The News: The AVAM Celebrates Rebecca Hoffberger, Hogan’s “Political Stunt”, $1 Homes

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This week’s Baltimore news includes:  Amy Sherald acquisition makes news, National Museum of African American History and Culture goes virtual, Baltimore’s Black Arts District, Wampanoags bracing for the 400th anniversary of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving, and more reporting from The AFRO, Baltimore, Baltimore Brew, and other local and independent news sources.



Rebecca Hoffberger, co-founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum, holds the William Donald Schaefer Visionary Tourism Award that she received during Visit Baltimore’s annual meeting at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum on Thursday. Hoffberger will retire next spring. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Rebecca Hoffberger feted, roasted in advance of her retirement as director of the American Visionary Art Museum
by Ed Gunts
Published November 23 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: American Visionary Art Museum director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger isn’t retiring until next spring, but friends and colleagues have already started saying farewell with two ceremonies that highlighted her contributions to Baltimore’s cultural scene and the art world in general.

On Thursday, Visit Baltimore presented Hoffberger with its William Donald Schaefer Visionary Tourism Award during the organization’s annual meeting at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.

On Saturday, she was roasted and honored by Baltimore filmmaker John Waters, UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski III and others during a 26th Anniversary Gala and Founder Farewell celebration that raised more than $300,000 for the museum.

“This is so much better than a funeral!” she told 230 guests at the event on Saturday.

Hoffberger, 69, announced in July that she plans to step down after 41 exhibitions to write a play, among other pursuits. She co-founded the museum with her husband, the late LeRoy Hoffberger, and has been the only director and primary curator in its history. April 3 will be her last day.



Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced a “Re-Fund the Police” initiative last month. This week, Hogan announced additional policies he hoped would stem violent crime in Baltimore, including withholding funding from the city’s state’s attorney until data on prosecutions is delivered to his Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Hogan Clashes With Mosby, Other Baltimore Leaders Over His Latest Crime-Fighting Plan
by Danielle E. Gaines
Published November 23 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said Tuesday that he will withhold funding from Baltimore’s state’s attorney until she provides data on crime and prosecution rates in the city, and he promised to re-introduce a failed package of crime bills when lawmakers re-convene for a special session in December.

Hogan made the series of announcements in the State House a week after the city surpassed 300 homicides for the seventh year in a row.

Among the actions Hogan proposed are fast-tracking $10 million in neighborhood safety grants he promised as part of a “Re-Fund the Police” initiative last month, and expanding the grant program to include places of worship. Last week, 69-year-old Evelyn Player was found stabbed to death in the restroom of Southern Baptist Church, the Broadway East church where she volunteered.

After Player’s death last week, Hogan ordered additional Maryland State Police patrols in the city to deter crime.

“The people of Baltimore are hurting. They’re scared. And they’re searching for answers,” Hogan said.

See also:

Mosby calls Hogan’s ordered review of SAO funding a ‘political stunt’
by Emily Sullivan
Published November 24 in WYPR



Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

Fearless teamed with the Smithsonian to create the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s virtual experience
by Stephen Babcock
Published November 22 in Baltimore

Excerpt: Since opening in 2016, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has been a DC destination.

The Museum centers the African American story as central to American history, after the experience has long been marginalized, and offers a comprehensive and emotional experience that connects the present to the past. A memorable way this plays out is through an elevator ride that opens the museum’s Slavery and Freedom exhibit by illustrating moments in history from 2017 to 1400.

And thanks to a new virtual experience for the Smithsonian that was developed through work with Baltimore digital services firm Fearless, visitors don’t have to go to the museum to be immersed in that descent.



This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.
by Dana Hedgpeth
Published November 25 in The Washington Post

Excerpt: Long marginalized and misrepresented in the American story, the Wampanoags are braced for what’s coming this month as the country marks the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and Indians.
But the actual history of what happened in 1621 bears little resemblance to what most Americans are taught in grade school, historians say. There was likely no turkey served. There were no feathered headdresses worn. And, initially, there was no effort by the Pilgrims to invite the Wampanoags to the feast they’d made possible.
Just as Native American activists have demanded the removal of Christopher Columbus statues and pushed to transform the Columbus holiday into an acknowledgment of his brutality toward Indigenous people, they have long objected to the popular portrayal of Thanksgiving.



Amy Sherald, Welfare Queen (2012). Photo courtesy of Phillips.

The Recent Sale of Amy Sherald’s ‘Welfare Queen’ Symbolizes the Urgent Need for Resale Royalties and Economic Equity for Artists
by Cheryl Finley & Lauren van Haaften-Schick & Christian Reeder & Amy Whitaker
Published November 22 in Artnet News

Excerpt: This past Wednesday, November 17, a regal portrait by the celebrated artist Amy Sherald sold for $3.9 million, double its $1.2 million-to-$1.8 million estimate, in the 20th-century and contemporary evening sale at Phillips New York. Welfare Queen(2012), listed in the catalogue as hailing from “a private East Coast collector,” was consigned by Dr. Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. In an essay for Phillips, Professor Perry recalled acquiring the work from the artist, and credited Sherald’s generosity in allowing her to use a payment plan to purchase the piece:

I was hardly in a position to begin collecting art. My budget was tight, my responsibilities to others were high. But I shyly approached Sherald about purchasing the piece over time. Her generosity was heart-warming and frankly life changing. It was the first significant piece of art I ever owned.

Sherald, however, was surprised when she learned of Perry’s intention to sell at auction. The artist wrote in a statement to Culture Type in response to the sale:

Despite its common occurrence, it can feel personal when a painting is put up for auction by a collector. Especially, in this case, when it’s someone you know and worked with to accommodate an alternative payment arrangement to acquire the piece in the first place. It is every artist’s hope that collectors will do the right thing by the work and for the artist by leveraging the gallery to assist in placing the work.



A pedestrian walks past a row of houses on N. Bradford street, slated for demolition on June, 22, 2016, in Baltimore, MD. Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

‘A Nostalgic Fantasy’: Baltimore’s $1 Homes, Explained
by Jaisal Noor
Published November 24 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: Last week, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby—who is fundraising to defend himself in a federal investigation—unveiled a dollar houses program that his office claims will revitalize the city and bridge its massive racial wealth gap. The legislation allows certain Baltimoreans to rent a vacant home for two years for just $1 while they make necessary repairs. Once the formerly vacant home is livable, the title goes to the $1 renter.

The need for cheaper homes is apparent in Baltimore. Longtime city residents have been locked out of opportunities to create wealth that homeownership provides—and median sale prices in Baltimore have nearly doubled since January 2020.

“Besides the opportunity to create generational wealth, buying an affordable home will also save many city renters hundreds of dollars a month,” a press release from the council president’s office said. “Nearly half of the renters in Baltimore pay more than a third of their income on housing.”



Father Jack Lombardi today at St. Francis of Assisi Church, where some congregants protested treatment of a girl forbidden from wearing a Pride shirt. (J.M. Giordano)

After a Catholic priest has a student remove her gay pride shirt, classmates step up to support her
by Fern Shen
Published November 21 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: For the 12-year-old student at St. Francis of Assisi School, wearing a favorite old tee shirt with a gay pride message on “Dress Down Day” was nothing new. She had worn it before on relaxed-dress-code days with no problem, she told The Brew.

But this past Friday, at the end of the mass that she and her classmates attended next door at St. Francis of Assisi Church in northeast Baltimore, the shirt caused a stir:

At Father John J. “Jack” Lombardi’s direction, witnesses told The Brew, the school principal directed the homeroom teacher to tell the girl her shirt would have to come off. The teacher made her remove it in front of the other students as they stood at the back of the church.

“For the rest of the day, everyone was very angry about it,” said her 7th grade classmate, Dylan Hoffman, speaking at this morning’s mass.



Billie Holiday on Pennsylvania Avenue. Credit: Irving Henry Phillips Sr., courtesy of Webster Phillips.

“Worthy of monumentalization”: Black Arts District preserves cultural memory of Pennsylvania Avenue
by Rudy Malcom
Published November 19 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Immortalized in bronze, Billie Holiday sings in the Upton neighborhood, her hair adorned with gardenias. Across the striking statue once stood the Royal Theatre, the famed West Baltimore venue where Holiday and fellow Black jazz and blues stars once performed.

The eight-and-a-half-foot statue is the sole monument of how Pennsylvania Avenue was an epicenter for Black art and entertainment businesses during the early to mid-20th century.

Racist housing practices like redlining and blockbusting caused decades of disinvestment in adjacent neighborhoods. Today, fewer and fewer folks remain who can remember The Avenue in its heyday.

“It is incredibly urgent that we get a better understanding of these histories because so much of that generation is passing away,” said Angela Carroll, who is lead curator and art consultant at the Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District.

“If we don’t salvage this history in some way,” she continued, “all their children and their children’s children will have is the false narrative that other people— mostly folks that are not in their community — tell them about who they are and where they come from.”



Dr. Joshua Sharfstein speaks at the Osler Medical Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in 2018. Sharfstein, a former deputy FDA commissioner and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, urges continued caution against COVID-19 during the Thanksgiving holiday. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Conversation About COVID-19 and the Holidays With Dr. Joshua Sharfstein
by John Rydell
Published November 18 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Dr. Joshua Sharfstein plans to spend a normal Thanksgiving with his family.

That was not the case one year ago for him and countless other Americans, as cases of COVID-19 soared before a vaccine became available.

Still, the vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has a warning for other families. “I don’t recommend that older adults go to an indoor Thanksgiving dinner with adults who are not vaccinated. Obviously there are kids who can’t get vaccinated, so I would recommend that older adults keep some distance from them,” he said in an interview this week. “If everyone should be vaccinated at Thanksgiving dinner, that will create a lot of protection.”



Jordan DeVega (Photo courtesy of Jordan DeVega)

Homeless, Anxious, Depressed and Young
by Julianne Hill, Caitlyn Hutabarat and Amira Horowitz
Published November 23 in The AFRO

Excerpt: After Jordan DeVega’s grandmother died when he was 16, leaving him without a legal guardian, he was moved in and out of foster care and group homes in New York City for several months.

When members of his extended family learned of his troubles, they brought him back to their home in Baltimore and provided him a stable place to live.

But by the time he was 18, DeVega was fighting depression. He dropped out of school, wasn’t working, and spent his days on the couch playing video games, smoking cigarettes and weed.

“I was hard-headed and was not listening to my elders, fighting a lot,” said DeVega, now 22 and living in Baltimore.



The Baltimore County Council has released a new redistricting proposal for councilmanic districts. The new map includes one majority Black district, though advocates had lobbied for two such districts. Photo by atdr -

Baltimore County Redistricting Proposal That Keeps Just One Majority Black Council District
by Bennett Leckrone
Published November 18 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Although civil rights groups have urged Baltimore County Council members to include a second majority Black district in new council maps, an updated draft released by the county council this week still includes only one such district.

Maps released by the Baltimore County Redistricting Commission came under fire earlier this year after civil rights advocacy groups, including the Baltimore County NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said the maps “pack” Black residents into a single majority district, diluting their power. Only one of seven current council districts is majority Black, and the map proposed by the county’s redistricting commission would have kept that configuration. Roughly 47% of Baltimore County residents are Black, Indigenous or people of color, according to the ACLU of Maryland.

Under the new proposed council map, first reported by the Baltimore Sun, five of seven districts are majority white and another has a 46.17% white plurality. Just one district is majority Black at 72.59%. In response to community feedback at a public hearing last month, the map unites Towson in a single district as opposed to splitting it into multiple districts it as the map proposed by the county’s redistricting commission would have.

An interactive version of the new proposed council map is available online.



Header image: Berri Wilmore for The AFRO

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