A city. It’s a funny thing when you think about it. A drop of a pin on a map, a pixel on a computer screen. A place where we initially end up by mere chance. A place that holds so much and means so much more.
Tomorrow I’ll once again leave my hometown of St. Louis to start my final year of college in Baltimore, yet this time the feeling as I near my departure is different. Tomorrow, hundreds of miles will separate me and a city that’s gone through so much over the past dozen days. On August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, a 15-minute drive north of my home, a police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager. Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to the victim—Mike Brown—at a makeshift memorial in the middle of the road. His death, regardless of what any court trial may show, represents so much of the racial inequalities that pervade our city and our country. The questions raised are dire, and my city’s response—demanding answers, demanding equality, demanding justice—has confirmed what I know to be true of St. Louis: we fight for what our guts tell us is right.
I bring up this admittedly doleful aside not only because I think it’s critical that we reflect on this event and its social undercurrents, but because I believe that it underlines the inherent power of a city and its identity. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, even when certain actions challenge that very conviction. I’m proud to say that I’m from St. Louis, because when we band together as a city, we can ignite change.
In no time at all, the class of 2018 will be heading to Baltimore—for some, their beloved hometown and for many others, a new place to call home. If I could urge the incoming freshman class to do one thing, that would be to get to know and love this city. Baltimore has easily become one of my favorite cities in the world; the people are incredible and the energy is ineffable. Like any place, Baltimore deals with its own set of issues, but the pros outweigh any measly con time and time again. I hope that upon settling into your dorm and the Homewood campus, you get out and explore the city. Get acquainted with its unique identity and find a way to make an impact.
Before you all get bogged down by syllabus week and lists of textbooks and required reading, I wanted to offer up a head start with a list of required watching—of course, this will not be graded, but I definitely recommend taking a look at one (or all) of the videos below to get an initial idea of what Baltimore is about. The videos aren’t exhaustive and the city is so much better in person, but it’s a good way to get a sense of what makes Baltimore tick. Welcome home, class of 2018—to Hopkins and to Baltimore.
For starters, let’s get our bearings. This is Baltimore:
Balti’s music scene is one-of-a-kind. Seriously, it’s rad:
Our art scene is just as renowned. One time, I helped an artist collective marry people outside of an old police box adjacent to Penn Station:
If you’re a fan of theatre, you’ll find tons of great performances. Single Carrot Theatre (below) is great, but look up some Wham City Comedy (a personal favorite) for some more, occasionally less appropriate humor:
People aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Baltimoreans care about land use and agriculture, one example being the Baltimore Free Farm—fun fact: some of my friends made this documentary through a class at Hopkins:
Street art has transformed the city. Keep an eye for the incredible murals and graffiti courtesy of Open Walls Baltimore. Also, I’m obsessed with this video (that’s to say, watch this one ! ! !):
See you tomorrow, Baltimore.