“There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” Margaret Wheatley
This project seeks to tell a Story of Baltimore as only its own citizens can. We, its people, hold deep knowledge and experience of this crazy place. Even when we struggle to put words to it, we seem to love this place for all that it is even as we grapple with the everyday problems it poses.
Baltimore today is an amazingly fragmented place. Our culture has been divided by centuries of injustice and legal separation. Our economy of growing, making and manufacturing has been drained by over-harvesting, globalization and the interstate highway system. Our ecosystems across the region cling to life amid disease and competition as they await our efforts to clean up pollution and to help them re-create the backbone of a healthy Bay again.
And yet, we love this place for some reason. We see potential. We feel at home here. We are welcome to try things here that don’t feel possible elsewhere. The basic patterns of our productive and healthy essence are still there, just below our hardened exterior.
Besides. We’re The Greatest City in America, dammit.
One manifestation of this essence may be found at the Sunday farmer’s market under I-83.
This weekly event is one of the most culturally, racially and economically diverse events in the City. It supports an essential movement of regionally produced foods, crafts and music and thousands of dollars are exchanged in a very short time. It just feels right (despite the fact that it is currently one of the most aesthetically uncomfortable scenes anywhere given the outdated freeway above and the seas of asphalt and incarceration surrounding it)
Here’s the kicker – the location, success and vibrancy of the market is likely no mistake. We gather in this same spot as one integrated and happy City precisely because it’s the most natural and comfortable place for this market to happen and commerce has always been happening here. This market sits at the very location where the modern economic history of Baltimore began – at the confluence of the Jones Falls and the north branch of the Patapsco River (the Inner Harbor). This is where goods from all over the region were loaded onto ships bound for the rest of the world. We gather in this spot today despite the fact you can’t see the Jones Falls buried below the asphalt in a series of 18’ high concrete culverts.
Fayette Street bridge over Jones Falls, seen from north. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.
These are exactly the kinds of patterns that this Story of Baltimore seeks to uncover – for the City as a whole. Here’s the theory: when we uncover and articulate these patterns we will be able to build programs, policies and promotions for the future based on a powerful understanding of who we have always been and can be again.
We have the ability to make our place in the world again based on who we are.
The Story of Baltimore will be one effort among many to help us get there.