helped me and my brothers become independent thinkers and self-educators. I honor my mother for that. Over 20 years later, I became a professional writer and journalist.
Books to this day are my best friends. I truly believe that the presence and comfort books provided in my life has made me a more stable human being. I never deeply yearned to find love and validation outside of myself because books filled a void of loneliness. Research quenched my thirst for adventure, so instead of jumping from relationship to relationship, I jumped from question to question, traveling, reading and searching for answers. I am certainly not against relationships. But with the resurgence of justified civil rights protests, feminist demands, and so much more, I still find peace in my home library.
I came back to my hometown of Baltimore in 2015 after the Baltimore Uprising. I was in San Francisco watching the news cycles accuse the young protestors in the city of being thugs and unruly anarchistic Black criminals. I thought that it was necessary for me to head home and teach. The people who were trapped in the violent chaos at Mondawmin Mall during the insurgence and beginning of the Uprising were children. As a Black woman and Baltimore native, I could see the kids running in fear in their school uniforms, but the rest of the world seemed to only see angry, violent young people. I knew that was not completely the case. I wanted to go home and share what I had learned, in the same city, so the young people had a strong outlet and a personal safe space outside of community centers and social programs. These are all wonderful and needed in Baltimore, but I feel that a self-reliant foundation of stability and education are also necessary.
When I say, “self-reliant,” I mean young people being encouraged to have the motivation to learn without the coaxing of outside entities like parents and teachers. The encouragement should always be there in the household and in schools, but for young Black students in Baltimore, that isn’t always the case. The distractions of social pressures in school and the pressure of an unstable home (which is not what all young Black people experience, but many do), can hinder them from keeping their eye on the ball. But with access, like my mother gave me to libraries and computers, I was able to travel to libraries and bookstores on my own as I got older. Self-motivation, and the enjoyment of learning can be embedded in any child. It is not good to assume that young Black children in Baltimore do not crave knowledge and have interests in topics of literature, science, and the humanities. I am one, and I do not consider myself to be rare or an outlier.
I have taught students from ages 3 to 63, and in every workshop and class I teach, I share tools on how to research, how to ask questions, how to think critically, and look at their work and interest as writers as an adventure. I allow children to interact, and even when they cannot read and write, they can tell stories and draw pictures to illustrate their experience and curiosities. I help teens learn which sources are reliable and which aren’t. I help them learn to decipher what a fact is, and what resources will help them uncover the truth. For adults, I share realistic scenarios on how to reach their goals as professional writers, eliminating complicated rhetoric, and allowing them to ask the specific questions so to not waste time with introductory information they may already know. I just want others to succeed as I have and beyond!
Literacy changed my life. It has taken me all over the world. I must admit, I don’t even hold a bachelor’s degree, what I hold is a relationship with libraries and supportive thinkers that has propelled me to lecture in universities to PhDs, graduate and undergraduate students with confidence. I am a very serious advocate of education, but when I left home at 16, I had to work. Like many young Black people in Baltimore, I didn’t have the finances to take four years of my life to completely immerse myself in a college education. Even with room and board, books and tuition paid for, there are needs like clothing, social activities, and cell phone, car payments, and internet bills that need to be paid.
Literacy and the love of all things Humanities have been so important for me. They can also be a very personal and proactive pursuit for any human being, particularly young Black people in Baltimore City.
STEIN: Read and learn more about Jordannah’s work at jordannahelizabeth.contently.com. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Continuing Poe’s Legacy
January 17, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: This Saturday, January 19, marks the 210th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. How is one organization celebrating the occasion and honoring the impact Poe continues to have on the arts, humanities, and pop culture? Enrica Jang, Director of The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum/Poe Baltimore, tells us more.
ENRICA JANG: Baltimore’s fondness for Poe shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows little of his history. Poe was the son of a proud Baltimore family. Baltimore is also the city where the father of detective fiction died unexpectedly and under mysterious circumstances.
Poe was among the early Americans writers who supported himself entirely by his pen: he had no other profession or family money. Prize money from winning a short story contest in The Baltimore Saturday Visiter – a 19th century periodical – effectively launched Poe’s career. The professional contacts he made as the contest winner helped land him his next job as a writer/editor.
Poe wrote some of his short stories inside the tiny brick house on North Amity Street. Every year, over 12,000 Poe fans from around the world flock each year to our chamber door to see inside.
Last year, we hosted the inaugural International Edgar Allan Poe Festival, commemorating the anniversary of the author’s death here. This Saturday will mark Poe’s 210th birthday. The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum has planned a slate of activities to celebrate the day, including a live performance at Poe House by actor Stephen Mead: an intimate opportunity to see Poe’s words come to life within the very walls he lived and worked. Festivities continue into the evening at PoeZella, a birthday party featuring Poe-themed art, food and an encore performance. And while January 19 is a special date for us every year, Poe House is especially proud to mark the day this year with the official opening of the Saturday Visiter Awards, a new honor presented by Poe Baltimore. The awards will recognize Poe’s continuing legacy in the arts and literature around the world.
Poe continues to haunt and inspire new generations. He’s referenced by some of the most brilliant creators of all time including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stephen King. Every year, new creative works are inspired by Poe’s life and writing, from poems to novels, comics to concerts, photography to feature films. The Saturday Visiter Awards will honor the best media, art, performance and writing in two categories: artistic works that adapt Poe’s life or writing (including biography, or true adaptations of his poetry or prose); and original works inspired by Poe’s life or writing. The awards will be presented at The International Edgar Allan Poe Festival in October.
The purpose of the Saturday Visitor Awards is to celebrate the creators who keep Poe in popular culture. Entries are open to any medium and genre of art and are not restricted to writing alone. Performance, music, photography and film are allowed and encouraged. And in addition to nominees in each category from all over the world, Poe Baltimore will also recognize and highlight a regional creator, with special preference for artists from here at home.
Pretty spry for a 210-year-old! Poe’s spirit and legacy live throughout Baltimore City, and continue to inspire authors, poets, playwrights, and artists alike.
STEIN: The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is located at 225 North Amity Street. Learn more about this weekend’s festivities, the Saturday Visiter Awards, and the organization at PoeInBaltimore.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
The Great Migration in Prince George’s County
January 10, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: Between 1910 and 1970, six million African Americans left the South in order to escape racial violence there. Dubbed “The Great Migration,” Pulitzer-Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson reminds us that these people fled not only horrific physical violence but “human rights abuses and exclusion from voting and citizenship.” An exhibit from The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission examines The Great Migration in Prince George’s County, as well as migration and immigration that followed there. Dr. Dennis Doster, Manager of the Commission’s Black History Program, tells us more about the exhibit, called Moving Out, Moving In, Moving Up.
DR. DENNIS DOSTER: Over one hundred years ago, African Americans living in the southern United States began moving en masse to the cities of the North, West and Upper South. Fleeing increasing racial violence, they were in search of a better life with economic, political, and social opportunities that were unavailable in the South.
This movement has been labeled the “Great Migration.” Occurring in two waves, dating roughly from 1910 to 1940 and 1940 to 1970, this migration resulted in six million African Americans leaving the South. In the years following 1970, a reverse migration began to take form as thousands of African Americans moved back to the South. This was accompanied by increasing black immigration as blacks from the Caribbean and West African immigrated to the United States.
Moving Out, Moving In, Moving Up – an upcoming exhibit at Montpelier Arts Center – examines this migration and immigration from the viewpoint of Prince George’s County which borders the nation’s capital. At the dawn of the 20th century, Prince George’s County was largely rural with a white majority. Today, the county is the only majority minority county in the United States and the most affluent black county in the nation. This huge demographic shift is due to the forces of black migration and immigration.
At the turn of the 20th century, small numbers of African Americans began moving into the county. These migrants and existing black residents began to establish new communities. Early black migrants included William Sidney Pittman, a noted architect and son-in-law of Booker T. Washington; Henry Pinckney, White House steward to President Theodore Roosevelt; and Thomas J. Calloway, an African American teacher, developer, and attorney from Washington, D.C. Calloway famously worked with W.E.B. DuBois planning and creating the QUOTE “American Negro Exhibit” at the 1900 Paris Exposition.
Despite this early migration to the county, the black population remained in the minority until the late 1960s and 1970s when African Americans began moving in large numbers to Prince George’s County. This migration was spurred by the promise of a middle class lifestyle, affordable housing access, and the proximity to Washington, DC and its educational and economic opportunities. People who migrated to Prince George’s County at this time were also motivated by the desire to escape crime and other problems in urban areas, specifically D.C.
By 1990, African Americans would constitute the majority in Prince George’s County. This change in the county’s demography laid the foundation for increased political power and the growth of black businesses and churches in subsequent decades. And this migration was supplemented by the immigration of blacks from throughout the African diaspora to Prince George’s County, creating a diverse black population and a rich local culture.
STEIN: Moving Out, Moving In, Moving Up opens on January 21 and lasts through February 8 at Montpelier Arts Center, with a public reception on January 27. Learn more at blackhistory.pgparks.com. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.
Music in the Stacks at Peabody Library
January 3, 2019
PHOEBE STEIN: This year, Baltimore magazine named In the Stacks one of eleven local organizations moving classical music forward. The series produces classical music concerts in the George Peabody Library, with programming inspired by the library’s contents and history. Horn player Same Bessen, Founder and Artistic Director of In the Stacks, tells us more.
SAM BESSEN: The George Peabody Library is one of Baltimore’s hidden gems, but it’s also consistently ranked one of the most beautiful Libraries in the world. So in the summer of 2017, I approached the curator of the Library, Paul Espinosa, to ask if he’d allow me to host a small performance among the 300,000 volumes of books. The program would be about the Industrial Revolution—its role in the building of the Library, and how it spurred technological advancements in musical instruments that opened up a whole new world of possibilities for both architecture and music. We called the event “Music in the Stacks” and made a Facebook event so we could invite 50 or so friends. Within a few weeks, about 500 people had RSVP’d. While this did cause a minor logistical panic, we came up with a plan to let as many people in as possible safely and within fire code.
Sure enough, on the day of the event, hundreds of people were lined up around the block. We put on another performance in November of 2017 where musicians played pieces inspired by specific works of literature including Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Baltimore’s Edgar Allen Poe. When we had another standing-room-only show, we knew that the first show wasn’t a fluke and that we had tapped into a substantial community interest. At this time, the Library was about to take on a significant but necessary project to install a modern fire-prevention system, and so Music in the Stacks was put on hold. However, this gave me plenty of time to boil down the values of the program and come up with a formal proposal for a recurring series.
From a Humanities perspective, the series has a single goal that directs our programming – to highlight and draw inspiration from the George Peabody Library. Luckily, the Library is part of Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries, which means we have access to their massive and very diverse collections. For example, our next performance on January 17, 2019 will showcase the Library’s collection of what are called “fore-edge paintings” — books with hidden works of art in the pages, so the whole concert will feature hidden themes and secret codes in music.
From a performing arts lens, the series is an attempt to remedy what I’ve noticed are some of the major factors contributing to budget deficits and low audience turnouts at classical concerts. Issues include a lack of accessibility and lack of collaboration between different mediums and art forms. Accessibility here is referring both to financial and contextual– all of our performances are free with a suggested donation, and we also explain what’s happening inside the music to help our audiences make a personal connection to what they’re experiencing. With respect to diversity, we feature female composers and composers from communities of color. And as for collaboration, we’ve found that the most engaging performances mix the arts with the humanities and different art forms together: — music and literature, visual art and music– the combinations are endless.
STEIN: In the Stacks returns on January 17 at 6:30 PM. Learn more about the series at inthestacks.org. Maryland Humanities is a statewide nonprofit that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities. Humanities Connection is produced by Maryland Humanities for WYPR. For Maryland Humanities, I’m Phoebe Stein.