Below is a reflection written by Baltimore leader Jess Friedman on the recent Civics Kibitz educational series.
I was so excited when I first learned of JUFJ’s Baltimore Civic Kibitz Series earlier this summer. In the past year, my husband and I moved to Baltimore, started new jobs, had our first child, and bought a house. I connected with JUFJ leaders in my first months in Baltimore, but I struggled to participate in events and actions on a consistent basis. And, despite my attempts to read local news and educate myself about Baltimore, I still felt really confused about so many parts of Baltimore’s government: What does it mean to have a strong mayor system? What power do City Council members have and what do they do during the day? What is the tax sale? Why are property taxes in Baltimore City so much higher than in surrounding areas and where does the money go? Why does the jury selection process in Baltimore sound so different from what I’m used to?
These events provided me with a space to learn and connect in a way that met my needs. I jumped on the calls after bedtime, washing bottles or eating my dinner while watching engaging presentations. I was in small breakout rooms with some of the speakers, which enabled me to see them as dynamic individuals, rather than one-dimensional decision-makers I follow on social media or see mentioned in the newspaper. I appreciated the opportunity to ground the sessions in Jewish values, which inspired lively and energizing chats and questions. I felt particularly moved by Jenny Egan’s reminder of why and how people with my values and understanding of some of the inherent biases in the court system SHOULD serve on juries. After participating in or watching all five sessions, I have a better understanding of why JUFJ has chosen to prioritize the issues and campaigns that it has.
The Civic Kibitz series has demystified (some of) Baltimore’s systems for me and helped me feel more connected to the Baltimore Action Team and JUFJ’s campaigns. I hope JUFJ continues to prioritize political education in this format going forward!
Watch the Recordings
Baltimore Civics Kibitz 1: The City Council & Legislative Process Demystified
Baltimore Civics Kibitz 2: The Budget Process
Baltimore Civics Kibitz 3: Infrastructure and the Board of Estimates
Baltimore Civics Kibitz 4: Our Homes, Our Developments, Our City
Baltimore Civics Kibitz 5: Clerks, Judges, and Courts
- Civics Kibitz 1
- Civics Kibitz 2
- Civics Kibitz 3
- Civics Kibitz 4
- Civics Kibitz 5
- Click here for the link to the slides.
- Jenny pointed our attention to multiple resources, which are linked below:
- Taking inspiration from Rita Bo Brown: https://gentlemanbankrobber.tumblr.com/about
- Baltimore City Budget: https://bbmr.baltimorecity.gov/budget-publications
- Resources to be in community with those who are incarcerated:
- Prison Pen Pal program: https://blackandpinkpenpals.org/
- Goucher Prison Education Partnership: https://www.goucher.edu/learn/goucher-prison-education-partnership/
- Recommended reading on the abolitionist framework: https://www.derecka.com/
- Project Nia published a report on abolitionist principles and campaigns for prosecutor organizing: https://project-nia.org/