My Journey to Poppleton, Baltimore.
The journey I have taken with Organize Poppleton & Poppleton Now Neighborhood Association has opened the door to a world I have always wanted to be a part of.
Growing up, it was either sports or CNN at dinner every night. If my brother and I didn’t like the NBA game or golfing tournament that was on, we could sometimes get away with black sitcoms like The Bill Cosby Show or black animated shows like The Proud Family. Watching these tv shows of entertainment or news, I was fascinated by my ability to keep up. I started to become curious about different current events in the world. This interest grew with my movement in school.
Whether I was at the private catholic high school in Arlington, VA, or the public high school I graduated from in Ashburn, VA, my interest in current events grew in History class and later on in US politics & creative writing.
One of the few police brutality cases that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement was the Trayvon Martin case. To be shot in the head because of skin color and a hoodie was so confusing to me at the time. I was so curious that I stayed with the case. Most nights, during the summer of 2012, were spent understanding the case through the lens of the media. I also indulged in conversation with my parents & other family members about their thoughts. At the time, my family was who I was most comfortable with speaking about the case.
I believe schools should have spaces where students can be involved in spaces where they can express their feelings, confusion, and stance on topics that will affect them in the future.
That curiosity followed me once I attended Northeastern University in Boston, Ma. My time in Boston was full of thrilling late nights with teammates and adventures all around the city with locals, I call my family. This experience also showed me firsthand how a black woman is treated at a predominantly white institution.
At Northeastern, I was involved in a situation where my race, character, and judgment as a student — athlete were attacked. There was a time where I failed a test and wanted clarity on why I failed and what I could do better for the next one to come. That is what a responsible student does, naturally. The professor enjoyed my presence in class because I was vocal and interested. The subject was anthropology, and the TA (white girl) created the test. As I catch up with her after class, being my former TA, we discuss what I got wrong and what her office hours were to discuss further. I then left the classroom.
Within days of our exchange, I received an email that I am now involved in an investigation based on charges against me that involved harassment and behavioral misconduct.
Immediately confused as to why I’ve been charged, freaking out I call my coach, my mom, and my best friends.
The family I had around me, kept reminding me that there is better to come from this situation, my spirit calmed down. Talking with Title IX and the Northeastern Police, they believed her. Because I was involved in another situation on campus, the school decided to suspend me.
The circumstances did come out in my favor in the end. I graduated later that year and received my diploma in October 2020. During that time, I already started the UMBC Master’s program of Community Leadership.
Ever since the situation in Boston I was committed to telling the truth and exposing those who were corrupt. It was based in a school setting but if you look at the big picture, racial inequities were involved. Along with the history of nepotism, what really went down were these series of events which led to my involvement with Poppleton.
Imagine a tall, black, female, student — athlete, finishing her bachelors going up against a white, privileged institution. I was told to fight this case by many of my colleagues, close friends and family. I let the white institution do their due diligence and at the time I was overwhelmed with emotions, the rumors that were spreading & it became exhausting to defend my character to every person who believed this person. Hurting, I still believed that God had a plan.
I honestly wanted to be done with everything, but three years later I see why that situation had me in a dark place. But the light is shining through because my story is not uncommon and student athletes deserve to have platforms where their voice is listened to, and their story is respected.
I mention this story not for pity but to raise awareness for student athletes of color who attend white institutions.
Unlike subjects such as Sociology or Political Science, Community Leadership is a practice.
Dr. Sally Scott said, “Community Leadership at UMBC is an interdisciplinary, holistic approach to understanding and generating social change. Students develop academic knowledge, practical skills, and self-awareness while building relationships and practicing leadership inside and outside the classroom. They learn with and from community members in Baltimore City and neighboring communities. The program engages students in co-learning, co-teaching, and co-creating as they pursue coursework and generate projects designed to build the capacity of their community partners. Community Leadership is a practice, not a position; students are prepared to actively listen, share, connect, and collaborate throughout their careers.”
With that being said, my involvement with Poppleton came from a need to fulfill an academic requirement, relationships with UMBC professors and researching what organization best fits the work I want to do after I graduate.
Dr. Sally Scott and Joby Taylor, the co-creators of the program & our instructors, knew I was searching for an organization that had an immediate impact on black communities, that involved intersectionality and accepted/needed my media background.
Dr. Scott introduced me to Dr. Nicole King, Associate Professor & Chair
Department of American Studies, the Director of the Orser Center for the Study of Place, Community, and Culture & an affiliate faculty: Language, Literacy, and Culture doctoral program. Nicole’s AMST courses are centered around preservation, housing justice and the academic study of government led policies destroying American cities. Her course, AMST380, for the past two years became a huge contributor to graphic design flyers, pamphlets, and zines. It provided a visual journey for the residents of Poppleton to see the history of their own neighborhood and the work being done to improve the quality of living.
Nicole and I got connected towards the end of my basketball season with UMBC Women’s Basketball. Ever since then we have been working to amplify the message the Poppleton Now Neighborhood Association has.
That message consists of negotiations to end eminent domain and displacement of black families. It is a call out to the City of Baltimore to stop an end to the separation of families and bring back affordable housing not just for the East side but the West as well. The message is to call out the dispossession that continues throughout West Baltimore, as well. There are strong concerns with the mental trauma that take part within the relocation process. Finally, we are saying to the City of Baltimore to preserve black history as well as white history and to accept the Eaddy Home and the Sarah Ann Street Homes in the CHAP Historic District so the NY City developer: La Cite will not destroy generations of a community.
I first met Sonia Eaddy and the board members of Poppleton Now Neighborhood Association: Patricia Nicholson, Mildred Newman, Francina Walker, Constance Leslie & Leslie Ware on March 8th at an in-person meeting at St. Luke’s Youth Center (SLYC). This clip,
left side, explains my first experience with Baltimore politics and describes the energy of the room. The flier consists of information provided for the first film fest we had.
The relevancy with the elementary school is currently the city is holding another “community meeting” tomorrow when they know we have been promoting our meeting tomorrow to discuss concerns of the neighborhood. This is a great example of the sneaky moves the city makes to continue the white settler state of America.
After this meeting, we got to work with promoting our message as an organization and getting out to the community. Listening to residents’ concerns that they have was the priority. They spoke about the current Center West apartments and the other issues that concern the community like the lack of parking that affects the entire neighborhood and the damaged/dirty water system. The other issues that were mentioned were litter patrol, parks and recs providing equipment for younger kids to play, the lack of access to space and the anxiety towards the future plans the city has with Poppleton because the location is marketable for downtown living.
The promoting events leading up to the first CHAP Historic District Hearing were our film fests. They were held at The Charles Theater and Hollins Market.
Above you can see the quantity of people who came out to show support and learn about the community engagement stirring up in Poppleton. To the right was taken at the Hollins Market film fest with Sonia Eaddy and part of her board speaking about the message they are sending to the city.
My job with Poppleton as an organizer is to keep the story relevant in the media and because of the popularity and respect the film fests got we were able to keep up the momentum. People from different parts of Baltimore spoke to Sonia at both events, learning of her struggle and her continuous push back against eminent domain. Hearing day approaches (April 12) and as soon as I step in the room at the Benton Building (417 E Fayette St, Baltimore MD) I could sense the intensity of the body language presented by not just my organization but of the CHAP committee too. I could sense the emotions coming from the many residents and supporters who gave testimony. It was a day to remember, especially since we got a victory that secured the Sarah Ann Street Homes.
The second CHAP Hearing was pushed back to July to congregate another committee for CHAP and other reasons the city has. We have taken that opportunity for more promotion, and it gives us time to make more connections within Baltimore and allow others to hear Sonia’s story. A plan, support and commitment is what is required for community work. I learned that with a goal that impacts everyone, there will be people that have their own opinion that do not align with the goals of your organization. Observing how Dr. Nicole King and Sonia Eaddy handle difficult people and difficult groups that threaten the potential of community, heightened the respect I have for them as women.
To keep up with Poppleton Now Neighborhood Association and Organize Poppleton we are having our general meeting May 20th at St. Luke’s Youth Center from 6:30pm to 8pm. This informational is to hear the concerns of the neighborhood and develop talking points that will be presented to the City of Baltimore. We are also hosting a table at the Sowebo Festival on May 29th at 4pm!
Please support our mission and this community.
Community Leadership is a practice I am committed to that daily task.
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