Inheritance Baltimore welcomes seven new fellows

Seven new fellows and one Elder in Residence are joining Inheritance Baltimore to support the work of the Billie Holiday Center for Liberation Arts (BHCLA). The fellows will focus on different aspects of work: teaching, curatorial work, archives and research, and the arts. Each of these specialists will work with arts organizations, museums, and archives at Johns Hopkins and other higher education and cultural institutions around Baltimore and Maryland to preserve and showcase the history of Black communities. 

“With Inheritance Baltimore, we’re redistributing the information, time, and resources we have available to these organizations so that they will be able to maintain ownership of their materials,” says Jessica Douglas, an archives fellow. “Which is ultimately one of the greatest (and often, hardest to achieve) forms of cultural (in our case, cultural arts) preservation.” 

Teaching Fellows

Lisette Abdiruhman is a one-year JHU-MSU Graduate Teaching Fellow. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Morgan State University, where she is researching Black women and Islamic movements in the early 20th Century 1920-1950. She will use her 20 years of experience working in independent and public charter schools and research to help develop innovative courses using Africana archives and object-based teaching, and will offer a course at Morgan State in the spring on “Black Women in the Archive of Slavery,” and a seminar at JHU. She will also serve as an advisor to undergraduate Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awardees managed by Gabrielle Dean, Sheridan Libraries Curator.

“Teaching this course ties into my doctoral research,” she says. “I hope that students will come away with a better understanding of how we reconstruct narratives about Black women whose voices may not be found overtly in traditional sources.”  

Curatorial Fellows

Both curatorial fellows will work with existing archives teams to spotlight Black stories related to their specific research interests. 

Jennie Chaplin is a two-year Slavery and Justice Curatorial Fellow who will work with artifacts across the consortium to create physical and virtual artifacts from the Baltimore Africana Collections. Chaplain has a Master’s degree in African American Literature from Howard University and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland, specializing in museum studies, historic preservation, and material culture. She is an advocate for the culture arts and Gullah Geechee culture. 

In this roleChaplin will conduct research in the history of Black Evergreen day workers and domestic labor along Charles Street corridor and develop public facing stories about that property and related properties along the Charles Street corridor and the Homewood Campus.   

Raynetta Wiggins-Jackson is a three-year Africana Archives Curatorial FellowWiggins-Jackson has bachelors in music, and a masters and PhD in ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Her work has focused on the research, performance, and preservation of African American music with an emphasis on sacred music in film and media. 

In this role, Wiggins-Jackson contributes to the Community Archives Team and will work with elder-in-residence Debbie Mason to develop an exhibition of Mason Archives at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center and Museum as well as public programs and a digital map of artist Pontella Mason’s murals. At Johns Hopkins, she is a central curator mounting the Ethel Ennis Exhibition, an elaborate display of artifacts, visuals and audio commemorating the First Lady of Jazz who left her papers to the library. She will also collaborate with the Reginald Lewis Museum and the Walters Art Gallery on exhibits about cultural expressions of grief and history and practices and Baltimore African American photography.

Archives Fellows

Both Community Archives Fellows will support the JHU-UB Community Archives Program, a joint program of BHCLA and the University of Baltimore Special Collections and Archives.

Jessica Douglas is a one-year Community Archives Fellow. Douglas will split her time between the University of Baltimore and the Eubie Blake Center. She will work on the Robert “Breck” Chapman photography collection, and to help the Eubie Blake Center inventory and process their collection of more than 50 years of sheet music, records, cultural programming artifacts, and personal collections from Eubie Black and his family. 

“Ultimately, we hope to provide them with the framework to establish an archive that they can then make accessible to the public, as much of their collection is comprised of invaluable materials that provide insight into Baltimore City’s 20th-century cultural arts history,” she says.

Douglas is an archivist and researcher from Baltimore who has prepared individuals and organizations to conduct archival and historical research, particularly related to Black history in Maryland and Baltimore City. She has a B.A. in History and Political Science from Fordham University, and previously worked at Baltimore City Archives and Maryland State Archives as a reference archivist.

Xavier Walker is a one-year Community Archives Fellow. During his fellowship year, Xavier will be splitting his time at the Johns Hopkins Special Collections, working across a variety of collections including new Billie Holiday materials and Frederick Douglass Baltimore map visualizations, and the Eubie Blake Center.

During his undergraduate studies at Lafayette College, he worked with a variety of archives and collections as an intern at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That included spearheading the ABC Archives Project, a digital archive of over 500 artifacts that chronicle the history and culture of Black life at Lafayette College. 

Graduate Assistantship

Dana Green is an one-year HBCU Graduate Assistantships for Programming and Digital Publishing & Oral History Fellow. Her joint MSU teaching fellowship and oral history archives work will support symposium planning, oral history compilation, and the publication of an archives manual and essay anthology. She will also teach a course related to her research in spring, and conduct oral interviews with the Elder-in Residence Debbie Mason. Green is currently a PhD Student at Morgan State University majoring in History with a concentration on feminism and the civil rights movement.   

Artist in Residence

The 2022-2023 Artist in Residence is Alexandria “Brinae Ali” Bradley. She is an artist and dancer, and lecturer at the Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory. She is creator and collaborator of a project called “Dizzy Spellz” with Sean Jones, a member of the Baltimore Jazz Collective, and has begun new work celebrating the life of a Baltimore tap dance icon called “The Baby Laurence Legacy Project,” which will be supported in part by this fellowship. 

The artist-in-residence fellowship supports the creation of public art installations, public performances and artist talks. The visiting artists will engage in joint-teaching experiments with non-arts faculty that investigate synergies between arts practice, justice, public health and social science. Previous artists in residence have included D. Watkins, Noah Silas, and Adam Stab.

Elder in Residence

 Mrs. Deborah Mason is the 2022-2023 Elder-in-Residence Living History Fellow. Mason, affectionately known as “Mama Debbie,” directs the Sankofa Children’s Museum of African Cultures, and was one of the first female journeyman carpenters in Maryland. She will work with fellow Dana Green to curate her life history archive called, “Baltimore through the Eyes of Deborah Brooks Mason.”  

The elder-in-residence program stands apart from the other fellowships. It celebrates the living legends in our midst whose dedication and sacrifice has held together Black communities experience generations of duress. It offers elders the opportunity to cultivate their own legacies by way of producing an oral history project about their lives and works.