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Johannah Hall

Johannah Hall picture

Painting

Class of 2011

from: Macon, GA

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"The diversity within MICA provides us a broad access to ideas and points of view we otherwise would not consider. I realize now that it is the diversity on our campus, and the wide support of its growth, that helps us at MICA to be innovative in both our lives and our work." 

Johannah Hall '11 wrote the following essay that appeared in the April-May-Summer 2011 edition of MICA's news and events magazine, Juxtapositions.


Recently, the new assistant director for diversity, Mahnoor Ahmed, spoke at the student voice association meeting. She introduced herself to the roomful of students, described her position, and relayed her aspirations for the Office of Diversity & Intercultural Development. After extending a special welcome to organizations dealing with diversity, she invited anyone interested to visit her office anytime.

After the meeting, I started thinking about her invitation. Not only was it nudging me to consider how I might fi t into the diversity on campus, it inspired me to look more broadly at MICA as a college campus. Of course, MICA has its own ecosystem of diversity among students, staff, and faculty, but its location in the heart of Baltimore cannot be overlooked. There is a term among students: “the MICA bubble”—the invisible line that keeps us situated in our own creative, relatively safe environment between the Mount Royal light rail tracks and North Avenue. But the bubble is not as strong as the myth and it is easily perforated. As a freshman, I took a class called Finding Baltimore, where, throughout the semester, we visited each quadrant of the city trying to get a feel for the city overall. I quickly learned that in a 3-mile radius, inside Baltimore, the demographics can change dramatically from homeless to millionaire, panhandler to businessman—with almost nothing to signify the change. Coming from a small city in the middle of Georgia, I knew that large cities contained various walks of life, but in my town there were places you could go and places you shouldn’t. It is different in Baltimore; it is a patchwork of drastically different neighborhoods all nestled right next to one another.

From there, my interest in Baltimore’s diversity grew. During my sophomore year, I took a mural class where we met with residents in northeast Baltimore to discuss designs for a public mural in the neighborhood. I also painted a mural in a hallway of a senior residence building on Eutaw Street, just outside of MICA’s boundaries. It was through this experience, meeting people who have called the city home for decades, that I started to understand Baltimore.

The next fall, I joined Back on My Feet, a non-profit organization that uses running to promote self-sufficiency in the homeless via self-esteem, confidence, and strength. A few times a week, we meet in near darkness outside of the shelter at 5:30 am to share hugs, achievements, and a few miles on the empty, early morning streets of Baltimore. When we run, and when we circle up before races, no one can look at the group and point out who is homeless and who is not. In running we are all on an equal playing field and that is when our stories come out and our relationships deepen.

Running with Back on My Feet changed my view of diversity as I previously defined it. I used to think diversity represented the minority, or a different part of something. Now, I know diversity is the differences in each of us, and if we share them, we can pass these differences around and become better students, mentors, teachers, and artists. Understanding and embracing the differences of our surroundings makes way for creative portals that we could not imagine.

The diversity within MICA provides us a broad access to ideas and points of view we otherwise would not consider. I realize now that it is the diversity on our campus, and the wide support of its growth, that helps us at MICA to be innovative in both our lives and our work.