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UMBC alum rises up after #BaltimoreRiots

Former student, Baltimore resident collects donated toiletries in wake of riots

On Monday, April 27, riots broke out in Western Baltimore between police officers and citizens. A CVS was torched and destroyed, leaving citizens in the surrounding area without access to toiletries and cosmetics. One Baltimore City citizen leapt to her feet after the chaos to bring a helping hand.

On Tuesday, April 28, UMBC alumna Janea Kelly started an IndieGogo campaign titled “Help Clean Up West Baltimore” with a goal of $500 to buy supplies for Baltimore residents. As of Monday, May 4, the campaign has raised $2,902.

“I’d spent the night really frustrated,” Kelly admitted. “Something [about Baltimore] was different and I felt like there was something I can do. The next morning I felt like I was struck with lightning. It was a eureka moment.”

The 25-year-old city resident commandeered the classroom in the back of Red Emma’s for local donations.

For the next week, she is accepting donations of nonperishable goods, toiletries and cosmetics for those affected by the torched CVS. She’s been advertising this campaign through Twitter under her username @pterosaur and her Facebook account, both totaling an audience of over 3,000 people.

Through Twitter, she’s connected with numerous local politicians, including Maryland State Delegate Shelly Hettleman, who went to assist Kelly in organizing the goods.

When asked how she’d reached people in such high places, Kelly credited her Twitter.

“Someone I met on Twitter talked to me saying they wanted to support [the campaign],” she said, “and I didn’t realize she was a delegate until the next day. It was really cool to see how social media can spread to a space where city and even national-level delegates can reach you.”

The campaign really took off on Tuesday as activists and citizens alike came together and organized a community clean-up. Because public schools were closed, the campaign also collected healthy food for the Baltimore City children who normally depend on cafeteria lunches during the day.

Many of these efforts have been managed and hosted by Red Emma’s Bookstore 33Coffeehouse. “Red Emma’s is one-of-a-kind and I don’t think many cities have places like that: a safe space space for people to work, learn and grow,” Kelly said.

At the moment, Kelly hasn’t decided what she will do with the money raised on IndieGogo. While the original $500 was originally supposed to go to buying bulk supplies for Mondawmin residents, she reconsidered this, stating that “it doesn’t feel appropriate to make a decision now.”

“So far, I’ve dropped off goods to rec centers,” she said. “This is a very hungry city; it needs a lot of help and we just need to use this time as an example and learn from it.”

Photo credit: Josh Sisk