“How are you doing?”
It’s a simple enough question, but one that has a stronger implicit meaning this week. Many keep asking me “How are you doing?” pointing their eyes toward the city. I keep asking my friends “How are you doing?” with my mind flying to people dancing at North and Penn encircled by police in riot gear. It’s a simple question, but right now, it’s an important question—an important act of social justice that I want to emphasize, and that I believe is crucial to a Critical Social Justice movement.
By reaching out to one another, asking open-ended questions, and really just caring, we are taking some of the first steps toward activism in this Baltimore Uprising.
Don’t know quite what I’m talking about yet? That’s okay. Here’s a quick run-down: I’m talking about the recent often peaceful, often turbulent release of years upon years of tension in Baltimore City. Though there are many instances that have pushed the Baltimore community, it has been the murder of Freddie Gray by police that has really motivated people all around to speak louder and fight for their voices.
According to the police, the young black man from West Baltimore made eye contact with a police officer, ran away, and was then arrested. In the time that he was taken to booking, he suffered critical injuries including a severed spinal cord and a crushed voice box that put him in the emergency room. A week later, on April 19th, Freddie Gray died. The police have yet to release a report on the incident, which has only exacerbated the frustration felt by many in Baltimore, but especially black folks who have had to bear the brunt of police brutality and institutionalized violence for centuries in this city. This frustration was funneled into organizing peaceful protests, (on Saturday, April 25th gaining ten thousand supporters) which sparked incredible dialogues that centered on violence, police, poverty, and racism in Baltimore. With stronger numbers taking part in the protests, came stronger police presence and higher tensions. On Monday, April 27th, police in riot gear isolated and cornered teenagers coming home from school and riots began to break out in small pockets around Baltimore. Since this rough Monday, militarization of the police has escalated, Gov. Hogan has called in the National Guard, and a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am has been set for the city.
With this unrest, however, we have also seen communities come together to clean up after property was damaged; people gathering to help board up windows and sweep up debris. We have seen people across Baltimore and in our neighboring counties come into the city to donate and prepare food for kids who weren’t getting lunch on their days off from school. We have seen organizations like the 300 Men March come into protests to create human walls between police in full riot gear and protesters dancing in drum circles. We have also seen many all over the world come out through social media, personal blogs, and progressive news organizations, writing articles about why we should care about what’s happening here in Baltimore and why we need the change so many of us have been chanting about.
There are many ways to get active with this movement, and the first step really is simple: it’s in caring. If you just read the above wall of text summarizing what has been going on here in Baltimore and felt a little something, then I think you’re on your first steps.
Those of us who support both Critical Social Justice as a week-long event and critical social justice as a way of being involved know that there are many different ways to show support for our communities and to be an activist that supports those fighting for justice in Baltimore. Often activism is thought of as something where you march with a hand-painted sign, but it can be so many more things and include so many other people. Critical Social Justice is about meeting people where they’re at, and fostering growth from that position. Here are some ways to be a critical social justice activist for the Baltimore Uprising: Continue reading
Critical Social Justice week is fast approaching (February 16th to the 20th) and the theme this year is “Creating Brave Spaces”. To unpack and explore this idea, we had the Critical Social Justice Student Alliance tell us what the theme meant to them and how we can use it in our social justice work. Emily Eaglin, incoming president of this new student organization, created this helpful video that documents our conversation and expands upon what brave spaces can be. Even our keynote speaker, Franchesca Ramsey, shared the video on her YouTube page! Check out the video below:
We were inspired by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens’ article, “From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces,” and for some highly recommended further reading, you can access it here.
If you’re interested in creating a program for the Critical Social Justice campaign, visit our About page for details!
With much discussion in Women’s Center staff meetings about actively applying our work in the Center as student staff members to other areas of our lives, I have recently been thinking a lot about how my experiences and education in social justice and activism coincide with the various roles and responsibilities I hold outside of the Center. Currently in the process of working towards receiving teacher certification in elementary education, one of my most valued roles this academic year is my internship as a student teacher in a fourth grade classroom. Watching my students embrace new concepts and grow as individuals each week has not only brought an immense amount of pleasure and fulfillment into my life, but it has also caused me to think rather critically about how learning in the classroom translates outside to the “real world”. I’m not talking about how that math equation we learned last week can help us to calculate a tip on a restaurant bill, or how that new vocabulary word can be used to impress our relatives, but instead about how simple classroom dynamics can set a pretty important example for those of us who are long removed from our own elementary school classrooms.
Although we live in a society that preaches equality and fairness, perhaps one of the most important concepts I have learned in the classroom thus far is that equality and fairness are far from interchangeable terms. Continue reading
UMBC celebrates LGBTQ History Month with this Critical Social Justice campaign speaker. The lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, October 21st at 7:30pm in the University Commons (UC) Ballroom.
A trans woman of color, hearing Reina Gossett’s lived experience is enough to captivate. Add to this her years of meaningful experience in activism and community organization, in film-making and research, in writing and social justice work, and Gossett’s growing recognition begins to make sense.
Reina offers a unique perspective on the experiences of LGBTQ/GNC (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming) people, especially those who are also people of color and those of low-income backgrounds.
Sharing this perspective, and with such varied and interdisciplinary experiences, Reina brings new light to social justice activism and challenges even the most critical of us to examine our practices and beliefs, pushing all to embody the change that so many feel our world so desperately needs.
Presented by Student Life’s Mosaic: Cultural & Diversity Center and The Women’s Center.