Back to the Basics: Backpack Giveaway at Tubman House

TRNN Producer Dharna Noor speaks with grassroots activists and residents of Gilmor Homes projects about the importance of social programs and political education in creating a healthy community.

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Story Transcript

DHARNA NOOR: This is Dharna Noor and Cameron Granidino reporting from Tubman House.

Tubman House is a house in West Baltimore which was abandon but since has been taken over by a group of community activists known as the 1619 coalition. When we last reported from Tubman House, the organizers were facing threats of demolition from the city of Baltimore but the house is still standing. This corner received a lot of media attention when Freddie Gray was arrested just across the street last year. But today what’s on the mind of most folks who are here is that school starts in Baltimore this week. Organizers here have created a backpack and school supply giveaway for kids in the community.

SHAMAIAH: We’re giving away book bags filled with school supplies to students because school is starting up and a lot of people aren’t able to get their children school supplies and stuff so we’re giving back to the community.

ADAM JACKSON: You can just community build with your folks and do something as simple as a school book bag giveaway in and in the process talk to people about the things that you’re working on. Get them involved with community work and people that you wouldn’t normally have been in contact with, now you can see them an interact with them in ways that you couldn’t before.

TAALIB SABER: Right now, every day we have something that’s going whether it be dancing for the youth, whether it be employing the youth with the garden that we have growing.

AUSAR MESH-AMEN: I’m the farmer here. I help with youth coordination with the program that we have here with 1619 Coalition here at Tubman House. We grow food here, we do youth education around food, health and wellness. We help them with conflict resolution and we just go through the whole gambit here. It’s a lot of different projects that we have going on here.

ISAIAH: My name is Isaiah.

ELIJAH: My name is Elijah.

ISAIAH: And we work at this farm and we get $50 each. We love this farm. We eating hamburgers and hotdogs and I’m shouting out to my mother and my father and Ms. Pepsi. Ms. Pepsi, here go your son.

We getting money because we watered the garden each day but some people don’t come and they’re going to get fired.

SABER: Those are somethings in which we’re doing but we’re trying to continue to have self-determination and nation building and just have that community because it’s too often within black neighborhoods we have just that neighborhood. It’s not communities anymore because of the attack on them. So now we’re going back to the basis. We’re going to build in those relationships and build in those community here at the Tubman House.

RESIDENT: They doing better than they was, you feel me? We ain’t have none of this back in [G]. None of this, none of this. It wasn’t no yea people coming round here giving out cookouts. NO, we have people coming out here doing it they self.

RESIDENT: This right here is a start. Nobody threw us cookouts. We had to ask the older guys. The older guys used to provide us for everything. Everything. Like we was down bad, our mother only had money to pay the bills, they buying our shoes, our clothes. Nowadays it’s terrible, it’s worst but it’s got better as far as trying to give back. People was now trying to give back.

NOOR: But Ausar, some folks would hear you say this and say you’re trying to combat problems that are really big systemic problems like poverty over policing. But while nobody would argue that having a backpack giveaway is a bad thing, some might ask how something as small as a backpack giveaway on this corner going to combat these huge systemic issues.

MESH-AMEN: It’s true, small steps are very important. That’s one thing we learn here at the garden is that things grow inch by inch. Millimeter by millimeter. They grow very slowly but they do grow. Steady work does make progress. So when we give out things like book bags or we do food drives, it’s not enough food to feed the whole hood here. But it’s enough food that it’s a model that can be imitated. We’re not making a change because we’re overlooking those small things and those small things are what is practical. It’s what’s practical and it’s a small win. Again on top of that, our egos are we’ve been beat down. So we need small wins because it lets us know that we can triumph over this very big problem. It lets us know that we can take it brick by brick and build a house of liberation or make things different around here.

SPEAKER: Got to get down there and do the physical work man. Get these past [pardon] and make something out of them. Make a building.

SHAMAIAH: The youth, they’re our future and if we’re not able to give them the tools to be able to succeed in life to be able to get to certain places in life then we’ve pretty much failed them. So to be able to start with them at a young age to try to give them the tools that they need to be able to succeed in life, that’s something that everybody should do.

MS. AUSTIN: Hello, I’m Ms. Austin and I’m here getting free book bags. They here giving out free book bags for the go back to school. Woo Woo!

[ANTOINAJA]: Hey guys we had another nice day and it’s been fun at the suite and my name is [Atoinaja] and I’m a little girl and I’m from the projects and I live in Baltimore City.

End

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