Home: Paying Attention to Standing Rock

A reflection written by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers 

As Critical Social Justice: Home comes to an end today, I can’t help but to think about what is happening at Standing Rock right now where over 100 police with military equipment are advancing on a resistance camp established by Native American water protectors in the path of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline (details). My week starting off with me tuning into Democracy Now! to hear reports from water protectors who were arrested over the weekend at a peaceful march after they were confronted by police in riot gear, carrying assault rifles (details).

Then at the CSJ keynote event, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha opened her talk by acknowledging the Susquehannock and Lenape people, whose land UMBC stands on or is nearby. She went on to say that except for the Piscataway, Maryland does not recognize any Nations because, as with many mid Atlantic states, Native people were displaced onto Oklahoma Indian Territory or other places of displacement during colonization in the 1700s. When I lived in Colorado, speakers at events would often start with this land acknowledgment, in fact, some professors even named it in their course syllabi. It has been a long time since I’ve been in a space where this critical history has been acknowledge.

Later in the week, I saw an infograph created by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture that outlined the scary realities of “Sexual Assault on the Pipeline.”


As we spent the whole week exploring and navigating the complexities of home, I can’t stop thinking about Standing Rock, the water protectors, and what the pipeline will do to the homes and communities of Native American and Indigenous people, specifically the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. We would be remiss if we did not name their cause, efforts, and fight for home this week.

In social justice circles, you’ll often hear people say, “Do the work.” This is a call for us to learn about issues, do self-reflection, and appropriately lend our voice and action to the cause. While I’m still learning about this evolving issue, I wanted to at least share the information I’ve been accessing and provide some resources for where we can keep learning about this critical issue happening right now. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list! As you explore resources, be sure to check out coverage and resources directly created by Native American voices and those that amplify their voices.


Once again, this is not an exhaustive list. Use this short list to get started and keep clicking on the links for more information and resources!


What You Need to Know: Baltimore & Residential Segregation (A New Student Book Experience Pre-CSJ Event!)

Get ready for Critical Social Justice: Home with our “What You Need to Know” series.

Last year’s Critical Social Justice: Baltimore 365 was dedicated to understanding the historic and current day complexities and realities of Baltimore City. In the wake of the Baltimore Uprising, the CSJ planning team felt (and still does feel) deeply committed to creating more opportunities for our campus community to connect with and understand Baltimore. This year’s CSJ theme of Home allows for the conversation and learning about Baltimore to continue.

How does a legacy of residential segregation impact the creation and/or destruction of “home” in Baltimore? 

What does it mean to “be home” for residents of Baltimore City? 

Which Baltimore neighborhoods are perceived as homes? And, which ones are perceived as less than? How does race, gender, and socioeconomic status show up in our responses? 

How does policing in Baltimore and the recent release of the Department of Justice report impact the reality of home? 

This year, all incoming first-year and transfer students were asked to read Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila which tells the story of how racial segregation came to be and what its impact is through the story of Baltimore. Mr. Pietila will be visiting campus to explore some of the questions above (and more) at this year’s New Student Book Experience event on Thursday, October 13th. This is a great way to kick-off Critical Social Justice: Home and we hope to see many of you there!


For more details about the New Student Book Experience “Meet the Author” event, visit the event post on myUMBC. 


What You Need to Know While Walking in Baltimore (a CSJ Walking Tour Sneak Peak)

A guest post from Dr. Kate Drabinski

As someone who doesn’t own a car, I travel my bike and foot, bus and train, the occasional ride thrown in by a generous driver. Truth is, even if I had a car, I’d still travel without one, because that’s how you get a sense of where you live. Walking and biking in Baltimore has helped me understand how neighborhoods are organized, segregated, and cut off from each other by streets, transit systems, and urban planning policies. Cities look like they do not by accident or as the result of a series of individual choices, but because of planning decisions and the choices that follow. Even when we “choose” where to live, work, and play, our choices are circumscribed by stories space tells us about whether or not “we” belong. In a car you don’t have to see that, but walking or on bike, you become intimately familiar with the changes that take place as you get from here to there.

MLK Blvd separates and isolates the west side of Baltimore from downtown.  Read more at the Baltimore Brew by clicking on the image.

The separation of West Baltimore from the downtown area is particularly striking to me, the two sides of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard like two different worlds. UMBC’s downtown shuttle drops students, faculty, and staff on the east side of that divide, but both sides are integral to our lived sense of the city, belonging, and who are our neighbors. This walking tour will take us along MLK and both east and west as we learn about the history of this stripe that has made all the difference for difference.

To learn more about the neighborhoods we’ll be visiting during the walking tour, check out these resources:

To learn more about Baltimore be sure to check out the kick-off to #CSJ365, Baltimore 101: Why Baltimore Matters on Monday, October 19th at 12pm.

Tickets for the #CSJ365 walking tour are going fast! If you want to join us on Friday, October 23rd, pick up your free ticket at the Commons CIC desk asap! 

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.” 

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