Islam Awareness Week at UB

By Olivia Dudley

In our world, it is often difficult for one to express their religion. No matter how many times we are reminded that we have the right to religious freedom in America, there will always be people who oppose what you believe in, even if it is the culture you were born into. Here at University of Baltimore, equality among all students is highly promoted, we pride ourselves on our diversity.

Some of you may or may not know that UB is home to a Muslim Student Association (MSA). The association allows Muslim students to come together and perform various social activities such as charity events and lectures. The MSA’s intentions are to integrate the Islamic culture into their American lives. In order to learn more about the MSA, we reached out to its president, Amber Khan, for more details.


 

What do you hope to achieve with and for the MSA?

What I hope to continue to do with the MSA is to grow the organization to continue to bring out great events, with excellent topics, knowledgeable speakers, and great food! I would also like to get the general UB community more involved in what actually is put out, by having more open meeting for everyone to feel welcome to and share their thoughts and ideas. Lastly, I would love to see the MSA get a room for prayer and meetings so there can be a place for everyone to meet and really grow their ideas.

Has the Association had any difficulties with the Interfaith room in the Student Center?

Seeing as Muslims pray five times a day, where we pray becomes an issue at school. The school has provided us with the IFC, and after expressing our concerns for the lack of resources given to us in accordance to the IFC room, we were able to get some yoga mats that are open to everyone to use so that we didn’t have to pray making direct contact with the ground. However, the problem is the accessibility to the room. We as students don’t have much time to go through the process of going to the student center desk, signing yourself into the room, and then being escorted with a staff member into the room where only they have access to open the doors.

What is the MSA planning for Islam Awareness Week?

Islamic awareness week will be taking place April 18-22. On Monday, April 18th, we’re continuing our tradition with starting off the week in Gordon plaza, giving out roses, popcorn, drinks and more! The aim for this event is make people aware of the Islamic awareness week, and we are giving these things away, along with the schedule for the rest of the week to help keep everyone on track! The best way to stay updated about events is to join the Facebook page: UB Muslim Student Association.

In what ways does the MSA try to encourage interactions between Muslim and non-Muslim students? What sort of events are held to do this?  

We are always in support of non-Muslims and Muslims to join. All of our events display a neutral topic, however, have an Islamic points to help fulfill the mission of the MSA. Also the MSA likes to do events to give back to the community! And UB more than any school loves to be involved in helping others. A couple of weeks ago, we were able to provide through a national sponsor, ingredients of foods! We created a couple assembly lines, made almost two hundred sandwiches and lunch bags, and then walked around the city handing them out.

Later in April, we are doing the same thing, but assembling hygiene kits and then distributing those on the streets of Baltimore. There’s no need for anyone to feel like they need to be Muslim in order to involve themselves in these events!

What are you most proud of when it comes to the MSA at UB?

Seeing as the MSA was only around for two or three years before I took presidency, I think it’s great to see how much the organization has grown. Hearing about how it had only started off as a few people, and to see it grow so much in these past two years just makes me so happy to see all the hard work that goes into these events and activities pay off.

What would you like to say to those thinking about joining the MSA but are unsure if they want to?

To not feel nervous or anything! We have a great time at our events. The only way to be sure about it is to come to an event, and even if at the very least they don’t enjoy the event – they’ll have a plate of free food! Just come in, join, listen, comment, and eat!


 

We live in a world where it is often difficult for people to understand one another’s differences. It is opportunities like Islam Awareness Week that allow us to come together and learn about another culture that may not be our own. As we venture out into the world we should be open to learning about other cultures and discovering new things as a whole. But venturing out into the world can be pretty expensive, lucky for us we can experience another culture right here on our own campus!

An interview with two young Baltimore music producers

By: Matt Nickelson

I had the fortunate opportunity to discuss music with two local music producers: MYNDS (Collins Ukegbu) and Big-O (Austin Okafor), the creative minds behind 808Bit.

What genre would you classify your music in?

Big O: I primarily do hip-hop but I have dabbled in other genres like reggae, R&B, funk, and afro beat.

MYNDS: I do the same. It’s hard to say when listening to the other stuff we make, collectively and separately. Some can sound real hip-hop, others R&B or soul, and sometimes just real different.

How did you get interested in music production?

Big O: Back in high school, Lex Luger was killing it and I found the software he uses, FL Studios. So I downloaded it and the rest was history.

MYNDS: I didn’t start producing until a year into college. When I used to go to CCBC Essex, a good friend of mine convinced me to getting FL Studios because I was having conflicting thoughts with my major. I’ve played the trumpet since middle school and had a some experience in music theory.  I started off with a refresher course and for fun until I made a SoundCloud and linked up with other producers like Big O in the city.

Have you found your major/classes in college helpful in your music production?

Big O: Well, I go to Coppin State and I major in computer science. My classes don’t have much of an influence as far as my production goes, but I have learned life lessons that keep me motivated. If you’re going to do something do it 100%.

MYNDS: I’ve only been at UB for 3 semesters and I haven’t really taken any classes that are concentrated on my music, but I did learn a lot of tips as far as branding and marketing while taking CMAT 391 with Professor Roger Friskey. Oh, and I definitely had a good experience in creative writing with Professor Kendra. I was able to recite some poetry over my music and let the class hear it.

Who are your musical influences?  

Big O: Timbaland, Johnny Juliano, Lex Luger, DJ Dahi, Noah “40” Shebib, and Hit-Boy; just to name the few of many.

MYNDS: Pharrell Williams, OnGaud, The Alchemis , J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, J-Louis, Medasin, Lupe Fiasco, and Thelonius Martin

Where does the name 808Bit come from and what does it mean?

MYNDS: Back in 2014, I made my first beat project named “Success With No Accomplishments [S.W.N.A.]” and in fused a video game concept with it to create a small mini story. Just something to do really.

Big O: A year later after meeting up with me and just making a lot of stuff together, MYNDS and I were just talking about anime and video games one night in our music and thought we’d continue the concept in a sequel tape. 808Bit is a movement; just good energy and vibes that we want people to feel when they’re listening. Nostalgic 8-Bit/16-Bit era sounds mixed with hip-hop styles of today.

What gave you the idea to fuse 80’s and 90’s video game culture, trap music, and hip hop together?

Big O: MYNDS had already played with the idea in his tape, prior to using the PS1 as a focal point in instrument use and sound design.

MYNDS: The sound we naturally make when producing is like the way old video game intros used to sound. Only difference is we layer up the sound with things that are familiar with hip-hop today, like 808s and colorful sounding synthesizers.

Have you taken your music out to any dance clubs?

MYNDS: Uhhhh…..nope. I wonder how it would sound in the club. Not saying we wouldn’t want it to be played there. We just haven’t been given the opportunity.

How did you both meet and how did you form your group?

Big O: It was through a mutual friend. I heard his beats through her snapchat and sent him a beat to work on, which, in fact, is the intro to our tape, Level 5.

MYNDS: I didn’t even think of us as a group, but just two producers who know how to manipulate sound very well. But we have been thinking of a collaborative name. Maybe BigMYNDS…..I don’t know.

Please tell me anything else you would like me to mention in the article.

Big O: My name is Austin Okafar, I’m Nigerian and 20 years old.  I usually go to work, school, make beats, and play video games. We might put out another beat tape to sequel this year and I’m planning on cooking up some other collaborative beat tapes with other producers I work closely with. Also, I’m executive producing a project for the rapper Laws Famous called “I’ll Be Famous Later”.

MYNDS: My name is Collins Ukegbu, also Nigerian, and 21 years old. I write poetry, annoy my sisters on the regular, and look forward to my days off work and school. I’ve been closing out this dancehall/afrobeat ep I did with my good friend Chuck Ceasar. If you like to azonto, shoki, and vibe to afrobeat style music, be on the lookout for it. I’m a part of a group of musicians as well and we go by the Usual Suspak. Most of the members go to UB, like Kanard Brooks and Carlos Hamlin. They are the main reason why the tape came out so well, from the album artwork all the way to giving the tape a bigger sound then we expected. I’m glad to be working with a team with such talent. More music is coming out soon with the Usual Suspak, since…….we usually do this music thing.

More information about 808Bit can be found at UsualSus.com.

Alyx McClelland: president of UB Improv

When I was growing up one of my favorite television shows was “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, an improv comedy show starring such talents as Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, Greg Proops, hosted by Drew Carey (at the time), and featuring several rotating comedians and guest stars.  I was intrigued by the idea of improvisational comedy, and mesmerized by the quick wittedness of the comedians.  

I was excited to learn a few weeks into my first semester that there is an improv club here at the University of Baltimore, and quickly joined up – hoping to hone my ability to perform in front of others and improve my wits.  While I can’t speak for myself on my own progress, seeing the other members of the group improve during my time with them has been a wonderful experience, and I attribute much of that to the excellent leadership of the club.

I was lucky enough to get UB Improv’s current president, Alyxandra McClelland, on the phone for an interview in order to help spread awareness of this club, and to gain some insight into her experiences as a member and president.

Tell me a little bit about how you got involved with improv

Well I started improv in high school.  We had a drama club and we also had a drama class.  I took that for three years and I did drama [club] for four years.  When I came to the University of Baltimore, I found out they had an improv club my freshman year.

How did you end up being the president of UB Improv?

First, I was the treasurer of the improv club – three years ago, and when the president and vice president told me they were graduating they asked me if I would consider the idea of being a president in the club since I was already a treasurer.  I said sure, and it kind of happened from there.

Was it kind of a weird transition moving from member to the president of the club?

It is harder because I didn’t know what you were supposed to do when you are president.  I didn’t know what that entailed.  I just wanted people to have fun.

What sorts of extra duties did you have to take on that you were unsure about?

One of the things was trying to delegate – trying to figure out what roles to give to everyone else: so what roles do you give to the vice president, what roles do you give to the treasurer aside from balancing the bank account, what roles does your marketing department play.  That and ensuring everyone knows where your meetings are, what times they are, and making sure everyone enjoys themselves while they are there.

One of the things that improv club likes to highlight about themselves is that improv isn’t just for having fun, there are also some skills you can gain by doing it

Improv improves your public speaking skills, it improves your ability to have posture and presence on stage, which is important for if you are giving a speech or doing an interview.  It also teaches you how to work with a dynamic group of people.  There are people from the digital design majors, people who are accountant majors, people who are history majors and English majors, and they kind of all come together and you have to figure out, A: how to work with them, and then B: how to interact with them so you are not offending them with your jokes or making them feel bad because they are not doing something the way you are doing it.  

I think it really ultimately gets people to look outside of the group of people that they are in, because when you are in a major you often stay around the same people because they are taking the same classes as you, where in improv you meet a bunch of people from different majors and you find out you have more in common than just this major.

This is your last semester as president, correct?

Currently, yes, I believe so.  It depends on where I end up for law school.

What would be the biggest take away for you during your time at improv here?

I think watching it grow and develop from just a little club that people could come to, to a club where you see people actually develop these skills – because there were a lot of people at improv who started out not being able to talk to people, not being able to carry a scene, not really making up their own ideas to them creating these amazing characters and situations that seem like they just fall out of the sky.

When does the improv group meet and what events are coming up

The improv club meets every Tuesday and Friday from 5:30 to 7.  We have two improv shows coming up: one on April 5th from 7-9, and we have another show on April 19th from 7-9.  both shows are in the wright theater on the student center 5th floor.  And there will be Pizza and drinks.

Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know about the improv club?

Improv is something that you can learn, it’s for everyone, it’s not as intimidating as people try to make it sound, and it’s all about enjoying yourself and having fun.  It’s like a little piece of happiness from the daily struggles of having to complete 7 assignments in 2 days.  We are always accepting new members, and if anyone ever has an idea for something they would like to collaborate with the improv club you can go to UB Improv at orgsync and shoot [us] a message.  They can also go to orgsync and find me and send me an email.  We are looking to get other clubs or people to collaborate with us for our show on the 19th.

Alyxandra McClelland is a senior, majoring in jurisprudence and holding a philosophy minor.  She is going to be attending law school after her graduation in July, possibly continuing on here at UB.

Bnotes are building in Baltimore

by Daniele Spagnolo

Paper gets cut, inked, and printed by the U.S. treasury on a daily basis. Seas of green are pumped out into our indebted society. Jackson, Washington, and Franklin can only give us the promises of their value. We see the inevitable fate of our fluctuating economy as prices get higher, quality deteriorates, and we continue to climb the mountain on inflation. When we experience economic crashes like Baltimore did in the beginning of 2007, imaginative and productive minds start turning towards solutions. The creators of the Bnote envisioned a local currency that would create incentives to build Baltimore businesses and empower Baltimoreans not only as consumers, but as contributors to the wellbeing of Baltimore. As Vice Chair, Julie Goulding puts it, “we could create a reserve of money that’s our money.”

The Bnote team is an organization led by Jeff Dicken (Chair) and an all-volunteer staff. These community pioneers started with a vision of circulating a widely accepted, sustainable and viable form of local currency. Local currency isn’t a new phenomenon, there are various systems in place when it comes to concurring local currency. Here is how the Bnote works. The Bnote is worth ten percent more than the US Dollar. So, you can go to one of the Bnote cambrio (exchange center) like CapitolMac, give them $20 and receive 22 Bnotes. Then, you walk over to a local business that accepts Bnotes, like Golden West Cafe, and you are able to pay for ten percent more of your food.

A business that has accepted 80 Bnotes (comparable to the 72 US Dollars), is more likely to cater office parties with Cafe Sage or shop for office cleaning supplies at Baltimore Janitorial Supply Co. Bnotes help prevent small businesses from driving their growth with a solely capitalist model. Bnotes also attempt to counteract the power of corporate monopolies like Walmart or Home Depot by using the power of reciprocity. Additionally, the currency flows freely between consumers to businesses, then from businesses to other businesses, and this creates more community and social capital in our city.

With more places that accept Bnotes we have more options. The volunteer team is constantly working to add new businesses to the list of Bnote friendly locations. At their launch in April 2011, Bnotes were accepted at 55 businesses. As we are coming up on Summer 2016, Bnotes are launching their new series of the 10 and 20 value Bnotes at Gallery 788 on April 30th. Now, there are over 220 places that accept this currency, and the number is growing. The two new bills will feature well known women in Baltimore’s history, and the design will be revamped and ready to trade for quality goods and services. I know what you are thinking, “Well that’s cool, but can I pay my electric bill with this?” Well, no, you can’t…yet. The purpose is not to entirely replace U.S. currency. The BNote team sees the skepticism, but they reassure businesses and consumers alike there is no risk when investing in Bnotes. People have complete control over how much and how often they decide to use Bnotes. The currency is only complementary.

A couple businesses that successfully and regularly use Bnotes are Liam Flynn’s, that accepts 1 Bnote for 1 Natty Boh, Baltimore’s favorite beer, and Zekes coffee that also serves as a Bnote cambrio. When looking at the map of Bnote friendly locations, areas include Mt. Vernon, Charles Village, Hampden, Fells point, and Harbor East. Of course, these areas do not include all citizens of Baltimore, but the Bnote team, as Jeff and Julie emphasize, “always has been and will be open to the public.” They are seeking volunteers that will help spread the accessibility and versatility of Bnotes by including the areas of West Baltimore and East Baltimore in order to more accurately reflect the socioeconomic participation with all levels of income.

   Here is where we come in, we can help! We can decide to use the Bnote, ask for it in change, and help the circulation of our local currency to boost local businesses and create a better Baltimore. The Bnote team imagines being able to create real community enhancements like a recreation center open to all Baltimoreans, partnerships with local banks to provide micro-loan services, or even venture to buy food from community gardens, all with the power of Bnotes. We can also volunteer with the Bnote team to spread the word, whether it be by social media, writing, canvassing, or actually printing and making our Baltimore based bucks.

Please, visit baltimoregreencurrency.org to check out Bnote cambrios and locations, and email baltimoregreencurrency@gmail.com to ask about volunteer options.

NuRenaissance Performing at Pipe Dreamz

by Daniele Spagnolo

“6 Bars or Die” is boldly painted on the main wall of Pipe Dreamz LLC. Pipe Dreamz LLC is a space that Ace, the owner, Gruvye Drew, a music producer, and K Kali, an artist, use to promote an online clothing store, musical venue, and uniquely decorated hang out spot for local artists. New artists that come into Pipe Dreamz, located on the 800 block of N Howard St., informally spit six bars of freestyle rhymes as an initiation to hang out with the regulars. I was able to watch and enjoy as the members of NuRennaisance, a collective of artistic talents that are rooted in different inspirations of hip hop, creatively and intricately flowed their way into this “hip-hop Starbucks,” as Ace explains it. Local artists are welcome to come in and use the space in a way similar to Starbucks, offering Wi-Fi and space to study or work, Ace says “You don’t have to have money to free your mind.”

Here, NuRennaisance meets up to prepare for their debut performance on April 21st at 8 PM at Pipe Dreamz (tickets $5 at door). The show is going to introduce their collective, musically based on rap and hip-hop influences from 90’s to modern, trip-hop, as well as a worthy blend of alternative and pop-rap. NuRenaissance is not only making a statement by combining their craft with variety and vigor, they plan on making an impact that goes beyond headphones.

Planet Mars, or PM, a freestyle artist and community organizer, started this collective with more than just performing music in mind. He has a positive vision for the groups’ impact on Baltimore. He describes NuRennaisance as a group about community and empowerment. “I want Baltimore to become the next hot hub for the world,” PM states with passion in his voice. He explains his vision for revamping the city to match or exceed the reputations that Chicago, L.A., NYC, etc. have in terms of the music industry. PM bridges his aspirations for the city of Baltimore with his hopes for the people of Baltimore with his emphasis on charity work. NuRennaissance is currently working to collaborate with women’s shelters and Baltimore related charities to further push towards positivity in the community.

The artists that make up NuRennaissance are as follows: Planet Mars (PM), Wayne Collins, Jay Swann, D-Low, Blaze da Misphit, Emellodee, Apex, and Kazi. The stories of their connections are filled with previous collectives that go along with the trial and error of music groups, however some met out of pure fate. Apex, beat maker and rapper, Jay Swann, music producer, and PM are childhood friends from Baltimore and have been making music together for years. Wayne Collins, rapping since 2008, partnered with D-Low in Baltimore City, and met PM at a cancelled Beet Trips show. These three artists were able to transform a disappointing evening into a lasting musical unit by collaborating on coincidence. Emellodee, singer and rapper from Baltimore, met Wayne Collins while they worked at Sam’s Club together. After an instant musical connection, they have been freestyling, writing, and producing together ever since.

Blaze da Misfit, from Michigan, has music production in his blood. His father was a well-known DJ in the 80’s while working with MC Proof, a Michigan legend. PM ran into Blaze, heard his recent music, and asked him to come on board. Finally, Kazi, originally from Kenya, recognized PM, Apex, and Jay Swann from their music while he was working at Chick-fila. PM, Apex, and Jay Swann came in for a sandwich and left with a new poet and musician to add to the collective.

Their performance will be one to remember as it marks the integration of many different backgrounds, ages, places, and styles for the first time under the NuRenaissance name. The group wants people to come out and experience some “dope music and good vibes,” as Kazi explains it. Jay Swann described how necessary this kind of diversity and versatility is to rap music as a whole. Wayne Collins made the point of accessibility for audience members. No matter one’s musical preference, there is room for anyone here, he said. He went on to say, “the music is as diverse as the collective.” Blaze da Misphit reached out to other artists and announced the show as a chance for progress and openness. He wants people to use this time to network with other artists. PM reminded fans and audience members that this is a collective that inspires all kinds of art, including visual. As Emellodee, who is also a painter puts it, “We make music, but our art doesn’t stop there.” For NuRenaissance, the mission never stops at music.

Don’t get mad, get new books and ancient newspapers

Melamed_LibraryColumn_NewBooks
The author stacks up on new library books. Photo Credit – Erin Toepfner

I felt like I was in an episode of “Mad Men” when I opened the UB student newspaper from the late 1950s. A half page ad for Marlboro jumped out and told me Marlboro was the most popular cigarette on college campuses nationwide, along with a U.S. map that had each state visually represented by an open pack of cigarettes.

Fortunately, I hadn’t exactly travelled back in time to that decade. I was safely scanning Langsdale Library’s archive of UB’s student newspapers, in the lovely smoke-free Special Collections reading room on the 4th floor of the Learning Commons, in the lovely, smoke-free, Langsdale Library.

But it felt a little like time travel. I was watching history unfold, reading students’ first-hand responses to events that seemed like staples of reality. The events of the past were so much a part of the fabric of my memory and existence that it took a few minutes for it to sink in when I read the headlines that Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, that this news was hitting people for the first time. It wasn’t a history book I was reading, it was history.

And a lot of it was infuriating—assassinations, sexist cartoons and cigarette ads to name a few of the more disturbing aspects of history I came across.

The further back in time I went with UB’s student newspapers, the larger the cigarette ads became. They slowly creeped up from half page ads to full page ads as they went back to the earliest issues in the 1930s.

On the other hand, it was spectacular to feel the fervor in the front page articles about the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. It was a relief to watch women take on more roles and work towards more diverse degrees, instead of being pigeon-holed into a few select majors. It was fun to see people streaking through the 1970s. It was heartening to read about the formation of a bike club in 1972.

It was fascinating to read about the anticipation for the then-new Langsdale Library, scheduled to be built in 1966, while the same building was being renovated right across the street in the present day. Plans for the state-or-the-art design repeatedly appeared in the student newspaper in the 1960s. In contrast to the current library designs with more glass letting in natural light, windows were being designed small, to cut down on the glare for people reading books. The plans were being published in the paper. I saw renderings of the new old library. Then, finally, in 1966, Langsdale Library was built and a photo of the “modern” building appeared on the front page in the student newspaper.

It was exciting to see the Langsdale Library make the front page repeatedly, every time the library received a new collection of books. There it would be in big blocky letters, headline after headline—“Langsdale Library receives X number of books,” in contrast to the present day, when libraries are giving away more and more books as we become more and more digital.

Although Langsdale Library has recently given away many books, there is no need to get mad.  The library recently received several carts of new books for its collection. This may not make the front page of the paper but here it is in the middle. The new books themselves can be found on the New Book Kiosk as you enter the library. Come check them out!

UB’s student newspapers will eventually be online back through the 1930s. Check out the UB Post back to 1981 in Langsdale Library’s  Special Collections for a little bit of time travel—and let me know what T.V. show you feel like you’re in!