I feel that I am in a special place, here in Baltimore. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a city that, despite being the center of the Uprising last April, has responded with relative grace. Certainly groups and institutions within the city have put forth a legitimate effort to improve race relations in Baltimore. This week, by coincidence, Hopkins not only hosted two activist speakers, but also saw the Black Student Union speak with President Ron Daniels on race relations at our school.
Last weekend, the Black Student Union stood in solidarity with students at universities like the University of Missouri, and presented President Daniels with a list of requests for increasing diversity and cultural sensitivity on campus. President Daniels spoke directly with the BSU, and later that day sent a university-wide email in which he detailed the steps the university will take going forward to realize the university’s ideal of true equality.
I think that President Daniels responded beautifully; his respect in discussing with the BSU solidified to me that he truly holds the students’ well being at his heart, and that he is accountable to the student body. He noted that, while the land on which the Homewood campus sits was once slave-holding land, Johns Hopkins (the man for which our university was named) was a lifelong abolitionist. Daniels has committed to further discussions on race before the end of the year, and the class of 2019 – my class – is the most diverse Hopkins has ever had.
During the week, just by coincidence, Hopkins also hosted two incredible black individuals to discuss their experiences as a person of color, and I was, frankly, in awe. On Tuesday, the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (a student-run speaker series of which I am privileged to be a part) hosted Ava DuVernay, the director of the Oscar-nominated Selma. She was moderated by D Watkins, a Baltimore writer and alumnus of the Hopkins School of Education and former speaker at MSE (I wrote an article about his speech in October here), and discussed her experiences as a director and a woman of color.
I also had the opportunity to ask her a question about the representation of women and people of color in films. I love going to the movies, but is it enough to be aware of the problems in certain films? DuVernay encouraged me to see problematic films and start a discussion about why they are problematic. She also complemented my skirt.
Last Thursday, author Ta-Nehisi Coates also came to speak at Hopkins. The Class of 2019 was assigned to read his book The Beautiful Struggle over the summer before we matriculated, and it was truly incredible to hear him discuss his work, his experience with police brutality, and the lessons he would like to impart on his teenage son in his book Between the World and Me. Hearing a Baltimore native talk about Baltimore is an enriching experience and I am so happy that I attended the talk. I hope it starts a discussion campus-wide. At both Coates’ event and DuVernay’s, Shriver Hall was filled with not only students, but members of the Baltimore community that are unaffiliated with Hopkins.
Based on this past week alone, I really feel like I am living and learning in a unique school and city. Passionate students are met with respectful and responsive faculty. The school truly puts forth an effort to engage the community with speaking events, and Hopkins is not stopping there.