What You Need to Know About Marisela B. Gomez

As we count down to the Critical Social Justice: Baltimore 365 keynote event “Baltimore in Action: Always Rising” on Tuesday, October 20th, we’ll be profiling all of our keynote speakers in our “What You Need to Know” series. 

Marisela B. Gomez, activist, public health professional, and author

Marisela B. Gomez is a community activist, author, public health professional, and physician scientist. She received a BS and MS from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, a PHD, MD, and MPH from the Johns Hopkins University. Of Afro-Latina ancestry, she has spent more than 20 years in Baltimore involved in social justice activism and community building/health research and practice.

Meet Marisela!

Meet Marisela!

Some of her most notable work includes working on and leading the Save Middle East Action Committee which was created by residents living north of the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in an area called Middle East in response to learning the area would become the future site of a $1.8 billion redevelopment project known as the John Hopkins Biotech Park. Marisela was interestingly positioned in this battle as she was a resident of the area and a community member of the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. She would later go on to write a book about the organizing experience, the historical disinvestment of Middle East, and the ongoing consequences of race, economic, and institutional power inequities faced by marginalized communities.

“Supposed you learned about your community like they did, through The Sun [paper]?… You don’t stop big projects initiated by Johns Hopkins University. But you can slow it down, you can seek to change the dollar amount of those whose homes are to be used and you can still struggle for the right of re-entry. You can still fight to make sure the residents who are to be moved out can stay in the neighborhood.” 

Since 2004, she has been studying and practicing mindfulness and other forms of meditation around the world. Most recently, she’s been sharing her meditation practices with activists doing racial justice and social justice work through retreats and workshops with the Baltimore community.

An important read about the confrontation between the fragile and distressed Middle East neighborhood of Baltimore and the city’s most powerful institutions, including the closest neighborhood, Johns Hopkins Medical.

Much of the conversation about Baltimore — especially in the aftermath of the April uprisings — centers around West Baltimore while little attention from national and local media is given to the issues facing East Baltimore. The Critical Social Justice planning committee is excited to have Marisela join our keynote panel and give voice to the experiences of the East Baltimore community. Moreover, we are eager to learn ways in which we can add to our self-care toolkit and learn ways to combat burnout when engaging in important social and racial justice activist work.

For more on Marisela, check out:

Productive Discomfort

A blog reflection by Joe Levin-Manning, Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Programs

One thing I think we need to see and hear more of is people feeling uncomfortable. While there is a time and a place for the principle of “safe space” it has now become somewhat of a crutch to not have to face challenging issues. I will acknowledge that my introduction to this idea was through this concept of Brave Space (that is hyperlinked, so please check the article out). Last year’s theme for Critical Social Justice introduced this topic to the UMBC community and offered a social justice lens and I hope to take this a little further and throw a little Jewish spin on it as well.

In Judaism we have these things called Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud. Everything talked about in these three books is not always cut and dry. One of the things the Talmud specifically is known for is the debate that occurs between the different rabbis. Even several thousand years ago the rabbis knew that in order to grow you must be challenged. I remember talking with a colleague about studying texts and they said they missed the buzz of a Beit Midrash, a room where people study and struggle with text. Then, I wondered why have we become so content with making everyone pacified, instead of asking someone to acknowledge their bigotry and evolve.

We have begun to fall into a trap of believing that all spaces must be safe spaces. This is a very dangerous trap. This misuse of safe space weakens the understanding of where the need for a safe space came from. If left unchecked more and more people will feel ostracized and shamed any time they learn they offended someone. There is a similar issue with the idea of political correctness. It is a faulty attempt at trying to make people feel better by creating “appropriate language” to put people into boxes and not feel guilty about it. The problem here is that we are trying to equate someone’s identity with boxes and the tension that ensues is electric.  Continue reading

Start CSJ Early! Volunteer for Project Homeless Connect-Baltimore!

This fall’s Critical Social Justice theme is Baltimore 365. We’re excited for the events that will be happening on campus during the week of October 19th… but why wait?! We’re encouraging UMBC community members to engage with and volunteer in Baltimore City at the 4th annual Project Homeless Connect. This city-wide resource fair provides on-the-spot services for thousands of members of the homeless community.

Next Steps:

Also don’t forget you can participate in more extended service-learning opportunities in Baltimore City through the Shriver Center. Check out potential sites and connect with the Shriver Center before September 25th to sign up for PRAC 096.