Baltimore News: Asma Naeem, Artscape Conflict, Hooper House Fire, Baltimore Community Weaving Studio

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This week’s news includes: a tribute to Valerie Maynard, two Maryland lawmakers introduce The National Council of African-American History and Culture Act, a profile of BMA Chief Curator Asma Naeem, Enoch Pratt Library’s workers to Unionize, Midway’s last days on The Block, Baltimore Community Weaving Studio, and more reporting from WYPR, The Baltimore Banner, Maryland Matters, The AFRO and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image: SHAN Wallace for The Baltimore Banner


Asma Naeem: From NYC prosecutor to chief curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art
by John-John Williams IV
Published September 27 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: When Asma Naeem learned that then President Donald Trump’s portrait would be hung in the National Portrait Gallery, she knew she wanted to do something to counter the optics it created. So she placed a portrait of one of Baltimore’s most well-known native sons, the late rapper Tupac Shakur, directly across from it.

It was one of the many ways she tried to make the museum, where she was a curator at the time, reflect America’s diverse history.

“I was on a mission to add as many multicultural [works] to better understand our country’s past and future,” she said.

Moments like that are exactly why the Howard County resident left her job as a criminal prosecutor in Manhattan to pursue a career in the museum world.

“I kept realizing that as much as I wanted to be a public servant and effect change, I knew my role on this earth was to help people, but I knew I could not do that at the DA’s office,” she said.



In memoriam: Valerie Maynard, friend and artist
by Imani Spence
Published September 25 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: “Valerie Maynard was a woman who could do many things … she was fearless and unflinching in facing the art world.”

That is how Januwa Moja, a multidisciplinary artist and friend, described Valerie Maynard, the pioneering artist of portraiture and printmaking. She was among many in the art world who fondly remembered Maynard, who died this week. She was 85 years old.

As an artist, Maynard focused on the social experience of Black people around the world. Her “No Apartheid” series, created in the 1990s in support of South African freedom, placed her in a league of artists who have used their work to fight for change.



Fire at James E. Hooper House in Baltimore leaves artists devastated
by Lisa Robinson
Published September 21 in

Excerpt: About 10 artists used the James E. Hooper House at East 23rd and St. Paul streets to create and exhibit their work. “We saw lights outside and got up to go look out to see what the lights were coming from. There were fire trucks surrounding the building,” said Scout Roll, co-owner of Artists Space.

Roll and their partner were in a studio when firefighters came into the building to tell people to get out.”I heard the firefighters verbally confused about how to get up to the top of the building because there was no map,” Roll said.

Roll showed firefighters how to access the top floors. Roll made efforts to get the landlord to get a map of the building and labels on the doors, but that didn’t happen.



Congressman Kweisi Mfume and Senator Ben Cardin band together to introduce the National Council on African-American History and Culture Act
by Tashi McQueen
Published September 26 in The AFRO

Excerpt: Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD-07) recently introduced new legislation to further in-depth representation and conservation of Black history and culture.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will accommodate the proposed council. The independent federal agency provides grants, “original scholarship,” learning opportunities and “access to cultural and educational resources.”

“The National Council of African-American History and Culture Act of 2022 grew out of a 2021 discussion with Maryland Commission on the African-American History and Culture,” said Rep. Mfume (D-MD-07) to the AFRO.“I had an idea to create a council to enlarge the effort.”



Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library Workers Move to Unionize (Video)
by Maximillian Alvarez
Published September 23 in The Real News

Excerpt: Employees of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library system have announced their intention to unionize, citing better pay, benefits for all, and greater employee input into working conditions as their chief motivations. Seeking voluntary recognition from Pratt leadership, Pratt Workers United hopes to join AFSCME Council 67, where workers from Walters Art Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art are also seeking representation. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez interviews Pratt Workers United organizers Marti Dirscheri and Antoinette Wilson on the unionization campaign.



‘A huge error’: BOPA rethinking dates for Artscape 2023 after complaints that they would conflict with Rosh Hashanah
by Ed Gunts
Published September 27 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: After the agency that puts on Artscape announced last week that next year’s festival would be held Sept. 13-17, 2023, residents pointed out that the dates would overlap with Rosh Hashanah in 2023, Sept. 15-17.

Online commenters questioned whether Baltimore should use public funds to hold the city’s largest festival at the same time as one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar.

They also asked whether the Baltimore Office for Promotion & The Arts, which oversees Artscape, considered how many people might be excluded by its choice of dates.



Meet the artists who want to make weaving more welcoming
by Clara Longo de Freitas
Published September 23 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Ọmọlará Williams McCallister gently pulls a bumpy twig off a pear tree as the sun shines through the leaves. Known as suckers, because they sap nutrients away from the healthier canopy, growers usually prune these twigs to help the fruit of the tree grow.

Williams McCallister bends the sucker, tilting it into the shape of a basket and tying it before it dries. Fellow artist Najee Haynes-Follins follows with another sucker as Williams McCallister teaches them the weaving technique.

Foraging materials from nature is the latest art technique Williams McCallister picked up during travel, this time after a summer in Maine. It had always been the plan for how their Baltimore Community Weaving Studio was run: Haynes-Follins would be the “porch sitter” to Williams McCallister’s migratory bird.



The Midway’s Final Evening: The Block’s Only Non-Strip Club Bar Closes After Decades-Long Run
by Ron Cassie
Published September 21 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: “I started working when I was 15. Came from a poor family and quit school to help out,” says 71-year-old Walter Hardesty, by way of explaining why tonight is his last shift at the Midway, the one bar on this stretch—halfway, appropriately, between Commerce and Gay streets—without a stripper pole and stage. “My first job on The Block was washing dishes across the street at Crazy John’s. Then I became a line cook. Eventually I started tending bar. My knees just can’t take standing up all night anymore. By the time I leave [after cleaning up and counting the money], it’ll be 6 or 7 in the morning.”

Crazy John’s is still across the street, serving scrapple, eggs, burgers, and fries all night on the weekends. The iconic Midway, however, is being retired this late summer evening along with Hardesty, who became irreplaceable over his decades-long career here.

Dive bars may be nice places to visit, but working at one can take its toll. Owner Jim Brandt, whose mother, Vicki, tended bar at the Midway for 35 years, currently pulls the day shift. He says he’s had enough, too. “I’ve got my own health issues,” he shrugs. “I’m ready to sell it.”



Morgan State looks to solve a diversity ‘pipeline problem’ in environmental sciences
by Joel McCord
Published September 23 in WYPR

Excerpt: For years, the study of environmental sciences has taken place in an overwhelmingly white world. While African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population, they receive fewer than 3% of environmental science degrees annually, according to a 2020 Data USA study. Now, officials at Morgan State University, a historically Black institution, are trying to change that. The university was granted $1 million to study microplastics in Chesapeake Bay for the next three years which is an opportunity to train more Black environmental scientists.

The study is being done at the Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Lab, known as PEARL, on the grounds of Jefferson-Patterson Park in Calvert County, some 80 miles south of Morgan’s Baltimore campus.

Willie May, Morgan’s vice president for research and economic development, calls the lab “a resource that we have not taken as much advantage of as we can.”



Abortion rights advocates push for Md. lawmakers to approve legislation in upcoming session
by William J. Ford
Published September 23 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Part of the District 30 Democratic Club’s meeting on Wednesday night transformed into a small history class on abortion, one of the most hot-button topics in Maryland and the nation.

The club’s vice president Sharon Blugis moderated the discussion at the Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library and told the audience that abortion had been legal in the U.S. during roughly the first half of the 19th century.

Some of the history she summarized is also detailed by Planned Parenthood, a health care provider and abortion rights organization, in a timeline that notes, as Blugis did, that midwives performed the procedure in the early 1800s.

By the early 1900s, the practice was banned in every state, with few exceptions. And, at the urging of the American Medical Association, it was performed only at the discretion of and by physicians, most of whom were male.

See also:

Maryland Democrats plan abortion provider ‘shield laws’ as more states enact bans
by Scott Maucione
Published September 28 in WYPR



Report details alarming levels of toxins being dumped in Md. waterways
by Josh Kurtz
Published September 28 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Industrial facilities dumped at least 94,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including PFAS, into Maryland’s waterways in 2020, according to a report released Wednesday by the Maryland PIRG Foundation.

The startling and sobering report, “Wasting Our Waterways,” takes statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2020 and puts the health of Maryland’s waterways in the context of broader national environmental trends.

“Our children deserve a safe and healthy future,” said Maryland PIRG State Director Emily Scarr. “Yet polluters too often recklessly dispose of chemicals linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive damage. It’s time to stop this toxic dumping, and hold polluters accountable for the harm they cause to public health and the environment.”



Header Image: Kaitlin Newman for The Baltimore Banner

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