The objective of this project is to teach youth they can be agents of social change through research and activism. At the culmination of the camp, we will organize an event in which we present our work to the public. The goal of the event is to reconcile misconceptions held by the public about Black youth and their intentions in the Inner Harbor. Simultaneously, we will demonstrate how racism negatively informs policies that frame the Inner Harbor. I hope the event will lead to dialogue between youth and policy makers about constructive ways to decrease crime in the area and build a more inclusive space.
I am seeking $10,000 in matching funds to empower youth as agents of social change in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. These funds will be used (1) for the completion of a summer camp to teach high-school students how to use qualitative research as a tool to legitimate feelings of racism and prove its institutionalized existence (2) and the development of a plan to ameliorate tensions between police, city officials, and local youth about rising crime in the area. Currently, I have a $10,000 Napier Award grant which will be used to pay the students for their participation for the months of July and August, 2012. The matching grant funds would be used to fund the project including research tools, transportation, food, and individual student projects.
I will work with approximately ten Baltimore youth for the months of July and August to examine this tension over public space using Participatory Action Research. During these 8 weeks, students will learn about the history of the Inner Harbor and other public tourist spaces through a sociological lens, think analytically about the competition for public space through presentations by guest speakers and creative exercises, and engage their communities through community organizing. After this introductory phase, lasting approximately 2 weeks, I will guide youth in qualitative ethnographic research to tell the story of the Inner Harbor. Each student will design a research questions, conduct 3-4 interviews, organize field notes, and code data.
I have already recruited over 150 students, which I will interview to narrow down the participants. We are collaborating with an organization called the Village Learning Place (VLP). The VLP’s goal is to provide a space for community learning and growth. They have agreed to provide computers and a classroom, which will be our headquarters for the span of the project. In return, my students will mentor younger students (age 11-14 approx.) enrolled in extracurricular programs at the VLP.
My critical lens is largely shaped by my experiences growing up in Baltimore City. Thanks to the widespread viewership of David Simon’s award winning HBO television show, The Wire, many conceive of Baltimore as a place of singular violence and poverty. Although I don’t deny these truths and have been personally affected by them, Baltimore nurtures a rich culture of activism and resilience.
After graduating from Baltimore City College, I attended an elite institution where I gained the skills I need to work within systems of oppression to change them. In college, I worked as Director of Research and Development for an organization dedicated to prisoner rehabilitation. I launched an investigation to research past rehabilitation attempts in the region and come up with effective solutions for a new, comprehensive program. My work with Fresh Start Ministries taught me the value of community collaboration. With this next project I plan to combine many of my interests -public space, inequality studies, sociological research, and youth empowerment - to examine the complex networks of interaction in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.