The City Speaks Through D. Watkins

Students and faculty flooded to the dimly lit Wright Theater on the fifth floor of the student center for another MFA reading. This series has given promising authors who can relate to students of color and students who have experienced hardship. The room crowded with eager participants, awaiting the arrival of a University of Baltimore graduate. The graduate also known as poet and writer but better known as D. Watkins.

D. Watkins had honest beginnings in East Baltimore where he witnessed many tragedies and was shaped by the injustices of life. Aside from University of Baltimore, Watkins received a master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University. Currently he is a professor at Goucher University. Those who crowded into the Wright Theater were waiting to hear from about his book, The Beast Side, and listen as he lamented on life in the concrete jungle known as East Baltimore.

His presence emerged. He is charming young man who still holds his recognizable Baltimore accent. Watkins begins the evening with background about himself. One of his opening statements was, “I’ve been shot, I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been beaten down. I’ve beat people down. Statistically, I’m not supposed to be here. I’m blessed.” He followed up with an anecdote on his time at UB in Kendra Kopelke’s graduate course. “She had two rules,” he said, “no centering poems and no rhyming.” Watkins remembers this was the first time he had ever been laughed at by a group of his peers because of a love poem he had written.

Moving along with the evening, he begins to read from his book. The Beast Side: Living and Dying while Black in America is a collection of essays and stories from Watkins’ real life. The topics range from Food, “Black on Black crime,” police brutality to street harassment. The books, he said, “things I wanted to learn from [ages] 5-25 that no one ever told me. Watkins creates stories that are bigger than himself, traveling throughout the nation, creating a voice for African-Americans in Baltimore and in America. This book, as he describes, is not only for people from “rough” neighborhoods who are misrepresented or underrepresented but also for a person from a rich suburb with health food markets around the corner who doesn’t understand life in East or West Baltimore.

This book represents the people who live in urban communities who often misjudged and ignored by media until something involving “Black on Black” crime or robbery happens. Watkins read through the introduction of his book, giving the audience this to think about, “African-Americans are about as safe as a chunk of steak in a den full of starving lions.” Furthermore, Watkins encouraged the audience to do more than protest, although he is certainly not against protesting. He put things into perspective by telling a story of a phone call he received. A friend called him, telling him to wear all black. They would meet on North Avenue to lay down in traffic. Watkins said no, telling his friend to imagine the person who works at Walmart who tells their boss, “I can’t make it to work because of a traffic jam or the street is blocked off.” Watkins delivered one line: Dan- generic manager name- just cancelled their Christmas. Furthermore, he added that any person who didn’t care for the cause could easily run their car over one of the protestors in the street and get away with it. He decided against it.

Watkins presence is what college campuses need at this time because his work is raw and gritty. He is not afraid to be real and say what needs to be said about race relations in America. Aside from telling the stories of the ignored, he wrote this book because as a teacher, his goal is to promote literacy and make a big difference in the lives of children. Children from East Baltimore just like him. Often he asks his students what they are currently reading, outside of school and they say nothing. He wants to change this. Watkins wants people to ask themselves, “what can we do to make a difference?” “How help the community?” After he read passages from his book, there were questions from the audience members. He was asked about the debate between black lives matter and all lives matter to which he responded: “Black lives matter is a key movement in the modern civil rights movement. All lives matter people wanted attention and to be seen. Black lives matter is pushing the Black experience forward in American. I honor and support them. When the police killed a white kid the all live matter people didn’t show up.” The evening was filled with enlightenment and words of wisdom. Although Watkins said the America he wants to see won’t exist in his life time, he will continue to push for a better future.




Maryland Starts Big, Falls Flat on Senior Day

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – It’s been a long, tough season for Maryland Terrapins football. Randy Edsall failed to make it through his fifth season as head coach; he was fired after Maryland’s 49-28 loss at Ohio State on October 10, and was replaced by Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Mike Locksley. However, that hasn’t helped matters much.

Maryland came into its Senior Day game against Indiana at Byrd Stadium on a seven-game losing streak. Quarterback play, protecting the football and penalties have plagued the Terrapins all season long. Meanwhile, Indiana was coming off a 48-41 double-overtime loss to number 14 (College Football Playoff rankings) Michigan. Earlier in November, the Hoosiers gave a scare to ninth-ranked Iowa before ultimately falling to the Big Ten West-leading Hawkeyes, 35-27 on Nov. 7. In October, Indiana gave top-ranked Ohio State everything it could handle before ultimately falling to the Buckeyes, 34-27 on Oct. 3. Both teams came in winless in conference play.

Before the game, Maryland honored its 15 senior players on the field in a pregame ceremony. The players posed for pictures with coaches before joining their families and framed jerseys. Locksley said he and his players really wanted to win this game for the seniors.

“I want to thank our seniors for the great leadership they’ve provided us here the past six weeks or through the past four or five years. These guys have had some tremendous times here. They’ve done some really good things. Obviously, we’re finishing this thing up, we’re struggling a little bit, but these guys continue to be great leaders for us,” Locksley said.

Indiana got the ball first after Maryland won the toss and deferred its option to the second half. Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld connected with wide receiver Mitchell Paige for a 34-yard pass to the Maryland 19. Running back Devine Redding ran for 13 yards to give Indiana a first-and-goal at the Maryland 6, but Maryland’s defense stiffened and forced Indiana to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Griffin Oakes with 11:24 left in the first quarter. When Maryland got the ball for its first possession, the Terrapins wasted no time in answering.

On Maryland’s second play from scrimmage, senior running back Brandon Ross broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run to give the Terrapins the lead. Adam Greene, filling in for the reliable but injured Brad Craddock, knocked in the extra point off the right upright to give Maryland a 7-3 lead just 50 seconds after getting the ball. The run was the longest of Ross’ career. Ross wasn’t done yet in the first quarter. After forcing a punt, Maryland started on its own 13. After driving up to Indiana’s 22, Ross finished the drive with another touchdown run to give the Terrapins a 14-3 lead with 7:10 left in the first. Ross’ second touchdown run capped a nine-play, 87-yard drive that covered two minutes and 15 seconds. Maryland’s defense then started to force the issue.

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue sacked Sudfeld and forced a fumble that was recovered by Quinton Jefferson at the Indiana 20. That gave Ngakoue 13.5 sacks on the season, making him Maryland’s all-time single-season leader in sacks. Four plays later, Rowe found receiver Malcolm Culmer for a 14-yard touchdown that gave Maryland a 21-3 lead with five and a half minutes left in the opening quarter. Sudfeld finally did get into a rhythm, connecting on four straight passes, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Paige to pull the Hoosiers back to within 21-10 with a minute and a half left in the first quarter. He then hit Andre Booker for a 59-yard touchdown that cut Maryland’s lead to four just under a minute into the second quarter. The Hoosiers recovered an onside kick, and eight plays later, Sudfeld leaped over the pile from just outside the goal line to give Indiana a 24-21 lead. The Hoosiers stretched the lead to six with eight minutes left in the first half after being forced to settle for another short field goal after driving inside the Maryland 10. Indiana led 30-21 at halftime. Coach Locksley described how Sudfeld hit some big passes in the second quarter, and Indiana took advantage of Maryland’s man-to-man coverage to pick up chunks of yardage to get back into the game.

“Got to give Indiana credit; this is a team that fought back from a first-quarter deficit, and continued to play. Hats off to those guys and their coaching staff for finding a way to get it done,” Locksley said.

“I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and my teammates, and it’ll be a great thing to look back down the road,” said Ngakoue, who is now three and a half sacks away from setting the school’s all-time career sack record of 25 by Andre Monroe. Ngakoue also passed Shawne Merriman for eighth in career tackles for loss with 33. He said Indiana was able to come back by taking advantage of the defense’s mistakes, and not allowing much pressure to get to Sudfeld.

Shane Cockerille replaced Rowe to start the second half after Rowe suffered a concussion late in the first half. Cockerille was stopped for no gain on the first play of the second half, but Ross got loose for his third big play of the game. He took a draw to the right, turned the corner, tip-toed the Maryland sideline and took off for a 75-yard touchdown run to pull the Terps to within two. However, after Greene’s onside kick went out of bounds to give Indiana the ball at the Maryland 44-yard line, and the defense wasn’t able to make a stop. Sudfeld hit Paige with a six-yard pass for a second touchdown to re-establish Indiana’s nine-point lead less than two minutes into the second half. Indiana didn’t let up after another penalty on special teams. Sudfeld hit Simmie Cobbs, Jr. on a crossing route; two Maryland players ran into each other on the play, and that allowed Cobbs to get all the way down to the Terrapins four-yard line before he was pushed out of bounds. Two plays later, tight end Michael caught a three-yard touchdown pass to extend the Hoosier lead to 44-28 with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter. The quarter ended with Indiana leading 47-28, and that would prove to be the final score as the Hoosiers won their first conference game. Sudfeld finished with 385 yards and four touchdowns passing. Maryland will close out the regular season over Thanksgiving weekend at Rutgers on Nov. 28.

Ross became the first player in the history of Maryland football to run for at least 250 yards and three touchdowns in the same game. He’s now ninth on the team’s all-time rushing list with 2,375 yards in his career, and says he saw a lot of room to run.

“I just saw huge holes, that’s it,” said Ross. “I have to give a lot of credit to the (offensive) line, of course. I was just following their blocks.” Ross said, describing how he followed Culmer’s block on his third-quarter touchdown run. He says his first touchdown run gave him a lot of momentum to start his final game at Byrd Stadium.

Senior Will Likely, who’s a candidate for several awards, started at wide receiver, in addition to cornerback and returning kicks. However, he was also knocked out with an injury late in the third quarter. Locksley described how injuries played into the decision to start Likely at receiver.

“Going into the game this week, as we prepared on Sunday, DeAndre Lane, who had been our starter as the inside receiver, was ruled out. He had a mid-foot injury from the Michigan State game. Levern Jacobs has been nursing a hamstring for the last two, three weeks, along with a knee injury, and we’re just out of bodies. And so we made the decision to start Will on the offensive side of the ball and play both sides for us. It wasn’t a package; I mean he practiced on the offensive side of the ball primarily all week,” Locksley said. “We did that in order to get a really good player on the field to help us try to win a ball game, especially knowing that Perry (Hills) was going to be out of the game with mono. We knew we would have to throw the ball to try to win against this team because of how they structure themselves defensively.”

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in France, security was stepped up at Byrd Stadium. Fans were allowed to bring in bags that measured no larger than eight inches by 11 inches by 12 inches. All other bags, including backpacks, were not allowed into the stadium. Fans were subjected to enhanced screenings at all the gates. These increased security measures will apply to all future sporting events at the University, including basketball games at the Xfinity Center.

Interview: UB poet and activist, Ron Kipling Williams talks Baltimore, rebellion, and origins

By: Belinda Sacco, Contributor

For Ron Kipling Williams, 2015 has so far proved to be an exciting year. He performed Dreadlocks, Rock ‘n’ Roll, & Human Rights at Artscape, began a student fellowship with the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics, and embarked on his last semester of UB’s M.F.A. program. One gray Monday afternoon, this D.C. native sat down on the top floor of the law building to reflect with me on the future of Baltimore, activism, and rock ‘n’ roll.

“I love the spirit of rebellion and I shouldn’t be ashamed to say it.” – Ron Kipling Williams

What brought you to Baltimore?

Ron Kipling Williams: I felt like I was stagnating artistically and a good friend of mine, Jim Vose said, “Look, why don’t you come to Baltimore? It’s cheap to live. You can figure out what you want to do artistically” and I took him up on it. Honestly, at the time, I thought I would be here for a couple years and then move on to New York because that’s one of the meccas for an artist, and that was a couple decades ago. Baltimore really grew on me. I’ve met so many wonderful people here and [have] done so many wonderful things.

What makes Baltimore feel like more of a home to you than D.C.?

R.K.W.: Baltimore’s a much more friendlier [sic] town. When I started coming up here to visit, I’d walk down the street and I’d say hi to somebody and they’d say hi back, I was like “Wow. This is different.” Baltimore’s a city of neighborhoods. People don’t have the pretense they have in D.C. D.C. is a high-powered town. You’ve got all the government officials, diplomats, corporate heads… and it’s becoming even more gentrified now with more yuppies coming in and more development happening, so even the little cultural havens that existed are basically gone. This is happening nation-wide. Professionals, yuppies, and suburbanite folks are looking to downsize their commute and they’re looking to come back to the city for living and entertainment… It’s a shame. Artists come into an area and they create this cultural hub and then people will see this thriving thing happening and capitalize it and in doing so, they wreck it, because the property values shoot through the roof and then the hub gets destroyed and the artists have to move somewhere else. I hope that doesn’t happen to Baltimore. I know the Station North is starting to explode and we got some great venues, so we’re really amplifying our performing arts and theater arts. I hope it stays that way. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Baltimore. There’s so much talent and so much you can do for a relatively inexpensive price. You can really develop yourself, and I would hate to see a total gentrification of Baltimore.

Baltimore, for the most part, is a very blue collar town. Can you really foresee city-wide gentrification happening?

R.K.W.: There’s a possibility that it wouldn’t, because of the blue collar culture. It doesn’t lend itself to gentrification. You still have a lot of resilient, blue collar neighborhoods and since this city has experienced such a decline in population, it would take a tremendous amount of people coming back in as well as an influx of different industries coming in. Right now, our biggest industry is hospitality. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you have sustainable jobs to go with it. The problem is, you have a lot of low-wage jobs and so people are not able to sustain themselves. They work two or three of these jobs in order to have a decent living… There’s still going to be a fair amount of gentrification…But Baltimore’s also a resilient city, so we fight. We fight like nobody I’ve ever seen before, even during the uprising. You had people telling the media, “get out of here. You’re not around here when we need you and now you’re just coming around for the big story.” Matter of fact, we told Al Sharpton, “Don’t come in here.” He had a brief meeting with [the] mayor and then left… And the media never focused on the fact that the morning after [the uprising], so many people came out to rebuild…We do rebuild after we suffer tragedy.

As someone who’s traveled to cities across the country, how do you think Baltimore compares in terms of poverty and racial inequality? 

R.K.W.: Nationally, racism is a pandemic. Every city has their own set of problems, be it transportation or education or healthcare. We can only work to fix our own backyard and lend support to others when we can… I will say this though: activism is where you are. It’s not this overwhelming thing, it’s not something you have to study for. Just clean up your street. Read to the kids in your neighborhood. Fix the heating in your elderly neighbor’s apartment. [Activism] is where you are.

Where do you think your colossal desire to help people came from?

R.K.W.: As a child, I never felt like I had a voice, like I always had to fight to be heard. I was very fortunate to find writing as a medium by which I could have my voice heard. Then I began performing and as I developed my voice, cultivated my voice, and found the power in it, I discovered that I could help others find their voice. So that’s when began to mentor and workshop [with] others, and do the kinds of shows that would help people find their voice…In between then, it was rock ‘n’ roll and the activist movement. It’s all about breaking barriers, breaking the self-segregating nature of yourself and others and doing your own thing. I love the spirit of rebellion and I shouldn’t be ashamed to say it….

What brought you to the University of Baltimore?

R.K.W.: I was working a job and I got fired and I said, “You know what? I need to go back to school” because my art was stagnating and I needed to take it to the next level. Sometimes getting fired is the best thing that can happen to you. It disrupted everything and it forced me to refocus… It was, I think, the week after I got fired that I went to the admissions office and I enrolled. I wanted to finish my undergrad and get my grad degree in creative writing and publishing… This has become one big workshop process to totally recalibrate everything that I’m doing… I’ve loved the entire experience. I can’t sectionalize it. I’ve loved interacting with other students and becoming friends, mentoring, teaching, taking classes… I’ve been good to UB and UB’s been good to me.

Correction: Jim Vose was mistakenly spelled Boast in the original publication of this article.

New student organization seeks social equality for women of color

By: Brianna Luu, Contributor

A new organization on campus, the Women of Color Student Association, serves its students by providing theme based discussions on different issues surrounding women of color, while also taking part in encouraging women of color to grow in their leadership abilities. The organization is friendly and cultivates a feeling of community that is present in the meetings.

Eunice Onwuchekwa, President of the Women of Color Student Association and one of its founders started this group to provide a “safe space where women of color can vent and come together with other people who have similar shared experiences.”

“We want to create and provide avenues for women of color in the student body as well as within our communities for leadership opportunities, whether it’s facilitating ways for them to receive scholarships, get internships, and making opportunities more easily accessible,” said Ashley Whidby, Vice President and Public Relations Coordinator of the Women of Color Student Association.

 The Women of Color Student Association runs a new meeting while all standing up in unison.
The Women of Color Student Association runs a new meeting while all standing up in unison.

This organization welcomes everyone to join who supports what it seeks to serve and promote.  Additionally, this organization also wants to get involved with community service oriented initiatives.  “We want to donate to women’s shelters and also help out with the education of middle school and high school students,” said Whidby.

The motivation to start this organization has been driven by issues that involved the marginalization of women of color, including not being given the same opportunities as white women.  Onwuchekwa said, “women deal with racism and sexism and also there is a wage gap between white women and women of color.  We’re trying to really work towards equality and that’s still something that has yet to be done.”

Women of color, dealing with racism and sexism, face different challenges compared to the general people of color population.  As a society “we often focus on the lives of African American males, when African American women have also been faced with instances of social injustice,” said Whidby – “When someone told me about the ‘“say her name” movement’ that tried to shed light on the injustices and unspoken wrongs that are facing women of color it was a no-brainer that we should take this opportunity to seize the moment and try to create a platform that helps unify women of color.”

Discussing different issues at each of their meetings, this organization has addressed the question, “is being colorblind a way to eradicate racism?”  In response to this question, there were a lot of different viewpoints. However, the overall consensus of the members came to the conclusion that being colorblind to race is not right.  “Being colorblind means it’s just fighting ignorance with ignorance,” said Onwuchekwa. “Not seeing the physical makeup of someone is to ignore the fact that people do face discrimination because of the color of their skin.”

The Women of Color Student association black and white t-shirts shown here are sold in various sizes for $10 each.
The Women of Color Student association black and white t-shirts shown here are sold in various sizes for $10 each.

Ultimately this organization speaks for itself, providing t-shirts that can be purchased for $10.  “I think it is essential that our shirt says ‘the rise of the women equals the rise of the nation,’ because you cannot expect to go forward if you leave you [sic] women behind and women are the birth of the next generation,” Whidby said.

All photos courtesy of Nicholas Jones.

James L. Speros, the insight of an entrepreneur

By: Sakina Stamper, Contributor

On Tuesday November 3, 2015, the University of Baltimore welcomed James L. Speros to the Student Center as he shared with students, faculty, and staff some insight on what his life has been like as an entrepreneur. Fully armed with an elaborate Power Point presentation, he took the audience on a journey from working in his family restaurant as a child to becoming the multi-millionaire entrepreneur that he is today.  Mr. Speros captured the attention of an audience full of business minded individuals, executives, students, and aspiring entrepreneurs within the UB family.

If you have never been to a Merrick Engages talk series before, this one would certainly make you hungry for more. The experiences, information, and knowledge Mr. Speros shared unwrapped minds and fed entrepreneurial souls. He began his talk by discussing what inspired him to become an entrepreneur. Growing up with a family restaurant business, founded by his grandfather, inspired him to become an entrepreneur. Mr. Speros said “I knew my family was different from the family across the street”.

Mr. Speros restaurant business experience helped to prepare him for his latest business venture, Velocity Wings. Velocity Wings is a gourmet wing restaurant that is set to be available as a franchise in 2016. When asked whether it is in the pipeline for Velocity Wings to hit Baltimore in the near future, Mr. Speros alluded to the possibility. “I’m good at running restaurants” he said.

Mr.Speros was excellent at running the Baltimore Stallions, turning the naysayers into believers because he had a vision and followed it. He shared that one of the biggest lessons he learned was to “be able to communicate your dream and vision”. According to him, if you cannot communicate this, you will not be able to create a following full of believers. He stated that in business you must be able to identify your “first follower”: someone who believes in your vision to the extent of being committed to supporting your vision in some capacity whether it is as a customer or even an investor.

It is apparent that Mr.Speros is pretty good at doing this, and he encourages the action of creating relationships that will aid in a career as an entrepreneur. His relationships with the NFL, Under Armour, IBM, and ESPN have helped him with several business ventures over the course of his career. Additionally, Mr.Speros encourages entrepreneurs to have mentors. His mentors such as Jack Kemp (one of his previous business mentors) have been instrumental in his life. “A mentor is a very, very important thing to be a successful entrepreneur. To ask questions and get the answers you need,” he said. Mr. Speros also shared that “without relationships you’re not going to go very far. If you have the right relationships, you’ll find the path to success.”

Mr.Speros had an incredible amount of knowledge to share, and there seemed to be something for everyone to learn. After the talk concluded, when asked what he learned, Brody, a UB disciplinary studies major said, “to try and focus what you know and love into something you can evolve.”

The room was full of excitement and everyone was fully engaged in the speaking of Mr. Speros. His natural dialogue created a connection between him and the audience. The Merrick Engages series has served as motivational tools for aspiring and current entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur has to stay motivated because the moment your motivation decreases, and that will be reflected in your performance. UB students were motivated from Mr.Speros talk including Malik, an UB accounting major. When asked whether the talk motivated him, he responded, “Absolutely, I mean he’s a Baltimore entrepreneur. Getting entrepreneurs like him to speak to us gives us something to aspire to.”

Whether your dream is “to be able to create a nonprofit for high school kids” like Paiva, a UB accounting major, or whether it is to be a serial entrepreneur, these “Merrick Engages” talk series are here to help students achieve those goals. By bringing in inspiring entrepreneurs such as James L. Speros, students are able to learn about what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.

Diversity, culture, and standing with Mizzou

The year 2015 and many before have demonstrated the rising racial tensions in America. Recently, African American students at Mizzou University expressed their concerns and demands regarding racial discrimination. The students decided enough was enough, causing an abrupt and violently negative reaction from some non African-Americans around them. The terrorist group known as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has plagued the students. Students have taken steps of activism to voice their opinions and tell the world about the racial injustices happening on their campus. Because of this other colleges have been responding to Mizzou University and standing in solidarity.

On Thursday, November 12, students at UB decided to wear all black in support of the Mizzou students. Various students and student organizations (WoCsa, BSU, BLSA, ISA, SEB, SGA, ASU) also decided to come together in solidarity to discuss Mizzou University and to discuss emotions, reactionary plans, and the environment here at University of Baltimore.  The meeting took place on the first floor of the business center with an assortment of comments and attitudes. David Reynard, Ashley Whidby, Eunice Onwuchekwa, and Duane Bond mediated while intently listening to what attendees had to say.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Jones
                                          Photo Credit: Nicholas Jones

All were welcome to attend because these are important issues that affect all students in some regard. These organizations felt it necessary for people of color and other minority groups to be able to discuss and identify micro aggressions and acts of discrimination. It is also important for students to know they are not alone and have other people that can talk to them and help them.

Many students on UB’S campus have faced micro aggressions and feel something must be said or done about the small acts of injustice. Students have also noticed the lack of diversity in faculty and would like to see changes implemented around campus. The minority groups on campus would like to see more diversity in student media and faculty because the student body has become extraordinarily diverse.

The events at Mizzou University added to the collection of racially charged incidents plaguing the nation and the globe today. These events happened on a college campus which lets students know, they are not alone but they have power to speak up and let what is happening be known. Situations like these teach lessons of diversity and culture that need to be addressed in academia and other environments throughout the world.