Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Video: Allison Bechdel reading at NCTE 2015

A short video clip of Allison Bechdel's amazing talk at NCTE this year.  It was pretty cool to hear her read narration while clips from Fun Home appeared in the background.

#DividedBaltimore, Week 12: Community Development with Wes Moore and JC Faulk

I have a backlog of #DividedBaltimore writeups, and, as the school year gets more busy, it's more difficult to finalize them for "publication" on this modest blog of mine. My apologies. There have been some cool classes lately and I hope to write them all up. But, the lesson has also been that I should try to strike while the iron is hot, so I'm going to try to write up Monday night's engaging class as soon as possible.

There were only two speakers tonight, JC Faulk, a community organizer who lives in Station North, and Wes Moore, the author of The Other Wes Moore and The Work, and CEO of BridgeEdu. Both resonated with me.

Faulk began his talk with a blunt statement about Baltimore: "It's horrible here for Black people."

And, he argues, the conversation about why begins with racism. Our country, he says, wouldn't be the powerhouse it is today without it being built on the backs and the suffering of my ancestors, and he argues, "There's not a piece of gum that can be sold in this country without race being wrapped up in it."

Faulk then began a talk about the term "Gentry", who, back in the day, were the cushion between nobility and common folk. In America, that cushion is the middle class.  However, that middle road is eroding substantially. It has diminished in every one of our fifty states. However, according to Faulk, while the cushion is gone, and it has been replaced by increased police presence.

Faulk then laid into Gentrification, which he argued was racist. He looked at the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary definition of the term: "The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents," and discussed the apparent innocuousness of the definition, when in fact to "displace" means that people are forcefully pushed out of their neighborhoods.

Faulk's home after his renovation.
Faulk's home before his renovation.

He then focused on his own neighborhood, arguing that displacement means police go into Greenmount Cemetery with infrared goggles and they watch black people in the neighborhood, and the black people don't know they're being watched. He discussed Blue Light cameras, which cost $35,000 and there are hundreds of them around the city, mostly in poor Black neighborhoods. He bemoaned the fact that 5 of 7 board members are white in the New Greenmount Community Association, when New Greenmount is a predominantly Black neighborhood, and railed against the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School, which came into the neighborhood as a way of gentrifying the neighborhood, and claimed that citizens who lived right across the street from the school -- and whose families had gone to the school in that building for generations -- were denied access to the school (didn't win the lottery) while the President of the school, a white woman, got both of her kids in no problem and with no lottery.

[Much of this portion of the presentation left me wondering. The neighborhood is decimated by drugs and violence, so I'm wondering what the problem is with a camera that turns on when there's gunfire? Faulk made the claim that this was spying, but isn't this just searching for a possible murderer? I'm not a fan of blue light cameras, but cameras that turn on when there's gunfire seem prudent and a way to stop some of the horrible violence in this city.]

Mr. Faulk also works with murals in the city, and specifically wants more representation by Black artists; he claimed that out of 14 murals in Station North, only one is by a Black artist -- the one on the side of his house. [My own note: how in the world can this be true? If so, that is crazy. I've never even seen a white man painting a mural before. I guess because that neighborhood is host to MICA and Baltimore Design School, and they produce the murals? Still seems a huge misrepresenation.]

14 murals in an All-Black neighborhood, only one by a Black artist. Faulk attempted to rectify that by organizing a mural to be painted on his home, and that's when I got one of my thrills of the night: Faulk's home is actually the home of one of my favorite pieces of art in the city, the mural with James Baldwin (most of you readers know he's my favorite writer), Nina Simone, and Malcolm X. Here's a photo of me underneath Faulk's mural a couple of years ago. Faulk has been working to get more black representation in the creation of murals around the city.
Me in front of Faulk's home and the mural of my favorite writer.

Faulk then spoke about Eminent Domain, which he saws caused the razing of 750 existing homes and removed over 600 Baltimore residents. Here's an article about it. This was not done to build new train stations, but instead they are giving them to people associated with Hopkins.

Faulk added these moving words: "White supremacy takes everything from Black people, including their lives." He then went on to discuss the death of Tyrone West, an artist who, according to witnesses, was pulled out of a car by his dreadlocks and beaten to death by 10-12 Baltimore City police officers. Tyrone West's sister, Tawanda Jones, who Faulk says is a "modern day Harriet Tubman," has been holding weekly Wednesday protests (West Wednesdays) about West in order to gain public support for charges to be filed against those responsible for his death, and Faulk implored all of the audience to tell one or two people about West's death so his cause is spread. Here's an article about the case.

A result of Faulk's Circles of Voices meetings, which seem amazing.
As a way to work on the city's issues with segregation, Faulk created the Circles of Voices workshops, with the intent is to get people in the same room from different ethnic backgrounds, and talk about the things that are painful: race. They have had meetups all over the city, in Hampden, Canton, Mt. Vernon, Station North. Hundreds of people are involved, with the directive, "Connect with someone who is somewhat unlike you and you don't know them." Faulk recounted a story of Amy ("middle class white woman") and Boom ("the type of brother that people want to throw away") and how their interaction with each other transformed them both. You can read more about The End of Ignorance, Faulk's organization that hosts these talks, here and here.

Faulk ended his presentation with a discussion about how he transformed his formerly boarded up house, which he bought for $200 just a few years ago, into his beautiful home (and host to that Baldwin mural) over the last few years. He urges others to do the same, and had some derision for developers who do it just to make money. Put your heart into it, Faulk seemed to be urging. He then shared the following quote from Dante's Inferno: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." Faulk added, "It's not for the Hitlers, folks. It's for those who in time of pain sit on the fence."

Wes Moore was the next speaker. I'm a big fan of Moore, and really wished he would run for mayor of Baltimore; he is the type of of transcendent leader our city needs right now. He is deciding to stay in charge of BridgeEdu, the organization he founded which works as a bridge from high school into college; the organization does really great work.

Moore began his presentation by thanking UB for the course, saying, "Honest conversations don't happen very often. Surface conversations happen often." He continued with this description of institutional racism: "We didn't get here by accident. We didn't get here because people dropped the ball. We got here because there's been a very intentional system brought into place."

Moore then focused his discussion on education, saying that we can't talk about anything until we fix education. He then centered on Baltimore: "You can't understand who I am and why I am without understanding Baltimore: its path, its progressions, and also its transgressions."

He began describing an anecdote about two disparate opinion writers who took totally different meanings from his book The Other Wes Moore.  Liberal writer Nick Kristof of The New York Times called the text a great examination of race and class, whereas conservative Washington Post editorialist Michael Gerson cited it as a great examination of personal responsibility.

"They're both right," Moore said. "You can't ignore personal responsibility in decision making, but we also can't ignore the fact that we've created a structure in which people are compiled to make decisions based upon what they have known and seen their entire life. We can't talk about personal responsibility without talking about social context."

Nowhere is this more clear, according to Moore, than in education.

Moore continued: "When higher ed was created, it wasn't created for everyone to go. The structure that was created was for 20% of population to attend higher ed. This means that when the K-12 system was created, it wasn't created for most of the ovulation to make it to college. Look at how the K-12 system is structured, after an agrarian calendar. We're continuing to compound upon a system that was never built for everyone to build from it, as if somehow this is an inclusive system. Every year, we hear about how change is going to happen, but the structure remains the same. We're creating a society where exceptions and cherry-picking is now our measure of success."

Moore then proposed six structural solutions -- three for K-12 and three for college -- towards creating a system where "all people don't just feel involved and engaged, but for all people to believe that their success is designed to happen." Moore considers himself cherry-picked, an exception; he wants this not to be the case for others.

For K-12 Education, here are his three solutions:

#1) Restructuring the Financing of BCPSS: "If you look at the way that Baltimore School System is structured, not just on the financing of it, but also in the actual administration of it: Baltimore City doesn't have full responsibility for how BCPSS works. In the late 1990s, there was a decision made about who would rule funding and decisions for BCPSS. When that decision was made, that decision was made with the clear understanding that within the first five years that we would revisit the decision; however, this never happened. BCPSS is still under state control. Currently, the way the system works is that folks from Harford County, PG County, Calvert County, etc., who are making the decisions for what happens in Baltimore City Public Schools. Why isn't this Baltimore's responsibility?"

#2) Restructuring Curriculum. According to Moore, BCPSS curriculum is training students to be employees, rather than teaching them to be entrepreneurs. He wants the system to teach students how to be the next Kevin Plank, not just to work for him. He wants more curriculum around creativity.

#3) School Year Adaptation. He wants to eliminate summer vacation and create a trimester system. He says that this will allow school officials to work with truant students more, allow them to get in at different timelines and providing more breaks within the year so officials can work on its most at-risk students. Note: I was so happy to hear Moore speak about this, as it's one of my passion projects (I think the summer slide caused by our long summer breaks disproportionately hurts our poor students of color, since they largely can't afford things like summer camps), especially in the face of Peter Franchot and Larry Hogan's push to create a law that forbids school districts from opening before Labor Day. This is an issue of equity, as Moore notes.

For Higher Ed, Moore proposes the following three solutions:

#1) More Pell grants. For this example, Moore brought up the example from The Other Wes Moore, when the "other" Wes Moore's mother's Pell grant was cut. She was going to Johns Hopkins, but, after that, she couldn't afford it, and her life (and her son's) turned out totally differently after that.

#2) Change the Maryland FAFSA filing date. For some reason, Moore says, the state of Maryland has one of the earliest FAFSA filing dates in the country, March 1st. He's written about it before. And he's right: this seems just a ridiculous law that could be easily changed.

#3) Eliminate no-credit developmental courses in college. He says that these remedial college courses, which are taken and paid for but offer no credit, hurt college's most at-risk students and decrease the level of "social stickiness" that college students feel with their colleges. These courses wear down on students' financial aid resources and they don't even get any credit for them.

After the last point, the University of Baltimore CAO Joseph S. Wood mentioned that UB has recently taken these developmental courses out of its curriculum, to some cheers and some groans ("why couldn't this have been sooner?") from the crowd.

After the two speakers, there was a spirited question and answer session. I wanted to ask Wes Moore about the proposed legislation to push the school year start date back until after Labor Day, and if there were any movements to prevent that that he knew about it, but lots of others asked questions about such topics as white privilege and social capital.

I found the class to be inspiring; both Faulk and Moore were dynamic, with solid points for improvement and strong evidence.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Leaving NCTE Conference & Recapping Our Last Full Day

NCTE 2015 is over for me. The airport shuttle arrives at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to whisk us back to the airport and then back to Baltimore, where we return to our normal lives again.

Yesterday, the Shakespeare and Assessment session I participated in with two colleagues from the Folger -- Corinne Viglietta, the Assistant Director of Education, and Josh Cabot, a fellow Folger National Teacher Corps member -- went well. It was a 12:45 session, and I think having it during the lunch hour hurt attendance a bit (as well as, perhaps, the decidedly un-sexy topic). But about 60 people showed up, and I feel like they we reached them. One of my basic theories with teaching Shakespeare -- and, really, any text -- is that performance equals engagement with the language and then understanding, so I attempted to make the case by showcasing some of my students in performance videos (one was hot off the presses, a student who just performed the "Is this a dagger before me" monologue on Tuesday), and making the connection between that sort of rigorous performance formative assessment with high stakes assessments like the SAT and PARCC exams. This theory came to me via the 2008 Teaching Shakespeare Institute experience, which I highly recommend for all teachers; I think of my career as pre-TSI and post-TSI. Here's the link to the application for this upcoming summer. Josh spoke about creating rubrics for performance-based assessments, and Corinne presented about a unit the DC Public Schools have adopted to teach Romeo and Juliet. Overall, I think it went quite well.

And, then, today, my session with my colleagues from Baltimore also felt pretty good. We presented about how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has transformed our curriculum, and we shared how we teach her work in the 9th grade (The Thing Around Your Neck) and the 12th grade (Americanah). My colleague Amber Phelps, who is in her 6th year of teaching after joining our department as a TFA core member, submitted our team's proposal and coordinated the presentation, and she introduced some of our department's thinking in teaching Adichie. I went next, discussing formative and summative assessments we use in the 9th grade with The Thing Around Your Neck. Lena Tashjian, who has been my colleague for 12 or 13 years at this point, spoke about supplemental materials and videos associated with her teaching of Americanah, to videos about the politics of hair to supplemental readings like "Whitening the Resume." Finishing out was Jamie Massey, who has been my colleague for almost ten years now, and she spoke about formative and summative assessments associated with her unit surrounding Americanah. Our materials are here -- https://goo.gl/vYtySH -- if you want to check them out.

Afterwards, an audience member came up to us and asked us how our department works like it does, and it's a difficult question to answer. A lot of us were hired in the very early 2000s right out of college, and we have kind of grown up together, working alongside each other for over a decade. As others have been hired, we have done our best to bring them into the fold. We all read a lot, we all communicate a lot. We were lucky to have been blessed with really good department heads who fostered a sense of ownership of our curriculum for us. Our principals have been supportive of our efforts to continually revise our curriculum based upon what is working for our students. It's sort of a perfect confluence of a whole bunch of factors. I feel lucky all the time.

Back to NCTE: I worked four sessions at the Folger Booth, and wasn't able to get away to see many sessions for myself. I learned something new from a comic book session I saw on Friday morning, and another one about world literature that I sat in for today after our session; for that one, one of the speakers spoke eloquently about the difference between ethnic literature and world literature. The Folger Flash Mob of Macbeth was a lot of fun, and I was lucky enough to be talked into attending the annual Thanksgiving dinner, which I'd never known about before.

I leave about $1000 out of pocket, which is kind of a crazy cost when you think about it -- $800 for the hotel room (split), $320 for plane ticket, $100+ for ubers and shuttles, and quite a bit for meals and a bit more for materials. I didn't pay for registration, as I was exhibiting for the Folger, but imagine how much it would have cost then -- another nearly $300 on top of that. I've been making the NCTE a yearly event, but as I head back, exhausted and without any money, I wonder about it. I love sharing things with other teachers and the energy that comes with being around a lot of other teachers, particularly those who are part of the Folger, who care and think a lot, and will definitely be in Atlanta next year, but I do wonder how long I can keep it up. Or maybe I'm just feeling extra exhausted and broke at the moment. I'm disappointed that NCTE doesn't have a graduated cost for admission to the conference, and more opportunities for younger teachers, and just a less expensive event; it becomes an equity issue when some districts pay while other teachers come straight out of pocket. (Note: We created a GoFundMe to try to raise some funds to defer the costs. We spent $4000 collectively on the trip; we asked for $1500 to defer the costs, and ended up raising about $500, which works out to around $115/each. Which was nice.)

That being said, I'm glad I went, and think our sessions went well, and hopefully we spread some good information and strategies about both Shakespeare and Adichie! And it sure was good to see lots of old friends from around the country, and see authors Allison Bechdel and Taylor Mali in the process.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Seeing Allison Bechdel

Bechdel reading with images from Fun Home behind her.
When Alison Bechdel won the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2014, the foundation called her "a cartoonist and graphic memoirist exploring the complexities of familial relationships in multilayered works that use the interplay of word and image to weave sophisticated narratives." When I read Fun Home a few years ago, I was similarly entranced by the text's complexity, its interplay between classic literature and modern family dynamics, between drawing and words. It's certainly one of my favorite works of literature I've read in the last ten years, and, while I haven't seen the musical yet, it's on my list.

Therefore, I was so thrilled o see Bechdel was speaking at the General Assembly at NCTE on Friday. After navigating a crowd that was lining up shortly after 7am (NCTE didn't let people in until 7:50 or so), my colleague and I found seats about 10 rows back from the stage. After an introduction by Laura Julier of Michigan State University (Go Green!), Bechdel was captivating for nearly an hour onstage, as she described parts of her life, her career, and her creative process. Witty and engaging, Bechdel began her speech by saying, "I'm so honored to be standing in front of a auditorium full of English teachers!" She shared that both of her parents were English teachers, and both were NCTE members, with her mother attending conferences in the 1980s (we learned at the onset of the program that 2015 is the 105th NCTE annual convention!). She shared an anecdote that her mother, who loved grammar, was proud of her for being a writer, but perhaps more proud of her for being on a panel deciding which words go into the (Oxford?) Dictionary; Bechdel described debates about whether the word "impact" can be a verb, something she's standing strong against. 
Bechdel speaks.

Bechdel then described the experience of having her father as her high school English teacher, sharing panels from Fun Home and giving some more background information on what was going on in her life at this point. Fascinatingly, Bechdel showcased several pieces of her writing for us, from high school, with teacher comments, from a poem she read during a weeklong unit taught by a guest poet in her father's class, to a paper swimming in red ink that her mother had commented on, to a college professor who critiqued her writing and fascinated her with the comment "ww" over certain words. This meant "wrong word", and for Bechdel, "just the idea that there was a wrong word and there was a right word was a call to adventure." 
From the program

In her last paper in that professor's class, she felt like she finally got it, and this was punctuated by the "astonishing" comment in the margin next to her last sentence: "good." The paper delved into the last line of Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man: "Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead." Bechdel shared that she struggled for years with how to access the story of her and her father, and she realized, in reflection, that her father was her "artificer." She shared that writing Fun Home was kind of like re-writing that essay she had written in college about the Joyce novel.

After college, Bechdel shared that she needed to see a reflection of women who look like her in the world, which led to Dykes to Watch Out For, the comic strip she wrote for 25 years. In was also a response to her father's life, she says: "My father had lived a deeply closeted life that ended badly, and I wanted the opposite... I wanted to destigmatize gayness." 

Much of her work, Bechdel says, focuses on the tension between being an outsider and being a citizen. Bechdel liked being an 
Dykes to Watch Out For

outsider; she says, "It gave me a power I didn't feel like I would have if I was on the 'inside.' Yet I had a yearning that my gayness be seen as 'normal.'"

Bechdel described the irony of achieving "normalcy" within the LBGT community. With battles like gay marriage now won, it ironically makes some LBGT movements "obsolete," in a way. There might not be a need for LGBT papers, for example. "It's probably," Bechdel says, "why I stopped drawing Dykes to Watch Out For." Gay people are now mainstream, and she says (in response to a woman in the audience who married her wife recently and went to a coffee shop that used to be a gay bar and who wonders, 'what were we fighting for again?') she's ambivalent about the issue and "holding" onto her ambivalence. Bechdel says she doesn't want to go back to what we had, but does miss it -- the community, even the feeling of superiority and specialness (she joked) she used to have.

Bechdel shared a paper her mom bled with red ink.

Bechdel wrapped up by sharing that her parents' judgment of her probably caused her to become a graphic memoirist. "I found a way to express myself in a way that my parents couldn't judge. I didn't become an artist or a write; I became an artist and a writer. And, somehow, I managed to write a book that gets taught in a lot of English classes." 

The talk was one of the best I've ever seen, revelatory even. I left with inspiration, and hopeful that someday I might be able to teach Fun Home (to seniors, which would require Bechdel to be added to the IB List of Authors, which I think is a possibility at some point in the future). 

Laura Julier of my alma mater MSU (Go Green!) introduced Bechdel.
Bechdel was fascinated with the "ww" (wrong word) comment.
A poem (with offensive word Bechdel acknowledged) Bechdel wrote at age 16 when a guest poet taught her class.

An image from Fun Home

College for Bechdel

The "good" comment in the margin captivated Bechdel.

Big crowd to enter the Auditorium to see Bechdel

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali at NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis

So far on Thursday here at NCTE, I attended a session on "Climate Change in English Language Arts," which was presented by Allan Webb of Western Michigan University, David Kangas of Wayne Memorial High School, and Lisa Eddy of Adrian High School in Michigan. The session was pretty interesting, particularly the discussion from Mr. Kangas about linking the study of books like Frankenstein and Lord of the Flies with bees' colony collapse disorder and study of how systems work.

Later, we attended the Secondary Section Get-Together, with keynote speaker Taylor Mali, who is famous for his spoken word poem "What Teacher Makes"; he's written several books of poetry and appeared on such programs as Def Poetry Jam.

Here's the video I took of Mali performing at NCTE 2015:

NCTE 2015

I write this brief post from very chilly Minneapolis, where I'm attending the 2015 National Council of Teachers of English conference. It's my 6th NCTE conference, and 4th as a presenter, and I've pretty much made attending and presenting a regular part of my own professional development over the last few years.
The Adichie team from Baltimore City College! 

This year, I'm presenting a session on Friday with the Folger Shakespeare Library about Shakespeare and Assessment. I'll be discussing some of the techniques we use to teach Shakespeare "the Folger Way" (which I've been using since my summer in the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger in 2008) and get them ready for high-stakes assessments with these techniques. It's the 3rd of 4 Folger sessions that day, all delivered by Folger Education leaders and National Folger Teacher Corps members, like me. Definitely check them out for innovative ideas about teaching Shakespeare from the leading Shakespeare Education organization in the world!

On Saturday morning, I'll be presenting with three colleagues about how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has transformed our 9th and 12th grade curriculums through the teaching of her short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, and her novel, Americanah. I'm looking forward to this one, even if it's at 8am on Saturday morning and we're up against Jim Burke, an English teacher rock star if there ever was one.

To breathe some life into this blog, I'm going to try to blog my experience here at NCTE 2015. Let's see if I can keep this up!

My friend and colleague Amber Phelps, with whom I'm presenting about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I watched a bunch of The Good Wife on the flight. Such a good show!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Antero Pietila's Not In My Neighborhood: How We Got Here

Note before reading: Life has been busy. Grades were due on Monday, and I teach 160 great kids. I still have a couple of #DividedBaltimore classes to write up. Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. 

In absence of a real blog entry, here is the paper I just submitted. For the assignment, we were asked to review Antero Pietila's non-fiction text Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City, specifically how it applies to what we've learned in the course so far. I finished the book a few days ago, and here's what I came up with:

Antero Pietila’s Not In My Neighborhood: The Setup of Our Divided Baltimore

            Antero Pietila’s Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City describes the segregation of Baltimore over the course of the 20th century, and provides an overview of the legal means by which Baltimore’s leadership, press, and real estate industry were able to legally create a city divided by race. Starting with W. Ashbie Hawkins’ historic purchase of 1834 McCulloh Street in a white West Baltimore neighborhood in 1910, and the subsequent movement of black citizens and white citizens across different neighborhoods in the city over the next several decades, Pietila’s text confirms that racist policies and practices were designed to keep whites in a dominant economic position over the course of the 20th century, and this dominance – even with some great strides made over the decades -- continues to reverberate in our Baltimore today, both directly and indirectly.
            While some of Not in My Neighborhood delved into familiar material from the lectures in the Divided Baltimore course – particularly Dr. Nix’s opening lecture about real estate practices – I was surprised by other discoveries, particularly about the connection between course content about media bias in reporting the Baltimore Uprising of 2015 and the media bias that perpetuated segregation a century ago by The Sun. When the aforementioned African American lawyer Hawkins purchased his house, The Sun printed in a headline that the city was under a “negro invasion” (Pietila, p. 6). Later, we learn that the newspaper falsely reported such facts as the cost of Hawkins’ house purchase – they reported $800, whereas court records confirm it was $1,900 (Pietila, p. 18) in order to stir up anti-Black attitudes; they also printed fake letters (Pietila, p. 20) and dubiously attributed sources for racist articles (Pietila, p. 21). This attitude continued decades later when African Americans were moving to the city to support industry and obtain jobs during World War II, and The Sun editorialized that, “Keeping unneeded and unwanted Negroes out of Baltimore in a time like this is a national problem” (Pietila, p. 80). Twenty years later, in the 1960s, not much had changed: The Sunpapers continued to run “classified real estate ads according to race” (Pietila, p. 177), a tool that greatly aided blockbusters, which were real estate and lending companies that endeavored to “break up” blocks of white people by frightening whites out of the neighborhood and then selling to African-Americans at an increased cost. While Pietila recognizes that The Sunpapers began shifting away from segregationist attitudes in the 1960s, when the headlines stopped designating race in crime headlines and reporters (Pietila, p. 231) were able to writing “thorough and tough” articles about housing into the paper, until that time, Not in My Neighborhood reads as an attack on media bias in perpetuating segregationist policies.
            The media’s involvement in the creation and maintenance of racial segregation certainly connects to our course content. One of our lecturers, A. Adir Ayara of Associated Black Charities, critiqued the media, describing one instance in when a reporter refused to stop using the word “riot” to describe the events in Baltimore in late April. She then refused the interview, saying to him, “I do not collude in my own oppression or the oppression of my community” (Adira, 2015). Adira then spoke about the media’s framing of events, and how there was a choice to frame events as a largely peaceful protest that broke into moments of violence or, as most media decided, to frame the movement and uprising as simply a “riot.” This perpetuates the image of Black people as “other” and conjures fears in white and mainstream communities, much like what The Sun did in the early- and mid- parts of the 20th century when describing the sale of W. Ashbie Hawkins’ house and beyond. The motive for CNN (and other media outlets) to play and replay scenes of violence while ignoring the larger frame of peaceful protest and segregationist policies may be ratings, through the creed of “if it bleeds, it leads” journalism, but behind that quest for ratings are corporations that benefit from this segregated status quo, just as in turn-of-the-century reporting of housing integration and mid-century real estate.
            As our course has done but in much more depth, Pietila also castigates the segregationist policy of redlining, which was perpetuated by both the Federal Government and local real estate lenders. There was some question after Dr. Nix’s lecture about which of these groups was most responsible for the practice of redlining, but the research by Hillier (2003) suggests that to focus on the FHA is to “assign relatively passive roles to the thousands of appraisers, realtors, and lenders who decided where to make loans” (Hillier, 415). Pietila’s book also assigns blame both locally and nationally, arguing that the sort of racial map-making that the federally-formed Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) conducted was already occurring in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia (Pietila, 64), and that the HOLC’s “signal innovation was to map… according to [this] criteria that were uniform throughout the nation” (Pietila, 65). Thus, as in Hillier’s research, both parties were responsible for the practice. What I garnered from Pietila’s text that I had not connected previously was just how much redlining and blockbusting worked together to enable segregation; I was fascinated by the story of Edmondson Village, which garnered the second-best grade of “still desirable” in 1937 (Pietila, 159). However, twenty years later, its blocks began being busted by blockbusters (meaning, investors such as Morris Goldseker, who helped compel white homeowners to flee and exploiting Black homebuyers with predatory real estate deals), the population of Edmondson Village “transitioned from all white to nearly all black” (Pietila, 160), just as it is today. Lenders, through redlining, had set Edmondson up as a desirable and segregated neighborhood for white people, but, just as quickly and degenerately, lenders had set that same neighborhood up as a segregated, economically undesirable neighborhood.
            One way this lack of desirability of Edmondson Village (and other Black neighborhoods) can be symbolized is through the lack of transportation. During its prime when only white people lived there, Pietila reports, “On clear days many residents could stand on their front steps and see the spires of downtown buildings. That’s where most worked, commuting by streetcar” (Pietila, p. 161). Concurrently when blockbusting occurred, however, National City Lines acquired all streetcar operators in the city and began replacing them with buses. As more white people acquired cars and moved to the county, their reliance on public transportation became less, and thus public policy regarding transportation began to be focused on how the element of “other” would be riding this public transportation. Policy was thus driven by “the public’s fear of crime and undesirables” and “racial overtones” (Pietila, p. 249). Consequently, now Edmondson Village, and other black neighborhoods, and indeed most of the neighborhoods in Baltimore, are served only by an unreliable transportation system of buses instead of streetcars, subways, or light rails as in other big cities. This lack of transportation is a natural isolating outgrowth of segregationist redlining and blockbusting policies. Shrilly Ifill, of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, highlighted this in her talk at the 2015 National Fair Housing Conference: “Policy makers acquiesce to community resistance to desegregation, or work in concert with racist segregationist policies so blacks cannot access the jobs, amenities, and services of well-resourced white communities” (Ifill, 2015). Ifill went on to criticize Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to cancel the Red Line as a state and city joint transportation project, as well as describe some of the other failed transportation projects over the years in Baltimore that would have made Black neighborhoods a less isolated and more connected to the city’s resources. We can see a clear line between Infill’s criticisms of Hogan and the direct connection we see between redlining, blockbusting, and isolating communities without transportation, which is in direct opposition to Pietila’s matter-of-fact reporting of white citizens freely using public transportation to get to their jobs in the first sixty years of the twentieth century. Once the black people moved in, that reliable and affordable transportation left and remains lacking; indeed, Sandtown, Freddie Gray’s neighborhood, has the highest percentage of commute times over 45 minutes in the city (Norton, 2015).
            Of course, we also see the other economic repercussions of the redlining and blockbusting today, decades later. For example, Uncle Joe, the subject of Episode #10 of The Lines Between Us broadcast, bought his house in Reservoir Hill for $6,300 in 1950 (Lanahan, 2012), likely as a result of the redlining and blockbusting described in detail in Pietila’s book. I wondered, as I listened, whether Uncle Joe’s home was sold by Arthur Goldseker, or someone like him, who then charged him too much and coaxed him to sign a bad deal. Thus, his family was not able to accumulate wealth because of these practices, unlike a similarly resourced white family, who would have been steered to a neighborhood like Roland Park in the 1950s and could now have significant familial wealth. Now, at 88 years old, “Uncle Joe” is struggling financially through foreclosure, whereas these same policies helped white people in Baltimore accumulate wealth through real estate. Pietila’s text gives us the background and the slow, then fast, policy changes that led to shifting neighborhoods but continued neighborhood segregation in the city.
            The subtitle of our Divided Baltimore class is, “How Did We Get Here? Where Do We Go From Here?” Pietila’s text reports the century of how “we [got] here.” It was a combination of social engineering and policies, stoking of segregationist feelings, and people falling victim to their worst sides of their humanity. The only way for Baltimore to move forward is to recognize that a century of policies and attitudes occurred and must be analyzed and dismantled, a process that will take a long time; however, as we have seen in the negative in Not in My Neighborhood, social and economic forces can make a neighborhood like Edmondson completely change in less than ten years time. These social and economic policies were fueled by people’s worst characteristics – their greed, their fear of “other” (stoked by the press). Are there positive forces that can fuel change of our city? Going from here, we must seek them.

Ayira, A. (2015, October 26). "Showing 24 Hours Per Day: Media and The Image of the Black

Bogeyman" Lecture presented at Divided Baltimore in University of Baltimore.

Hillier, A. (2003). Redlining and the Home Owners' Loan Corporation. Journal of Urban

History, 394-420.

Ifill, S. (Speaker). (2015, September 1). 2015 National Fair Housing Conference, Residential

Segregation [Television broadcast]. In “The Problem We All Live With: Residential

Segregation”. Washington DC.

Lanahan, L. (Producer). (2012, November 30). The Wealth Gap [Radio series episode]. In The

Lines Between Us. Baltimore: Maryland Morning.

Norton, E. (2015, September 24). The role of transportation in providing access to opportunity

and how current policies ameliorate or exacerbate inequality in the Baltimore region.

Lecture presented at Divided Baltimore.

Pietila, A. (2010). Not in my neighborhood: How bigotry shaped a great American city. Chicago:

Ivan R. Dee. 

Note: My professor asked us to use APA, and I never learned, so above is my poor attempt. I just couldn't learn a whole new system. Now, MLA I know like the back of my hand.