When young activists Matt Wolff, Ryan Derham and Andrew Huff had a hard time finding the welcome mat to Baltimore’s LGBT neighborhood, they decided to try a different approach: creating one themselves.
Starting this month, Baltimoreans will begin spotting stickers that indentify some businesses in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood as organizations that are eager to identify themselves as welcoming and inclusive locations. The stickers, to be displayed at the entrances of participating businesses, offer a clear message printed atop a rainbow-bedecked outline of the city: “This space does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The stickers are just one aspect of the Bmoreinclusive project (bmoreinclusive.wordpress.com), a safe-space campaign started by the three scholars from Goucher College. Beyond icons indentifying inclusive businesses, the project aims to help mend the gap between the city and its LGBT community. In addition to the sticker, the group seeks to provide welcoming businesses with information about preventing the harassment of their LGBT patrons and to offer an online resource with information about improving Baltimore’s LGBT community.
Along with an interactive map identifying participating organizations, visitors to the group’s website will find a list of both local and national resources for LGBT people and allies, an outline of LGBT-related legislation important to Baltimoreans, and a regularly updated blog.
The three students began the project when they recognized the lack of a clearly marked LGBT neighborhood in Baltimore. The group knew that print and online resources pointed to Mt. Vernon as the city’s LGBT neighborhood, yet they found no way for visitors and newcomers to the community to clearly identify where this welcoming zone begins or ends. When the group looked to local and regional organizations during research for the project, they found that they were not alone in their concern; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) receives more than 2,500 phone calls, emails, and face-to-face questions each year about where to find businesses and services in Baltimore that are inclusive of the LGBT community. Spurred by this reality, the group created the Bmoreinclusive project both as an investment in the city and to fulfill a community service requirement for their studies.
“We’re learning as we go,” explained Huff of the project. “We’re taking it one business at a time.”
Still in its early stages, the project has already partnered with three organizations who have agreed to display the Bmoreinclusive symbol: Michaelangelo’s Pizza, Read Street Books, and the GLCCB, the home of Gay Life and a hub for LGBT resources in Baltimore.
The project is similar to models already in place in locations such as Philadelphia, where rainbow strips and banners are affixed to the street signs in the LGBT neighborhood, and the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City, where Columbia University students launched a similar sticker-based project.