graphic designer / photographer / writer

MICA social design, class of 2014


today in MASD we’ll be discussing scaling our projects with kyla fullenwider. i’ve been thinking about ways to scale my project. since i’m working on mapping population changes in station north, i’ve thought about the kinds of conversations those maps & other visualizations could help facilitate.

in addition to expanding my project by creating more visualizations after the ones i complete and exhibit for the MASD thesis show, i think it could be beneficial for me to bring those visual tools into various community discussions that are already occurring about the past and future of the station north arts & entertainment district. these could include community association meetings like the greenmount west community association, conversations in which MICA is assessing its impact on the neighborhood surrounding the graduate studio center, city government conversations about the use of law enforcement in station north/greenmount west, and many more space and conversations that i’m sure exist though i am not aware of them yet.

eventually, i think the type of visualization i’m working on could be applied to other parts of baltimore, and perhaps other cities. i would have to, however, do extensive research before applying these methods to another city in order to ensure i’m not making any assumptions about similarities they may or may not share with baltimore.

the new york times published this mapping resource reflecting poverty levels all over the united states. above is a screenshot from baltimore and the rest of the map can be viewed here.

the new york times published this mapping resource reflecting poverty levels all over the united states. above is a screenshot from baltimore and the rest of the map can be viewed here.

yesterday MASD 2014 pitched all of our thesis questions to a panel of visiting designers and partners who we had previously worked with. i’m so proud of how well everyone did!

i’ve been thinking hard about incarceration and gentrification all semester, believing i had to choose between the two topics. i’ve realized, however, that investigating the relationship between them could be a great entry point into understanding more about baltimore. i’m taking station north on as a case study, trying to understand what effect the arts & entertainment district designation has had on residents, new and old. our panel members gave me some great advice and people to contact, and i’m looking forward to using winter break to get lots of reading, meetings, and blogging done. i have so much to learn about my new home, and really believe design can play a helpful role in facilitating understanding. i’m hoping my project will be able to add an important visual element to the conversations already happening in and about station north. i think it’s even possible, as lee suggested to me during our call last week, that it could influence policy at the city government level, in terms of tax incentive allocation and use of police resources.

i cannot believe the semester is almost over. i have a significant amount of work to finish this week, but it certainly feels good to have made it this far. cindy and i were just talking about how it feels like we just chose our desks yesterday. i can only imagine how we’ll feel at graduation!

thesis pitch, first draft

Thesis Statement (as of 12/5/13—i gave a rough pitch to my classmates this past thursday)


  • I have experience with anti-violence activism, diversity training, and queer community organizing

  • my undergraduate studies were in American Studies & Queer Studies

  • my design experience comes from independent study and freelance work

Goals for Thesis & Beyond:

  • I want to bring my design and organizing work together, I believe they’re the same share the same goal, which is to say that the job of a designer is to facilitate conversation

  • I want to practice working for a struggle that is not my own: my experiences with activism have involved working with my own community, I want to gain experience working alongside others in solidarity

  • I want to work to advance racial justice

Incarceration & Gentrification:

  • mass incarceration: removes people from their communities, weakens ties between individuals + neighborhoods where they live(d)

    • insert overview here w/ statistics, 

  • gentrification: attracts “desirable” (white & wealthy) people to an area in which they did not previously live, under the guise of improving an area, making it “safer”

    • they’re both types of migration, but incarceration is a kind of forced migration and gentrification is voluntary/encouraged with financial incentives

    • what kind of dynamic does this create? What effect do these two types of movement have on a particular neighborhood?

      • Station North as a case study:

        • arts & entertainment district designation

        • new developments: MICA Graduate Studio Center, Red Emma’s, City Arts building, whatever is happening on the NE corner of Howard & North Ave, plans for a new MICA building?

        • Who is funding this development?

        • Who receives art-based subsidies? What are the racial demographics?

        • What is the vision of “progress” for this district look like?

        • What are the arrest rates for the district?

        • What’s the difference between a district and a neighborhood?

        • What is the change in property values over time in Station North?

Long-Term Creative Mapping Project:

  • partnership with Melani Douglass, Curatorial Practice ‘15

  • what are the different ways of mapping a neighborhood?

  • What can we learn from comparing different narratives of a neighborhood?

  • How many different pasts, presents, and futures can a neighborhood hold at once?

Sources Thus Far:

  • Jennifer Wallace, Professor of Creative Writing at MICA, 10 years experience teaching writing in prisons in New York and Maryland

  • Mikita Brottman, Professor of English at MICA, teaches at Jessup Correctional Institute and works at Clifton Perkins Psychiatric Hospital (part of the Maryland Department of Corrections)

  • Betty Huang, an industrial design student in Detroit, studying gentrification in Detroit and the role of designers in the labor system

  • Jen Jack Giesking, New Media and Data Visualization Specialist, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital and Computational Studies Initiative at Bowdoin College, my former professor in a class at CUNY Graduate Center about queer histories & spaces in New York City

  • Myra Margolin, community psychologist with experience volunteering in the Baltimore City Detention Center

  • Leigh Maddox, Board Member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former Chief of Maryland State Police, former undercover agent infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan

  • a friend who has TA’d a class in a CT prison and taught a class about the War on Drugs (he asked that his name not be published)

Potential Future Partners/Sources:

  • Jay Gillen, Baltimore Algebra Project (worked to shut down new youth jail earlier this year)

  • Neill Franklin, ED of LEAP (Baltimore native and former Police Chief)

  • Paul Rucker, Deutsch Foundation Fellow, Artist-in-Residence at MICA, and anti-prison activist

  • Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
  • Eric Cadora, Director of the Justice Mapping Project at Columbia University
  • Joe Jones, ED of Center for Urban Families
  • Ben Stone, ED of Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc.

Why This Is Important:

  • mass incarceration & gentrification are affecting people across the country, in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, DC, etc
  • the effect is an increased number of people in prison, an increased number of people without homes, an increased number of people starving & in debt
  • this part of a larger problem


  • I would like my project to be a visual contribution to gentrification resistance work and anti-prison work, by illustrating the relationship between the two and helping to build solidarity among the people most affected by these phenomena
  • academics and activists alike need better visual tools to communicate their research and ideas


Social Enterprise Week at MASD

This week, the Social Design class explored social enterprises. We began the week by presenting our visualizations to Stephanie Gellar from SOWOC, then taking a field trip to Humanim up in Broadway East, just a few blocks north of MICA PLACE.

Henry Poscoe, CEO at Humanim, gave us an introduction presentation on the portfolio of businesses at Humanim. They’ve been at this “social enterprise” thing since the 80’s pretty much, long before “social enterprise” was really a thing. As an organization, Humanim has a very specific definition of what qualifies as a social enterprise. The business venture must do all of the following: 

  1. Provides training and employment to individuals who have experienced barriers to employment (including individuals who experience poverty, disability, former incarceration, welfare)
  2. Provides a product or service line.
  3. Will be financially sustainable following a reasonable period of start up.

Currently, Humanim is a $28M business, and only about 14.8% of its endeavors qualify under their own definition of social enterprise (the remainder of its money comes from more traditional fee-for-service businesses that many, including myself, would probably also qualify as a social enterprise). Humanim recently established a board to review new social enterprises before they are pitched to the non-profit’s executive board, and Henry is looking to expand Humanim’s social enterprise portfolio to 30% of the overall revenue. 

Naturally, MASD was challenged with creating a social enterprise, concept to devising a business plan and pitching to potential investors in 48 hours. 

After a rapid ideation phase (man, I hate that word still), we settled on a core group of categories from which to develop our enterprises. Originally, I was going to pitch the high-tech business incubator concept, but I was alone on that one. After some nudging from Mike and Lee to challenge myself to break out of what I know, I decided to jump ship and joined Nico and Laura in pitching what we ended up calling Blue Crab Solar.

The pitch is that we are creating a large-scale solar panel array that produces clean energy, would be self-sustaining within 3 to 8 years, and provides high-tech employment and training to a group of 38 people within 3 years. We based the system largely off of the Clean Energy Collective in Colorado. Interestingly, Laura and Nico managed to do a live chat with a representative from CEC that greatly informed out business plan.

We decided to explore some partnerships with the city in order to improve the feasibility of the endeavor, as well as leverage Humanim’s latest social enterprise, DETAILS, a deconstruction company, into the creation of the solar array. Overall feedback from the “investor panel” was positive. We set out realistic goals given the project, and seemed to have a solid business plan, despite none of us having any business experience. And I finally got to meet Kunal from the Social Innovation Lab at Hopkins. Amanda (Allen, MASD ‘13) works with SIL quite a bit, and I’ve wanted to get in contact with them for some time now. 

Here’s a link to the PDF of our pitch.

I must admit, it was the most I’d ever learned about anything in the three hours that we took to hobble together a presentation. But at the end of it all, we have some interesting nuggets of feedback to keep in mind for the future:

  • What’s the problem? Prove that it’s a problem. Quantify it. Why do I care? Why is it more important than the other problems that exist? (Ideally, your problem is an umbrella problem that other important problems flow out of…)
  • What’s the solution? Why is the way that i’ll solve it better than other ways to solve it? Triple bottom line. (My solution will solve 3-4 other problems at the same time)
  • Leverage resources. What do you have that would be low value to you and high value to me? (ie. extra space in Pepsi trucks) Space & materials. Potentially have people who are able to spend money on things pay for it at a rate that subsidizes those who cannot.
  • Tell the impact. (ie. for every dollar you put in, x will happen)
  • Have a systems approach. How does this fit into the puzzle of other things than need to happen in order for your problem to truly be solved?
  • Be careful with using sensitive and appropriate terminology around vulnerable populations - can be a turn off if done wrong.
  • Wherever you have to spend cash is the ask.
  • Look at the landscape. Who are your competitors? Who are your partners?
  • Share best case and worst case scenario with revenue.
Compiled list by Becky Slogeris

the ny times published a wonderful collection of anti-apartheid posters in honor of nelson mandela. i only wish there were more!

the ny times published a wonderful collection of anti-apartheid posters in honor of nelson mandela. i only wish there were more!

“this prayer.
this prayer.
this prayer.
‘elder mandela.
here is my heart to place under yours.
right now
you are slow breaths
low eyes.
all that strength you made fom your blood.
a whole nation of black pain.
you carried in your spine.
a jail cell. made from your mother’s island.
i return some to you.
are my legs.
my arms.
my voice.
ninety four years
many lives.
is many bones to go through.
many walks through the sun.
many hearts to shed.
many stars of joy to comb through your hair.
a lot of time
to drink.
let us hold you now.
let us warm the water for your skin.
let our youth be your comfort.
we have seen how your feet danced.
that we have commited
your rhythm.
your song.
you. to memory.
our weeping
all hope and fresh mourning.
we know what the ancestors sound like
when they come.
they are ready for you.
if you have done
you came to do.
are finished transcribing your soul into humanity.
we will
have our cloth ready.
our flowers ready.
our songs in our mouths ready.
our feet and all the drums ready.
our fresh water.
our spirits.


watching over madiba (june. 23, 2013. 6:07 p.m. est, usa), nayyirah waheed (via nayyirahwaheed)

today, dec 5th, 2013 madiba has gone from this world. i thank him for the wideness and largeness of his spirit, the lion of his waters, the strength that fed us all. he taught me the truth about africa, taught me that she can and never will be defeated. i shed tears because i am happy you were here, amongst us, with us, filling us all with your light, love, and quiet honey. you magnificent child of Africa, let us sing and dance you home to the ancestors :)))

rest in power, nelson mandela, and may your words and spirit carry all of us to a better world.

(via nayyirahwaheed)

a week of meetings

I shifted into second gear with my thesis research last week. 4 one-on-one meetings, and one lecture later, and I have more questions than I did before. which I still think is a good thing, even though I’m supposed to be narrowing down my thesis proposal for next week! ack!

meeting with myra margolin

myra was kind enough to meet with me on monday and let me pick her brain about baltimore history, psychology, anthropology, and development. we talked about the construction we’ve each noticed in station north, who is doing what volunteer work in which baltimore prisons, whiteness, the greenmount west development plan, and “fair development” (which sounds very similar to “community wealth building” but is apparently different). she encouraged me to follow my instincts in terms of what’s happening in station north, and what is going to be the best point for a design-based intervention. (below is a photo of the station north logo reflected in a window, from google images)

meeting with jennifer wallace 

jennifer teaches poetry & creative writing at MICA. she has also taught writing and book-making classes at prisons in westchester county, new york and here in baltimore county. when I asked her what was the most important thing to know about prisons, she said that the people inside are often thought of as a contained unit, when they often have families and children who they are deeply connected to, despite the walls that separate them. when I asked about gentrification in baltimore, the neighborhoods that came to mind for her, were station north/greenmount and hampden, which I knew about, and locust point, which I had never heard of. she also gave me the name of a professor at MICA who teaches at jessup correctional institute—mikita brottman, and told me that a professor named amy roza also teaches at jessup as part of the goucher prison education partnership. (below is a picture of the guard tower at jessup correctional institute, from google images)

paul rucker’s presentation

paul rucker is an amazing multimedia artist, activist, and musician who is spending this year working at MICA. his short presentation at the graduate studio center on wednesday covered the history of prisons in the U.S., gun control laws, and the history of lynchings and murders of black men by the police. I was in awe of how simultaneously provoking and digestable his presentation was. there was certainly a lot of grief and violence involved which I will be sitting with for a long time. even while confronted with such weight, however, it felt like paul carved out a space soft and complex enough that everyone in the room could be present in their own way. that is quite the skill. time and history were woven together in honest and inconsistent patterns, and his unconventional cello playing was soothing and rousing at once. I left knowing that the influence of his work would find its way into my own. we didn’t have a chance to talk after the presentation, but I’m hoping we can meet in the next few weeks.

below is his piece “proliferation.” be sure your speakers or headphones are turned on for the cello accompaniment.

mind meld with melani douglass

melani is a first-year curatorial practice student and was literally the first person I met during orientation at MICA. we immediately hit it off, and started scheming about ways to honor the people of baltimore in our own artistic and design work. we met again on friday, just to catch up. once we started talking about station north, gentrification, mapping, vacant buildings, race, history, different ideas about the future/city planning, what parts of baltimore history are not discussed, what it would mean to partner with a johns hopkins student… it was clear we were still on the same page. we’re both presenting our thesis proposals to our own cohorts and then are going to, at the very least, share our ideas and preliminary research with each other. questions she planted in my mind that I’m still thinking about: where did everyone go who used to live in these vacant buildings? what can she see as a baltimore native that I can’t, and vice versa? what can we do as a woman of color and a white man working together that we couldn’t do alone? what are the ways poor people have resisted gentrification? how can an arts district designation benefit long-time residents? how can we, as MICA students, leverage our privilege to complete a project that builds bridges once burned? what’s the difference between a district and a neighborhood? what is MICA’s vision of station north’s future? baltimore city government’s? long-time residents? the 4,000+ people currently kept in cages in the prisons and jails of the city? the greenmount west community association?

how can one place hold so many different presents and futures at once? how many times can history repeat itself?

all I can say is I’m so glad to have yet another supportive, determined, and inspiring person as part of my community here in baltimore. these questions won’t necessarily be answered, but we won’t sweep them under the rug either. the history of struggle in this city is much too broad, too deep, too beautiful to be ignored. (below is a baltimore neighborhood map, from wikipedia)

skype call with betty

I met betty huang during the better world by design conference in providence, RI in september. she’s about to graduate from the college for creative studies in detroit, where she grew up. we hit it off during the conference’s social event when we started comparing the way people talk about both baltimore and detroit. both cities are seen largely as post-industrial waste, shameful pools of drugs and violence, “blank slates” for young white gentrifiers and large development corporations to experiment and capitalize on. in order to help each other organize our thoughts about how power allows and encourages gentrification, we decided to talk it out. we swapped ideas we’ve gotten from michel foucault, guy debord, janet helms, zygmunt bauman, and socialist theories. we talked about co-ops, community wealth building, socialist critiques of co-ops, micropolitics, how to make ideology visible. lots of big stuff! I’m hoping we can talk again soon, especially if she ends up on the east coast after she graduates in a few weeks! (below is a typographic neighborhood map of detroit from ork posters)

another note about all of these meetings: I love and am so drawn to friendly, soft-spoken, thoughtful people. I’m so grateful that I have gotten the chance to meet so many on this research/grad school journey I’m on. as tiring as it can be to initiate and follow up with so many meetings, I’m feeling really energized by people’s incredible ideas and enthusiasm. we’re ready to have these conversations, and I’m looking forward to inviting even more people into them moving forward.

I’m also looking forward to relaxing over the holiday break. I’m not even close to okay with celebrating genocide and colonialism as “thanksgiving.” but I am grateful for my family and for the respite from my hectic class schedule. I’ll be thinking hard about whiteness, and about what a gift my extended mixed race family is, as I have been ever since the undoing racism training earlier this month. and I’ll be hoping for more kind and honest conversations every year, hoping we can hold each other’s pain and hope in the same space.


Here’s a comic I made a long time ago and never published. The text is from the introduction to A New Queer Agenda by Joseph N. DeFilippis.

oh look, an awesome and important comic by my friend nia! read up & follow her at

(via niaking)

3 thesis ideas

for my social design master’s thesis, I want to create a set of design tools that will contribute to anti-prison work. each have the possibility for both print and web solutions. I’ve sketched out three potential avenues toward that end:

  1. creative mapping of station north

    1. problem: gentrification of station north, disconnect between MICA & greater community

    2. intervention: creative mapping of the neighborhood that illuminates history, current artistic practices, police data

    3. audience: residents of charles north, barclay, and greenmount, & the MICA community

    4. aspects of problem to be addressed: preservation of history, acknowledgement of local art & struggle, illumination of disparities between different groups’ visions for the area’s future

    5. potential partnerships: melani douglass (curatorial practice ‘15), red emma’s, paul rucker, johns hopkins, downtown partnership, priya bhayana

  2. illustrating the war on drugs in baltimore

    1. problem: stigmatization & criminalization of drug use & addiction, disproportionate prosecution & incarceration of people of color

    2. intervention: education about class & race disparities in drug legislation in baltimore

    3. audience: the most privileged, white wealthy people, to help them see how their rights are being protected at the expense of other people’s freedom and well-being

    4. aspects of problem to be addressed: mass incarceration, addiction, violence, ignorance, harm reduction

    5. potential partnerships: LEAP, prison education professors at MICA and goucher, prison policy institute

  3. re-entry service guide

    1. problem: a large number of non-profits serving specific populations of formerly incarcerated people, no central organization or funding

    2. intervention: a collection & perhaps coalition of all re-entry organizations, who they serve, how they are connected, etc

    3. audience: both formerly incarcerated people in baltimore and the general public
    4. aspects of problem to be addressed: unorganized information, lack of communication between groups, competition for funding, recidivism
    5. potential partnerships: alternative directions, hand in hand