Thoughts Post Baltimore Heritage Tour

So having gone on the Explore Baltimore Heritage tour of Hollins this past Saturday, there’s a couple thoughts I want to bring up that have been sort of steering my recent direction on the class project:

First I remembered why I don’t really like those heritage tours. It’s pretty much all old white people (with money) who go on these things. They bring with them equal parts nostalgia for a bygone era of mostly white baltimore, and a sort of necro-tourism fascination with blighted Baltimore that sort of feels akin to slowing down on the highway to watch a traumatic car crash.

Anyways, even though it was a nice day out and it felt good to walk around some neighborhoods I otherwise wouldn’t have, I couldn’t shake the sense that I was so clearly in a position that I generally loath. As we (a group of probably 30 white people and one black person) were walking around, I could hear local residents we passed by on the street mumbling under their breath “what the hell is this all about?”. Which I doubt anyone else in our group heard or gave a thought about. However I just want to say I get it!

Hollins is changing, or at least is existing under the threat of change. New condos are going up by the BioPark, that all the locals seem to despise, that are clearly designed to cater towards upper class medical professionals working in at UMD. Warhorse is talking about putting a bougie bar/restaurant in Hollins Market Hall, despite there not being a grocery store anywhere in the neighborhood. Being on the tour, I had a “guilty by association” feeling in my stomach. The feeling that we probably looked like a bunch of wealthy DC speculators walking around a crumbling neighborhood, looking for potential cheap investment opportunities; the same kind of people that are in many ways responsible for the lack of recent redevelopment progress in the area. All of which is to say, the everyday voices of Hollins Market, in most cases not as loud as the big money voices from out of town, are getting lost in the mix.

Anyways, my main takeaway for us is that we really need to be sensitive to how fragile and precarious the future of Hollins probably feels to many smaller voices that actually make up the neighborhood. I went through the interviews Sidney transcribed and tried to highlight quotes that I thought sort of hinted towards the potential threats and pitfalls of gentrification while pointing to what makes the area unique and vibrant on the ground. Hollins is not a neighborhood that needs our sympathy or our nostalgia, but at the same time we’d be remiss not to really draw sensitive attention to the potentially seismic changes which are right on the cusp of happening.

Basically, the last thing I want to be is another white guy walking around the neighborhood lamenting its “fall from grace”, without actually listening to locals to learn what I might be missing that makes it still great.

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