One of the most important things in society is community, a group in which every individual relies on the other and helps each other in the best way they can. They treat each other like family and work together to maintain their livelihood… I learned this after meeting Ulysses Archie Jr.
Podcast Link: https://soundcloud.com/taariq-adams/taariq-adams-podcast-archie
I met him during the Kirwan Commission Hearing on October 12, I learned he was the co-founder of Baltimore Gift Economy, a community support group with his wife being the founder. Archie was also a former teacher at a private school, know, as The Harbor School in Annapolis. Later after the hearing, I was able to set up a time to meet with him on Friday, December 1st, this would take place at his home. When I arrived, I was met with a small house hold that had two homes in one. Archie was very happy that I arrived, along with his wife and their two-year-old son. The interior was very homely. As I was lead into the kitchen, I noticed a metal shelf in the middle, loaded with cereal boxes, snacks, and other foods as a small computer desk sat away from it. Despite this, I was able to adjust and settle in.. Then we had our interview.
1:26 Taariq: Well, first off it is a really nice to meet you.
Taariq: I am speaking with Mr. Ulysses Archie Jr., um, a former teacher of Harbor school and now cofounder of the Baltimore Gift Economy group which is a community support group.
1:39 Archie: Yeah yeah, um, The Baltimore Gift Economy is a program, it’s actually a program of a fusion, so it’s really a program we’ve been doing for about five years and what we do is that we use our gifts as currency and so we, we have been generating different projects that we do under the Baltimore Gift Economy, one of which is called the Gathering of the Commons and that’s been at the University of Maryland Community Engagement Center, and there at the University of the Maryland Community Engagement Center we do two projects and that one project, gathering at the commons happens on the first Friday, we call it the first Friday forum, um, and we, we show a film, it’s a potluck and, uh, we have a discussion about the film and usually the films are about, um, about, about issues that communities are facing, and uh so yeah. And this is my son, he’s checking stuff out. (Laughs) Yeah kids do some incredible things and its good I think it’s good it’s about growing and it’s about experiencing life and so, he’s full of life and we’re very grateful um, and so yeah.
3:22 Taariq: Um, I need some clarification.
Taariq: I was looking at your um, work and education page on Facebook and I saw what I saw what’s listed was Meade Senior High School,class of 1987, Anne Arundel Community College class of 1987, then I see stuff like Sojourner Douglass Baltimore Maryland, and Charis Bible College, could you clarify?
3:47 Archie: “Okay, um, I I didn’t actually go to Charis Bible College, I did do some studies with Charis Bible College recently um in the last few years. However I did not, um, I went to Meade High School, graduated in in 1987, I went to, um, Ann Arundel Community college, uh, and I didn’t graduate from Ann Arundel Community College, I just went, I went there for I think two semesters and then I was done there and then I ended up going to Sojourner-Douglass after being at the Harbor school and there’s a very interesting story about that um.
Taariq: So that’s where you went right after Harbor School.
Archie: Yeah, yeah I was at Harbor School, I was at, I was kind of at the end of my, my term there at the Harbor school, um, so so I I went to Sojourner-Douglass and I started some college courses, um.
4:46 Taariq: What sort of uh, uh, courses?
Archie: Um, just general Gen. Ed courses really I was, I was going for a business and public administration but I really didn’t get through my Gen. Ed courses and, what I want to say is that um, when I worked at Harbor School when I first got at the Harbor School I was a, um, a behavioral, um, assistant kind of um a behavioral teacher’s assistant, but at the time I wasn’t a great reader I couldn’t read very well but at the Harbor school they taught me how to read, um, over, over those 10 years that I spent the Harbor School I, I, I was engaging learning and growing myself, um, and then after that I was able to go to college actually.
6:38 Taariq: What, um, where did you study and what were you uh going with your major?
Archie: Yeah, my major, my major I was going for um for business and public administration. I had, I had been the field of entertainment, I had been the field of journalism but only from the same point of doing videos I was very good at creating videos I wasn’t so good at putting the words on the video. (Laughs)
6:04 Taariq: Is that one of the reasons why you formed that um TV news group?
Archie: MmHmm, I, I had been doing that, I I’d um, I’d done a bit of TV news I’d done some work with Ann Arundel community college, not Anne Arundel community college Anne Arundel community television, Ann Arundel community television, um, it was, it was just now, it was just getting started when I started working with, um, video and so I learned how to do videos and things in that nature and so that was a great love of mine and I was able to do a lot of things even at school, uh, with the videos and um, and creating um, uh journalistic type of work and you know umm, I know some journalists and I, I’ve, I’ve known a lot of journalists over my career, um, and I kind of coupled working with them and doing different things and so they really, uh, they really work with me with the visuals I was able to take pictures or or do the video, uh, and so they, they uh, and one such lady that I know that I I met her just recently um and her name is Dr. E.R. Ship, Dr. E.R. Shipp and she is um, over at the journalism school, I think it’s world journalism at Morgan State University, um, and so she, she, I, I went to uh, I was a community person for one of her classes uh where I would take um journalists around uh West Baltimore and introduce them to various different people um that are of interest in West Baltimore um and you know the work they were doing as well, so, so I still do it, I still do it I still create videos um and stuff like that, I just created a video for my sons school so.
8:02 Taariq: Nice
Archie: Yeah. Yeah, yep.
Taariq: So, you wouldn’t by any chance happen to take a photography class did you?
Archie: (Laughs) No, I didn’t take a photography class I just picked it up, um, and I got good enough taking pictures uh, that I was able to um, (smacks lips), I was able I worked, I didn’t take a photography class I work, I worked at Sears, Sears, Sears photography studio and I worked there and I was really good at what I did and so people said that I should take pictures and then that’s like onto take, taking pictures.
08:41 I kind of, I kind of got into it and started doing it, um, through Sears um and then people started requesting me and I started doing weddings I was doing videos already, I was doing wedding videos already then they started requesting photography and then I got into doing that.
9:00 Taariq: Um, you said you um, uh back on subject, you said you, um back on subject you um went to college um, um, trying to major in business.
Taariq: Remind me again, which college was this.
Archie: That was um, Sojourner-Douglass College and that was in um, that was in Annapolis, they’re an Annapolis campus. And um, and it was very short I only, I think I only did like a semester or two there and then I got married and I, and I, and then I moved the Baltimore so they’re all the way Annapolis and I’m all the way in Baltimore so I didn’t, I, I didn’t really uh really go back.
9:42 Taariq: So tell me how did you become the co-founder of Baltimore Gift Economy?
Archie: Well um, the story starts when I was at Harbor School and one day one of my students that I was working with came in very upset and um, he, uh picked me up and threw me across the room and then I, I was hurt physically but hurt mentally in such a very deep way, and so um what happened was uh, it was, it was, it was a bit of a trauma, uh, place in my life where I had to kind of rebuild myself and try to get some sense of what, some sense of the world again because I, everything was dangerous, super dangerous to me because I was attacked and I had no way of defending myself so, um, I got into, um went into farming I wanted to do something with the soil and in my hands and so I got into farming, I went to a place called, um, Real Food Farms and I volun…
11:00 Taariq: Rail or real?
Archie. Real, real, Real Food Farms, and I volunteered at Real Food Farms for about 6 to 8 months somewhere like that it was like eight months, and um, I did everything there I seeded I planted I, I did everything in the farm because , every, when to put my hands in the soil I felt better about my life and so um, I wanted to be a farmer and it went there I just volunteered all the time. (Laughs) And uh then, I realized that farming that way wasn’t um what I really wanted to do, I really wanted to uh express farming and do some of the things that I did at my former job with the Harbor School with the kids I ran a Leo program there, um, we did a lot of international um activities uh and community engagement stuff, um, and so I, I, I kind of wanted to, to do that and farm uh and so what I did was I found out about permaculture. You ever heard of permaculture?
12:12 Taariq: I have not.
Archie: Permaculture is a term uh given by this gentleman named Bill Mollison.
Taariq: Um, can you spell that for me please?
Archie: You know what, I’m not sure how to spell his name but I can look it up for you. Um, Bill Mollison and there was another guy, I can’t remember his name but if you ever look up Permaculture they will tell you.
12:31 Archie: Um, permaculture um, is what kind of gave me a, a, another orientation to life and then I could do farming but I also could care for other people as well and so that is how we started the Baltimore Gift Economy, we decided we wanted to, to build our lives back up, build our lives back up and, and the only way I can do that is by helping other people.
Taariq: So both of you found this group as a means to reach back to the community and help them develop.
13:04 Archie: Yeah, I mean we went through th, that episode with uh the, the posttraumatic stress syndrome and, and, and, and really trying to find myself again was really tough and so we went through some tough times economically um, you know that never ends I don’t think but, you go through some tough times and then so you’ve realize when there’s, there’s safety nets that are supposed to be there they aren’t really there, they say that they are but they’re really not in so, um, so we figured if we could do anything we could help build community around needs and that’s, you know that’s what we do in Baltimore Gift Economy.
13:51 Taariq: But look at you now you’re, you look much you look happier you look better you, it seemed being part of Baltimore Gift Economy seemed to have improved a lot.
Archie: (Laughs) Yeah well, well, that is true, but there’s also a thing called self-care, I have to do a lot , a lot of self-care um, and, and when it gets off it’s off for a while when I got to get back on but it takes a lot, um, I have a farm here I kind of built a structure around myself so that I can engage with stuff because it’s really difficult when you’re, um, I have biological depression so when I’m, when it comes over me it’s really difficult for me to get up and do stuff.
Taariq: I never, I never believed biological depression could be possible.
14:48 Archie: Yeah, it’s pretty um, I’ve always had it I didn’t know what it was though, I would always kind of shy away at different times of the year and not, not being engaged with people, um, but yeah I always had it and I didn’t, it didn’t really become truly apparent until after the accident. Yeah. So, so, so I have to do a lot of things to be able to, to do what I’m doing I have to take care of myself I got to take, I got to take, you know, my medicine I have to see my therapist I got to do all of these things so that I can be front of you and look like I’m I got it all together right? (Laughs)
15:19 Taariq: You’re, you’re not alone.
Archie: (Laughs) I know I’m not alone, and that’s why the Baltimore Gift Economy is so important because I know what I have to, I know what I have to do but I know that other people they may not realize that they have to do some of these things but you know what I mean? So, but it gives them an opportunity in a segue into their lives to look at what they’re doing with their lives and, and, kind of give back because when you give you also receive, you see, and so that’s the good part about it but it’s a lot of work, it is a lot of work.
Taariq: What would you consider to be one of your greatest achievement as being ug the cofounder of Baltimore gift economy?
Archie: Wow, that’s… Wow… Um… I think, I didn’t want to I don’t want to simplify and say just helping people… Um because….
Taariq: Name one moment in particular moment you can remember.
16:20 Archie: You know, um… I think, I think working, working in concert with someone that cares about you and, you can, do something that affects other people’s lives, and um… It, it’s something you can’t… (Sighs) There’s, so, okay, so, I guess I have to back up little bit and think about what uh, what do we actually do and I have a statement on my emails and that’s our mission statement, it’s building the capacity for the long term community growth, so I think whatever it is that I’m doing I’m trying to build people’s capacity so that, so that we all can survive, um, you know, with all of these crisis that is going on., economic crisis uh, food crisis education crisis or whatever, so I think it’s just a construct uh of the idea of, of using gifts as a way of, of, of living a whole and meaningful life and I think that’s what the gift economy does it’s therapeutic for me. It’s uh, it’s uh… I have to do it, I have to, to survive, um, and so, when you say one thing I go wow, is it, is it the one day market that we did where we shared food with people, um is it the Wednesday market where we have a, a market where we gather food from uh whole foods stores and, and uh, and um, test kitchens to to present their food as a gift to the community, it’s the interaction that we have with the people is what builds me up and gives me that that sense of um, of accomplishment.
Taariq: So it’s not really one thing.
Archie: No it’s, it’s uh, it’s uh, it’s really the act of giving is what really helps me stay um, stay together.
18:55 Taariq: Just curious, before you became like the cofounder of Baltimore Gift Economy before you started um taking journalism classes and photography was there a profession you wanted to do first before you ended up going to journalism?
Archie: I know, okay, when I was a kid I, um, wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t know what that meant I’ve always, I’ve always wanted to be like, and then I wanted to be like a pastor um of a church but I didn’t know what that meant but that’s what I wanted to be when I was a kid.
Taariq: What, did you have an idea of what you thought it was like to be a doctor or pastor?
Archie: You know, it was um.. It was because I saw other examples of people doing It, um, and I would go to church a lot my mom was an evangelist in she did a lot of work and we would go to a lot of different churches, um, I ended up being, uh, um, sort of a, a, a missionary myself. I went to Africa, went to a place in South Africa called Lesotho, and we served there and my wife and I served their together and then I think the next year or two years later we went to, was that the next year?
20:12 Mrs Archie: Yes
Archie: The next year we went to, um, went to the Ukraine uh and we served in the Ukraine where we worked with orphans um in the Ukraine, uh and this was through our church and so I think I had the opportunity to express into do work, um around my faith, um, that allowed me um to understand that what I was doing was as good as being a pastor for church. So I did radio for a while I was a guest on the radio uh um, and I would be on uh what was the name of that station? I’m trying to think what station was that? It was uh, it was um, gosh what is the name of that station? Ah, it was 1400, well it gospel station in Baltimore, uh and so, I actually worked at Radio One for a very short while and I did a lot of promotions in Baltimore where I promoted concerts and when I came out of high school I worked with this, this um acting troop I was in, I was an actor for a while. Um it was a faith group that was doing um, uh inspirational, um, inspirational plays for, for, for, people of color and um, and so, uh the name of the group was Benediction Productions, um and so basically what I did there was I, that’s where I really got into an entertainment, um, I, I would, would talk on radio I would buy time on the, on the radio I would buy time on TV free TV spots I would, I would travel with them I was like 19 uh I was really young, um, so I would do a lot of that kind of work talking to people and I also, you know, this is going back I did, I did some work in the film industry, um, my uncle was in California and he did I did some work with him there and he came here.
22:24 Taariq: Anyways, um you said, you said you were a guest on uh praise…
Archie: Yeah, I was a guest on the morning show uh.
Taariq: What was the radio station again?
Archie: Um, it was 1400 am. UhHuh, and um.
Taariq: It was a gospel
Archie: Gospel station, and there was a guy on there his name, what was his name uh Cal Hackett, he was a legendary gospel um MC um from Washington DC and so I would be on his morning show and I’d talk about my experiences over the weekend in, in Baltimore’s uh faith community and so I did that for about two years it was a lot of fun so I would get on Drivetime Radio and talk about what happened over the weekend and experiences that I had on the weekend.
23:19 Taariq: Okay was, was this before or after Harbor School
Archie: This was before Harbor School, this was way before Harbor School, that, that’s part of my journalistic uh kind of um, and and and um public entertainment work um that I did.
Taariq: And, what made you end up as a teacher in Harbor School.
Archie: Wow, what, uh I worked with disabilities in the community for, 15 years and in uh, that job ended for me and I was out of work, and um I also work at Kennedy Krieger at the Kennedy Krieger school there on, is it, is it Fairmont, was it on Fairmont, um, um.
Taariq: Um, Glenburnie? I can’t remember.
Archie: No the, the Kennedy Krieger school in Baltimore. Is that Fairmont street it was on?
24:15 Taariq: I can’t remember.
Archie: Okay, yeah, um,
Taariq: You, you actually um was there at Kennedy Krieger?
Archie: Yeah I worked at Kennedy Krieger, I worked at Kennedy Krieger in a lot of different departments I, I first started there as a umm, as a umm, a, a home, I will go out to different homes and and work with people with disabilities and then I ended up in their lead paint unit and I worked in their lead paint unit and after I worked in their lead paint unit I ended up on the third floor there at Kennedy Krieger at the hospital and I worked with kids in the third floor in the behavioral unit so I was a behavioral nursing assistant on the unit.
Taariq: Then um, then you ended up um going to Harbor School afterwards.
Archie: Yep, and then I, then, then those jobs ended and I was unemployed for a while and then the Harbor School um, uh, was, was uh advertising for a behavioral assistant and I applied. So, so I learned all my behavioral stuff at Kennedy Krieger all of that stuff I was able to…
Taariq: That’s incredible.
25:24 Taariq: How is it you’re able to balance both your life with um taking care of your son and working with the uh Baltimore Gift Economy?
Archie: Um, well, I, I’m, I, I have to take life pretty easy I mean, I got to, uh, I have to take care of myself and that’s kind of the, the, the big thing if I don’t care myself won’t be able to do this. That’s how I’m to do it I have to really concentrate on taking care of myself I gotta get up I gotta eat well I gotta, I gotta you know do some exercises most of my exercises are with my animals I try to, I feed my animals I take animals for walks and stuff like that, I have a do that kind of stuff to, I have to have something to do, I can’t just like, like get up and go exercise I need to do it, it’s got to be meaningful for me and it is not meaningful I won’t do it you know? So yeah, so I have goats in the back and I have chickens and I have rabbits and so basically um I take my goats for a walk in the cemetery there’s a cemetery in the back.
26:34 Taariq: Oh, I passed by it.
Archie: Yeah, it’s uh Louden Cemetery, so I take my goats in to Louden Cemetery and we go walking.
Taariq: They allow animals on the area?
Archie: Yeah, MmHm, you got you have to get a permit but you can, you can have, you can have animals.
Taariq: So what is it like um running a small farm?
26:50 Archie: (Laughs) Um, it’s challenging at times because you want make sure that everybody’s okay, you know, uh all the, all the animals are okay, but it is a farm so we’re, we’re growing food um so um these animals are they’re not pets they’re farm animals so they do work for us they create compost the chickens create compost for us the um the rabbits create rabbit maneuver for us that we use in our gardens so it’s kind of like a um…
Taariq: A give and give back?
Archie: Yeah, it’s a give and take, a symbiotic relationship it’s what people call it or mutually beneficial relationship between nature and myself.
27:37 Taariq: What made you want to start um running a small farm here?
Archie: Well permaculture, permaculture that whole idea of working with nature and working with animals on the land and doing that sort of thing. Permaculture really gave me the context and the direction to be able to do that.
Taariq: Based on the land your on, my guess the soil is very rich, it’s a wide-open area to run a farm.
Archie: No it’s a very small area in the back I have um, I use my yard and I use my neighbor’s yard and then I, then my other neighbor allows me to use her yard because they don’t use their backyards so, and then I’m up against the um I’m up against the cemetery so I don’t have any neighbors behind me so, I um it’s a perfect location for what I, for what I’m doing.
28:28 Taariq: Afterwards, Mr. Archie was kind enough to take me out to the back and show me the farm.
Archie: This, this is some of the food that we collect uh from um organizations that are sharing food with people in Baltimore and so when they finish they call us and then we come and pick the food up and because it’s cooler outside we can leave on the porch.
Taariq: I was taken to the backyard where I was met with several cages containing rabbits, a few cages containing chickens and a dark feathered rooster, a pen with two goats and a few of the chickens roaming around. I noticed a pile of compost that the chickens would occasionally peck it. It was rather small, but it appeared Archie had a small system set up with what he had.
29:13 Archie: So this would be the easiest way to go I have gardens and stuff up against here see those gardens over there and so I collect I collect um, uh carbon materials so that we can build the soil here and um allow the the chickens to make the soil for us. So with the gift economy people gift stuff uh so they uh just recently got gifted some office furniture and um people are coming to pick these office furniture up, um, they’re my rabbits I have a (unkown word) number of rabbits, probably don’t want to tell you how many I have but uh I have a few rabbits here um this is my this is what I call rabbit world, um I have, I have quite a few uh rabbits in this one and so I have different compartments for the rabbits um, the goats are in the back.
Taariq: How do you mana, how do you manage uh, uh taking care of them during the cold season?
Archie: Um it’s fine, I mean rabbits are actually pretty hardy in the winter because they have a coat, it’s the summer time that they have a really tough time with, but these are some little guys, these are some little guys here, these little guys want to look at these guys in here, these little guys.
Taariq: Hey how are you?
30:38 Archie: (Laughs) So I built these uh, these tractors for the rabbits um and I built these tractors out of um, um, I build them out of uh uh pallets, uh re, repurposed pallets and so there’re some chickens walking around, my chickens are free range generally I left the other ones locked up today because you guys were coming, I didn’t want him to chase you around. Um, so these are, these are um, these are the chickens that I raised from babies, um these are little chicks.
Taariq: How do you take care of all of them?
31:19 Archie: Yeah they, they take care themselves and they, like I said they make, they make uh compost for, that’s the compost pile they go on and they eat and they turn it over make compost for me and these are my goats, this is Black, he is a, he is a what is he, wjat are you Black? You’re a Nigerian Dwarf, Nigerian Dwarf Goat hey how you doing bud, how you feelin’?… So I, I take them, I take him up the hill and that’s the cemetery there so I use their leash and I take him up the hill up there.
Taariq: What path do you take up to the um?
Archie: Yeah I just go in my yard over here and I just go back up this uh little path that goes up, up the hill to the cemetery.
Taariq: I hope the climb isn’t too steep.
Archie: No, no they’re, they’re goats.
Taariq: I was more concerned about you.
Archie: (Laughs) No no, it’s not steep at all.
Taariq: But then again I did see some stuff I’m goes I’ve seen them able to stand on the most steepest of ledges.
Archie: I’m telling you they are really really something. Uh, and so yeah that’s so, so this is what I, this is what I ended up getting into because I needed to so something with my time and I needed to be able to care for something other than myself so that’s my rooster and um, people like the rooster um, uh but yeah they they they, they hear him in the morning and when I’m going out they’s (I think that’s what he said) like, oh that’s your rooster again, I love to hear that sound. (Laughs)
32:50 Taariq: Have they ever wrote, uh raised um complaints one time?
Archie: No nobody’s complained everybody um, first of all people have never seen farm animals disclosed up in the city and so, um on Sundays I have uh people some of the local neighbors come I don’t invite people from outside but local neighbors come and I, they can hold a chicken they can hold some rabbits and they really enjoy that so.
Taariq: So you don’t really, based on what you said you rarely um accept outside help?
Archie: Well no I don’t I don’t um, so the park across the street let me, so we can walk yeah, so the park across the street I manage a park across the street so, um, I do a bit of my permaculture this is all permaculture work it’s working with animals and the land and they, they do their thing you know, they create stuff for you to use and and it’s a cycle in the system. Um, so across the street, and this is an intentional community that we live in, there’s about seven families on the street that help each other out, um, I actually drive kids to school in the morning um so this community is called Irvington, Irvington Community, so this space right here about for years before, three years before I, I moved here started managing this space. Uh, hey how you doing?
Unnamed: Fine, hey.
Archie: Alight. Uh, I started managing the space right here and so it’s called a peace park and so there’s a couple of um, uh beds over there um, uh garden beds and um and this green open space so I cut the lawn so I need to leave me for the dues so I U have to, have to do these things around the place.
34:43 Taariq: I can imagine the people here are really uh grateful for what you’re doing and I, I I’m noticing a, a rea recurring recurring motiff here uh giving, giving back, and.
Archie: (Laughs) Yeah. That’s, that’s my life man, that’s my life I have to do it this way that’s how, that’s how I have to live cause nothing else really makes sense to me anymore I have to I have to make, it has to make sense to me and this family right here is right here they’re a wonderful family um they they also care for the animals and and we work together um they like the eggs we we produce we share eggs with everybody on the street that we produce and we also have um a stream that runs through down there so the kids go down there to play in the creek and and stuff like that and I’m the resident person that cleans up the street and all of that kind of stuff so it gives me something to do.
Taariq: I was given the chance to explore the small farm and inspect the animals up close. The chickens that were loose would walk away from me while the cages ones simply didn’t care about me. I did however get the attention of the goats, although my presence would entertain them for a short while.
Taariq: While you’re here, how did you get all of these animals?
Archie: They were all a gift.
Taariq: Uh, from who?
Archie: Um, there’s another local farmer up the street and she gave me, she gave me the, she gave me the the, the, well, I got the pens gifts I I got that one off of um, off of uh, what is that, Craigslist, somebody sent me a notice about that and the lady she started me off she got all of these animals and gave them to me. Um, these animals I got from an auction though, these guys I got from an auction and I got them as babies and this one I this one I got um I got her from the tractor supply, come here, come here, come here. She doesn’t want me to pick her up, come here, come here girl, alright come here. She’s not gonna let me pick her up. So (Laughs), but I got her from a tractor supply I got these guys an auction um, but this started me off with the rabbits the lady gave me all the rabbits all the cages except that one and then I built these, these cages um so so yeah and so what I really want to do is get these guys on the land like these guys are and pull them across the landscape and they’ll they’ll fertilize the landscape and they’ll also eat the grass, how about that? (Laughs)
Taariq: So, um, what is the best way to handling chickens based on your experience?
Archie: Oh, um, chickens are great I mean, to to grab, to pick them up she usually let me pick em up, pick her up but she’s like she sees new people I think but um you usually pick them up by their breast, a lot of people grab them around their wings, um but you pick them up by their breast and you hold them close and um they don’t, they don’t flap they don’t do anything some people grab them by their legs and turn them upside and I don’t do that I’m very gentle with my animals uh uh cause I want them to be gentle with me. So, so yep, that’s how, that’s how it all works even these guys, occasionally I reach in and grab want to just hold them and uh mostly because I need to hold them. Uh this guy in here, this guy in the black here, uh, this, he is an Australorp, he’s an Australorp Rooster and and, and this one came with with the rooster this this one came with the rooster, and these two, these four it was four of these little girls this this one and there’s another one around here somewhere there she is, um they came from an auction as well, so. So but, most of my animals I got as a gift, and I raised them from little chicks or eggs, so that’s my next, that’s my next uh venture is to get an incubator so that I can raise my own chickens.
38:54 Taariq: So what, what sort of… I can imagine raising so many animals can be pretty difficult what are some of the uh difficulties you face when uh taken care of like the chickens the rabbits and the uh goats.
Archie: Getting up and coming out here. (Laughs) That’s the most difficult thing.
Taariq: I assumed the most difficult part was cleaning the cages.
Archie: No actually, actually this is, this is a, a, a false bottom on this cage, so I move them around, um, so this gets moved around, these guys come out of here and then I just I um, I aerate their their cage so no and and the only ones I really have to clean their cages are these ones right here and um and so you know I clean them out every every week whatever says the whole lot of work it’s more like just being out here looking at them and uh, yep so it’s not much work at all actually, but they kind of take care of themselves and so they eat on their own um mostly what the chickens eat is food scraps, I don’t, I don’t I’ve never, I’ve never bought chicken feed for them only as, only as little chicks needed it cause ts got some special stuff in it to help them but after they start they’re they’re on their way and they find most of their own and we bring we get food in the food that we get we, we kind of put together and they, they eat it so this is in here, so but yeah, they eat yogurt they eat milk, they eat, they eat the egg shells um and then they turn onto compost so this is rich compost under right here so I just keep turning it over until it it finishes up so they come in here they peck through it just keep trying it over. Until becomes dirt that I can grow stuff in.
40:52 Taariq: You mentioned that it gets pretty um difficult over the summer because you mentioned that it gets really warm for them.
Archie: Yeah yeah, for the rabbits um it’s pretty difficult cause they have on they have a, a coat on that they can’t take off and so, it’s, when it’s hot like we had, I lost a lot of rabbits over the summertime actually because uh it was just too hot it was it was extremely hot this past summer. So yeah that’s what happens um, um and uh you know I have I have a regiment I’ll clean the cages like, you know this week I’ll clean two cages next week clean another two cages until you know I’m all done I’m all but, but I have my own little regimented to this work you know, um so that’s kind of how it goes but, if you keep it small it’s not, it’s not hard work it all.
Taariq: Afterwards, I asked him to show me the path he would take whenever he took his goats out for a walk. Along the way, he showed me where he kept the eggs from the chickens, he told me that he usually collects one egg a day. Then he led me through the path, it was hard for me since I have never been on this path before and it was hard to tell where I was stepping due to the leaves, but I made sure to stay close and move carefully.
42:10 Archie: You may want to be careful, I walk this all the time.
Taariq: I walked down nature parks before.
Archie: This is the way we walk…
Taariq: Uh, could you slow down a bit please?
Archie: Yep, yep. So this is the way we walk, sometimes they like to go up that hill and I let them go up that hill but I have to walk with them because it’s all level and is this path straight up to the cemetery, so I’ll take, I’ll take you up to the cemetery.
42:41 Taariq: Is there anything, slow down a bit please?
Taariq: It’s easy for you because this is normal for you.
Archie: I know. (Laughs) You’re right, you’re right. Uh.
Taariq: Um what are some things that you enjoy about, um asides from taking the animals…
Archie: Animals for a walk?
Taariq: Um you get enjoyment from uh walking the animals from, um, uh here is there.
Archie: Yeah, yeah.
Taariq: Is there anything else you enjoy about these walks like um?
Archie: Uh yeah. So, so this area has a lot of um, um, uh, it’s it’s just quiet it’s uh, it’s not a whole it’s not, uh people aren’t around um it’s it’s a solitude and here’s the path up to the um, up to the, up to the graveyard so just got this path, um so there’s a solitude, did you want to go up there?
Taariq: Um, no.
Archie: No, okay, alright so there’s a solitude so we just walk straight up this path and we’re in to graveyard and then we walk, sometimes I let them go and they run around and I shake some food and they come back, um, but yeah they, that’s this is what, this is my, I have to do this. (Laughs) This Is my normal, this is my normal life so, so and there’s creek down this way so occasionally we’ll go down to the creek, um, and uh and do stuff but let’s go out this way because it is the way usually come back with them.
44:10 Taariq: Archie then led me to the edge of the neighborhood where a lone house stood. By the edge was a large stream, I was told that’s where they usually hold various community events.
Archie: This is another house that um the community bought and they’re fixing up for a family.
Taariq: That’s nice.
Archie: Yep, and so, and so that’s what the committee does is they work together and trying to do stuff.
43:38 Taariq: What was this area like before you came, when you first came here?
Archie: Well um there was a lady her name, her name is Jill Wrigley and she’s the one that invited us here along with her husband Michael, um, Michael Sarbanes and so they uh, they invite us to come and some other people uh on the street, Mr. Ross and Ms. Suzanne and some other folk, they invite us to come live here, and uh, so that’s what happened that’s what we did. It’s the real story behind the house, now this house is being, was bought by our group and being repaired so that uh we can have immigrants and stuff like that living in there. Uh this house right here has another family and if we walk down here I will show you this real quick.
45: 36 Taariq: Just curious have there been incidents in which the um, the chickens got out of the area?
Archie: No actually they stay right in that area they don’t go away, um, they’re, um unless I have an attack by a fox or something they pretty stay in the yard they stay right in the yard, my first chickens I had they used to go all over the neighborhood cause they were free range, um, and I forgot to lock them up one night and I had a visit by a fox and so they got all of them.
Taariq: I was then taken to the stream… I would say that I felt relaxed as I listened to the water run down, but it’s hard to feel that way knowing that this water came from the city. I was taken to the community area, it was small, but I could picture small events take place there. Interestingly, there appeared to be a large wooden table, but it did not look like one, and the best way to describe it visually was like seeing one of those tall tables that you would see at a burger café, I found this to be off since we weren’t at a burger café.
46:49 Archie: So this this is a, this is a community space that we come and this is where Jill lived she passed away.
Taariq: What sort of activities do you do?
Archie: Uh we have community dinners, um we have activities, um, sometimes we play games you can go down to the, go down to the water down to the park.
Taariq: Hold on one second.
Archie: Okay, cool. Um, so we’ll walk this way. I’ll walk you to the creek. Um, and so this neighborhood is really, was really uh the brainchild of the, the folks that lived in the street that wanted to build a community of people that had an interesting caring for each other and so um they invited us to come and we came and, and it’s just been a wonderful, uh, it’s been wonderful, been really nice. Um I couldn’t have, I don’t know, I don’t know if I would have, I don’t know what we would’ve, what we would be doing now if we hadn’t come here because uh, um because of the accident all that kind of stuff it was really tough on us, um, um financially but, but people help us out, and then we were able to move here, so this is the creek, um, we do a lot of cleanup efforts here there’s always something do down here cause the water runs from down this way and it just brings all this trash in here.
48:17 Taariq: What kind of trash?
Archie: Um just, just trash from Baltimore City I mean especially when we have a big rain, lots of trash from the city streets from different places get washed down through here um, and, and so we have days when we have cleanup and um you can walk your dogs up here, I haven’t been, I haven’t actually walked the, the goats back over this way, um, this is space we all share and kind of, and would just sit here and just kind of hang out and meditate and do whatever, we have across the way we have um archery (I think its archery but I’m not sure).
Taariq: Oh really.
Archie: It stinks it up there’s the uh, there’s the bag. Um, so, so the kids would come down here and do many things (can’t tell what he said exactly), and so here’s where we come and we sit and we, we uh talk about neighborhood stuff and, and here’s the stream we’re constantly cleaning it up so every time, every time we uh clean it up, next few days it’s back like that so we just plan the time to clean up again so it’s just an ongoing thing when you live in the city you know.
49: 36 Taariq: Have you ever like uh found anything among the garbage that could be reused?
Archie: Um, some people can reuse stuff um, this thing, we saw this roll down, this rolled down the water.
Taariq: How did it, how did it roll down?
Archie: I know I know, it rolled down the water and it was right here and we picked it up and put it up here. It was, I don’t know how it did that but that’s how it came here, um, so they came through and there’s a couple of other things it came through, uh, you know, but this actually, see those banks it actually feels up with water, I mean when we have a humongous rain or something this is a real river.
50:20 Taariq: He took me down another patch which led me right back to Ms. Jill and Mr. Michael’s property. Along the way, I noticed a lonely tire swing as it sat there. It felt slightly gloomy due to the weather, but thoughts ran through my head as I listened. I wondered what this house was like when Ms. Jill was still alive.
Archie: So this is Ms. Jill and Mr. Michael’s property, again Ms. Jill passed away last year in um, I’ve been a big supporter of what we were doing and and she’s the reason why we’re, why we’re here, her and all the, all the uh neighbors here on the street they invited us to come live here, that’s why we we’re, why we’re here on the street. Um, Collins Avenue stream side is what we call it, um. So that was a big major loss and Jill, Ms. Jill Wriggly, she’s the lady that, um, that started the great kids farm, the great kids farm that used to be a, um that might be another story, it used to be a, um, a, a, a colored children’s orphanage, that what (I could not tell what he said actualy) the great kids farm is now, that’s a Baltimore City farm that all the kids go to. Yep. So she’s the one who actually started it.
51:56 Taariq: Was she the one who set up that tire swing over there?
Archie: Uh yeah yeah, this her property. This is her property, her and we’re talking about Mr. Michael and Ms. Jill (Hard to tell what he said) and this is where we spend time with family, we have gatherings here and you know, um this is where we meet, it’s a great space, great green space and of course across the street we do a lot of community engagement work at at the peace Park across the street and Ms. Jill um and Mr. Michael were responsible for the peace park and and that as well. So yeah. It’s uh, this is a it’s it’s it’s a different lifestyle.
52:40 Taariq: I continued to follow up as we slowly returned to his place and along the way, we passed by a small pond that was build beside the house, Archie told me that the community built it. From what I can remember, the water from the pond drains out into the stream, though I never really asked what its purpose was.
Taariq: I can imagine it was sort of easy for you when you first started your farm since you already had hands on experience doing farm work before.
Archie: Well, I hadn’t had any experience working with animals although I was raised in North Carolina uh and my grandmother and them had animals when I was very young but by the time I got like to 10 or whatever we didn’t have animals anymore but I longed for that, um, you know, the animals, you know running across the yard and stuff like that so, I guess, in my early years I was impressed by farming um through my grandparents and uh, and it’s kind of, kind of like a trip back home. (Laughs
53:47 Taariq: What was it like for you um growing up, where did you first grew up at?
Archie: Well, I, my mom was a single parent so we spent a lot of time with my grandparents in a place called Goldsboro North Carolina and in Goldsboro um my grandparents for the people that, everybody would come to be the uh, the, so like if somebody was visiting and they were African-American you couldn’t stay in a hotel so you go to somebody’s house, my grandparents house was that house um. So people would come through there and um there were a lot of um people that would come to town and stay with my grandparents and they were kind of like the community people um of Goldsboro, in their little area of Goldsboro.
54:34 Taariq: And, and you eventually um, what made you want to uh go to um Baltimore in your later years?
Archie: Yeah, I ended up here, I was going to church here and um, and and then so I just ended up here um because I became the roommate and I start living here in Baltimore and so I kind of migrated here from Anne Arundel county and that’s what I did like, I went to high school at Meade Senior High School in Anne Arundel county and then I went to uh um, and so yeah that’s how I got to Baltimore. Um church, it was church, I was doing a lot of faith-based activities and so and up here in Baltimore as a roommate and I haven’t left.
55:21 Taariq: As we finally returned, Archie told me that the neighborhood is one of those places where they all work together. Intrinsically they need each other, so they’re intentionally taking care of each other in many different ways. He told me the best way to form and maintain a community is to work with the people you’re able to work with and have meetings, have an ongoing basis and learn what their needs are. This was basically how it all started, and based on what I learned, these were the motivations that lead the creation of the Baltimore Gift Economy.
I then finally said my goodbyes and left, thinking about the importance of community and how simple acts of random kindness can be more than enough to start one.