Welcome to the archive website for the OBAltimore project conceived by Dr. Matthew Durington, associate professor of Anthropology at Towson University during the year 2009.
If you have further questions on this project please contact Matthew Durington at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a participant in this project I welcome you to comment on your video and dialogue with the student who shot it or with me if it is one that I posted.
If you would like to view the videos outside of the wordpress site please visit the OBAltimore channel on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/OBAltimore
Linked to this front page and below this ‘welcome post’ you will find a series of posts consisting of video clip(s) and/or pictures followed by a reflexive piece written by the individual who made the video to establish context. You will notice that some of the posts are categorized by the communities of Sharp Leadenhall and Hampden, this is to reflect the concentration of the larger research project.
While conducting research in downtown baltimore, my friend and I stopped at a building downtown in a primarily black community. We proceeded to interview some of the members of the community standing outside of the building. My friend started first with her interviews. Her interviews included a man from Africa that had recently moved to the area. Mine on the other hand included to local members that I interviewed with the questions assigned.
My personal response to this project was that I was nervous about going into a downtown area in an unknown random place in Baltimore and approach and interview people that I would not normally encounter on a daily basis on campus. I’m not very good at approaching people in these situations, but I ended up doing two of the interviews and was surprised at the willingness of the participants. One woman said “yes, I’ll answer your questions.” with a smile on her face before I could even explain where I was from or what I was doing. It was a good experience to go out and interact with downtown residents and see their opinion on such a unique time in politics.
I admired the optimism and respect they showed towards president Obama. They all seemed to have positive attitudes towards him, said he represented “hope”, and wished him the best of luck. But at the same time one of the agents I interviewed did not see any changes that directly impacted him that he could tell as far as housing goes in inner city Baltimore. Although the members I interviewed did not have much to say about president Barack Obama’s presidency and what impacts it has had on them, they still seem to respect and admire him based on the message of hope he brings to inner city Baltimore and the situations many of the residents have to face on a daily basis, such as homelessness. Overall, It was an interesting to do anthropological work and how open and willing to learn and approach people you have to be. You also must accept that they could reject you or react in a negative way when asking them to participate or when interviewing them. This was only a small hands on experience in this type of work and I find that doing extensive documentaries, interviews and research on other people, cultures, and issues takes a person who is open, able to work and react “on the fly” and also willing to approach any type of person in any type of environment and be comfortable with it and that the research or interviews could end up in awkward or undesirable circumstances.
David has been a good friend of mine for over a year now. We’ve bonded over film and music, and we’ve become a good duo in production. I know that when Obama was elected, he was very excited about the turn our country was making. However, I had never known his true and deep feelings until a few nights ago.
David grew up in East Baltimore City in the Hamilton neighborhood and was fortunate enough to attend Baltimore School for the Arts. He is an incredibly talented and bright individual with immense potential for the future. However, I know the threads of racism that are instituted in our society, especially in our city, still affect him.
During the Obaltimore interview, I found myself identifying with much of what David was saying. I completely agreed that from a Black perspective, this was a monumental event, and that he will influence the next generation of Black children, though we may not see that influence for years to come.
I conducted my interview at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on November 7, 2009. This seemed to be such a great day to go because the weather was nice and sunny, which drew such a large amount of people to come out to the Harbor, sight-see, and have fun. At first, I was pretty hesitant on approaching several people, and ended up backing out and walking away. It usually is not an easy task for me to approach people I do not know, and even more so, ask them questions. I knew it would be a challenge working outside of my comfort zone.
While looking around, I spotted a lovely couple sitting on one of the benches talking. So, I gained courage and approached the guy first. I introduced myself and explained to him my task. He then pointed to his wife and said that she would be the better candidate because she loved to talk. She laughed at what her husband had said, and then gladly accepted to participate in the interview. Success! The lady introduced herself as Pauline and told me that she was a Baltimore resident that held the occupation of a lawyer, and was very proud of it. Right away, I could tell that she cared a lot about the well being of our country, which Pauline later declared. The interview went very well. She expressed that she felt Obama was young, intelligent, and capable of doing a good job as President of our country. It was very interesting and encouraging to hear her opinion about President Obama, who is the first President of the United States with minority descent.
Overall, I loved participating in this OBAltimore Project. It opened my eyes to realize that everybody has different views of their own and can perceive things in different ways. Some people just want their voice and opinions to be heard by someone who cares. I learned that fieldwork is a great way to get involved, meet new people, and learn to be more open-minded about the views and opinions of others. The OBaltimore Project was a great learning experience for me, and I would love to be an anthropologist and participate in fieldwork again in the future.
Going into this interview, I hadn’t really spoken much with Baltimore City residents. I know a few; however, I never thought of them as residents or ever considered how life might be different in the city as opposed to Baltimore County. Listening to her talk about Obama and local government, I got an idea of how little his initiatives play on her life directly. I feel like the federal government affects her life as little as it does mine (that I’m aware of).
Part of the interview that I found interesting to was her response to the first question (what do you think about the election of President Obama). I have mixed feelings about Obama and so does she. Lindsay questions his promises of change. She really likes the notion of change, the motivation that comes with it and likes a lot of his promises, but she’s skeptic about it how realistic they are. I think a lot of Americans feel this way. Yeah he can promise to do all these things, but how much of that is actually possible in 4 years. I think another interesting insight she offered in this response was about how a lot of Baltimore City residents voted based on race. I agree with her in the fact that I think a lot of people vote based on narrow minded ideas. In her opinion, a lot of residents voted solely on one issue of race; assuming that since Obama is back he can address all issues that African Americans face. Like Lindsay, I think this is ignorant. It got me thinking though, I think that if it wasn’t race, people will naturally find one issue to gravitate towards and vote solely on it. I think its human nature. Issues and factors that people are passionate about, like gay marriage, abortion, and in this case race, are the driving force that people use to make decisions on who to vote for.
Another part of the interview that made me think was her point on the stimulus and how she doesn’t think it’s going to solve all it’s meant to. She makes the point that with the housing initiative for first time buyers for example, yes it’s getting people out and looking for houses, but it is hurting those that are either forced to sell or sell by choice. She points to how this initiative favors a buyers market and really hurts those who sell. I think this point ties into our class’s focus on gentrification. People are able to get really cheap prices on foreclosed houses and those who are forced out and forced to sell are really hurt by it. She even mentions how if you own a building, property taxes have gone up significantly in the past few years.
The last part of the interview I found particularly interesting was how she mentions that in the past she’s been really involved in community meetings and events. She says how she used to go to the community meetings when she lived out west but now that she’s in the city, she “does her own thing” and is much less involved. It made me think a lot about what my research and gentrification. I wonder if this idea of “doing your own thing” is typical of all cities or just those that have been gentrified. I think it’s something that goes along more with all cities, but I wonder if there’s a way to combat this notion for the better of all residents. It’s clear that in Sharp Leadenhall community involvement is crucial to fighting displacement. Would more involvement in Mount Vernon make a difference? Is it too late?
I’m 100% extroverted. I’ve never had any problems talking to people, performing on stage, and making my face known. What a surprise this project would be to me. For two weeks I carried the compact Towson University flip camera in my purse without using it, constantly telling myself that I would make the short drive into Baltimore today but then end up going back into dorm due to nerves. On November 11th, 2009 I drove into Baltimore talking to myself in the car, rehearsing my camera voice. I’m from Boston, so as soon as I got into downtown Baltimore I immediately compared it to my hometown. I felt uncomfortable and out of place walking down the unknown streets. The rain drove people indoors, so I had no luck finding people willing to be interviewed on the streets. There was one man, however, who was following me around. I finally approached him and asked him if he wouldn’t mind being asked a few questions concerning President Obama and the effects of his election. As soon as the word “election” came out of my mouth the man cringed his face and responded, “I don’t vote. I have a right not to vote, and I use it.” With that statement he tightened his grip around his rolled up newspaper and walked away. Surprisingly, this interaction did not discourage me.
I found a little shop with a few people inside working on damaged furniture. The store was called Maurice’s House of Art. I made some small talk with one of the employees and after he gave me the company’s card I asked him if I could interview him, very awkwardly. When does it become like second nature to talk to strangers? I wondered if all anthropologists conducting fieldwork still felt uncomfortable or awkward at times in new circumstances. The employee directed me towards his manager in the back room saying that I should interview him instead.
He seemed like a busy man with piles of papers strewn across his desk. He seemed perfectly willing to be interviewed. Although he did not want his face to be on camera, I recorded his voice. As soon as I sat down and asked the first question the uncomfortable feeling faded. He had a lot to say. As the interview progressed he made a comment that President Obama’s election extended privileges to the African American community. Wow, but I thought we were all equal? Right? It was at this point that, in my mind, this assignment became a little more than just a homework assignment. I was genuinely curious about his thoughts. Genuinely interested in his ideas. When I look back on the footage, I would have loved to sit and talk with him a while longer to ask him more questions. At the end of the interview I was simultaneously relieved that it was over because the nerves were coming back again, but I was also excited to possibly find other people to interview. The sky was still dark and there were no people outside when I left Maurice’s store. I went down a few streets, took a few turns, found my car and drove back to Towson. Those streets didn’t feel so unknown to me anymore.
Upon receiving this assignment I was skeptical about heading down to Baltimore to interview a random person on the street. Once I actually got the opportunity to conduct an interview, however, I was happy I was able to be part of the study. I held my interview in the Sharp Leadenhall community with two of its members. Both people were waiting to work for the Ravens by handing out surveys to the fans during the fourth quarter. As a way for the Ravens Corporation to “give back” to the community, the member’s of Sharp Leadenhall are given the opportunity to hand out these surveys for $30 a game. The woman I interviewed, Monica, seemed less than thrilled to be spending her Sunday in the stadium but explained that “a dollar is a dollar.” As I spoke to Monica and then interviewed her, it became clear that she was very happy with the election of President Obama. The smile on her face clearly expressed how delighted she was with his election and the impact it has had and continues to have on her life. After the interview was over a man named Derrick standing nearby asked me what I was doing and I describe the assignment to him. He asked if he could be a participant and I graciously accepted his thoughts and opinions. Like Monica, Derrick also seemed quite pleased with our new president.
Overall, I am very glad we were given this assignment because it allowed me to venture into an area in which I was not 100% comfortable. I am now able to better understand the concept of fieldwork and appreciate the work of anthropologists a little more.
On November 10, 2009, I participated in my first fieldwork experience. This was very interesting to conduct this interview however it took me out of my element. I am not used to becoming comfortable around complete strangers, let alone holding an interview with them. I interviewed a young man from the Greenmount area that stays here on campus currently. I approached him and asked if he would participate in my anthropological fieldwork required for my anthropology class. He agreed to help me out and be my interviewee. The presidency and the impact on the world was a great topic of discussion for this media assignment. I was interested to find out what his thoughts about Obama would be. The first question asked was, “What do you think about the election of Obama?” The election meant a lot to him. He felt as if he stuck to all the points he put forward throughout his campaign and that he was qualified. Some of his response goes along with question two, “Do you think the election of President Obama has a direct impact on your life?” He said that he was proud to say that a great man became president not only because he was African American, but because he was a qualified, educated, and well spoken man. And that it’s great to see this man as president and someone that follows in past figures footsteps such as, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He felt that Barack Obama was a good example of a man making success following his great struggle that others can identify with. The last question we touched base on was, “What impact do you think the election of President Obama will have on urban areas in the United States, particularly on housing?” He did not think that he will have a huge impact on housing. If he could say anything to President Barack Obama, he said he would tell him to keep up the good work and continue to put his best foot forward.
Overall this experience was interesting and my curiosity was filled with his responses to the questions. It was great to be pushed out of my norm to do something I wouldn’t do on a regular basis. Once the interview began to flow I became more comfortable.