On Saturday and Sunday, Anna Deavere Smith presented the latest incarnation of her production, “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, the Baltimore Chapter,” which focuses on the way the education system grooms some kids for life in the criminal justice system. Smith had performed an earlier version of “Notes” in Berkeley, but for the Baltimore Chapter she added monologues from her interviews with various Baltimore folks, including students, academics, Kevin Moore – who recorded the now-infamous video of Freddie Gray being arrested – and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. During “Act 2” of the show, the audience broke into small groups with facilitators to discuss ways we can work together to stop the school-to-prison pipeline.
Before the performances, the show earned attention from the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore City Paper, among others. In the days since, the Baltimore Sun posted a review by Tim Smith, and City Paper posted one by editor Karen Houppert. NPR’s Michelle Norris interviewed Smith about the project.
Baltimore City College teacher Mark Miazga posted a review on his blog, Epiphany in Baltimore, which seemed to sum up the feelings of many in the theater: “It was one of those ‘I love Baltimore’ nights overall. I was in a discussion group with my school district’s superintendent, Dr. Thornton, as well as a bunch of diverse, concerned citizens of Baltimore, eager to change and to help. Smith’s play can get us talking, let’s hope it can get us acting as well.”
To that end, the program for the event was actually a “Toolkit For Action,” including background and context on the idea of the school-to-prison pipeline and a list of “local organizations that are tackling these problems,” like Community Conferencing and Wide Angle Youth Media, both of which were founded by OSI-Baltimore Community Fellows.