A reflection written by Jess Myers, Women’s Center Director
The last time I passed by this wall was in February 2015. Before the murder of Freddie Gray. Before the Baltimore Uprisings. Before… I don’t remember what was on this wall, if anything. But walking down Greenmount Avenue yesterday afternoon on my way to visit the Monument Quilt‘s studio, I came to a full stop as the mural came to view.
It’s beautiful. And sad. And deeply powerful. It is activism. Baltimore Is Rising.
As we’ve been planning Critical Social Justice and immersing ourselves in its theme of Baltimore 365, I often come into the Women’s Center or to Critical Social Justice planning team meetings with more questions than I have answers. Will we do this right? Will we honor Baltimore in the way it needs to be? Will we respect its people in the way that they — we deserve? Knowing we can never cover all the issues, whose voice, whose experience, whose story will go untold?
I love Baltimore. Baltimore is my home. It is my heart. This city is my roots and the roots of my family.
But since the uprisings, I wonder if Baltimore is mine to claim? Who is Baltimore? Am I Baltimore?
While I only live 2.6 miles away from this location at the cross streets of Greenmount and Oliver, my home in Baltimore feels miles and miles away. My reality from the white gentrified neighborhood of Canton isn’t the reality of the Oliver neighborhood or Sandtown or Cherry Hill. I am only a guest in these neighborhoods. The issues and experiences of Baltimore are vast and segregated. Racial and socioeconomic injustice is real – I see it but it is not my lived experience.
I am Baltimore and I am not Baltimore. I’m seeking how to navigate this complicated reality. How do I use my voice? How do I use my privileged identities in a positive way? How will I demonstrate my love for Baltimore in a way that builds bridges with others in our community and is fundamentally invested in our mutual liberation?
I am eager to engage with the UMBC community as we delve into what Baltimore 365 means for us. I doubt all my questions will be answered but I am ready for the difficult dialogues, the chance to create brave spaces, and be in community together with others.
How will we speak out?