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BALTIMORE, MD, April 29, 2015 —

Is there anyone out there still wondering, “What does rioting accomplish?”

The UpRising in Baltimore has sparked a series of open forums, panel discussions, and strategic workgroups at my university, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). These efforts were encouraged via email by our president, the legendary Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, as action was already being taken by staff, faculty, and students. Aside from these scheduled events, undergraduate and graduate classroom discussions this week have addressed issues of structural racism and inequality.

Members of our university community were personally affected by property destruction, blocked streets, the imposed curfew, and other aspects of daily living that were altered by the UpRising.  Hence, faculty and students who had been previously avoiding or fearful of conversations about structural racism are now forced to take classroom discussions in this direction, in the interest of processing, informing, reflecting, and understanding.

Academics, scholars, and others who may be “best” equipped to advocate for and to conduct research for policy change are now motivated to — perhaps, even desperate to — do so now.  Proximity is a powerful motivator for action; many people are not compelled to advocate for a cause unless the particular issue impacts their lives directly.

News organizations (even the local outlets) have been doing a horrible, racist job of reporting on Baltimore, and the protest march they are reporting on at this hour is the student-based march from Penn Station to City Hall.  May the students of Baltimore’s many colleges and universities use their privilege and power to change policy and UNDO the damage that structural racism has done to the Baltimore community.  Let us also encourage critical media studies in middle and high schools, in order to examine how racist media coverage supports the structural inequalities in America and all over the world.


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