Radio series highlights decline, fall of Sparrows Point
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:31

Michelle Stefano discussed Mill Stories during the film’s premiere at the United Steelworkers Union hall on Dundalk Avenue last May.
photo by Nicole Rodman

WEAA series runs through Friday, also available online

by Nicole Rodman

    The dismantling of Sparrows Point’s once-bustling steel mill continues unabated.
    As the buildings crumble and fall, so too does the history of an industry that built the town of Dundalk and supported its residents for over a century.
    Michelle Stefano, UMBC American Studies professor and program coordinator with the Maryland Traditions program of the Maryland State Arts Council, is hoping to keep some of that history alive through UMBC’s Post-Industrial Places Project (PIPP).
    PIPP consists of four UMBC professors and their students.
    The purpose of the project is to document the histories of local areas impacted by deindustrialization.
    Since 2012, Stefano and her PIPP colleagues and students have worked to collect oral histories from many of the people that lived and/or worked at Sparrows Point throughout the years.
    They compiled many of these interviews into a  documentary — titled Mill Stories — which premiered last May.
    Now, Stefano and the PIPP are bringing their project to a new medium through a partnership with WEAA 88.9 FM’s Marc Steiner Show.
    Beginning this past Monday, May 12, at approximately 9 a.m., the Marc Steiner Show has featured a 10 minute segment produced by Stefano and her PIPP colleagues and students.
    The segments, called “Stories of Deindustrialized Baltimore,” will run each morning through Friday, May 16.
    The series tells the story of the impact of deindustrialization on Sparrows Point and south Baltimore’s Baybrook neighborhood.
    “Stories of Deindustrialized Baltimore” features interviews from many former steelworkers and Sparrows Point residents impacted by the mill’s decline and closure.
    “Putting a human face on the oft-neglected narrative of American boom and bust” is the main goal of the five-day series, Stefano explained last week.
    In addition, Stefano noted, the series hopes to highlight “what remains” in the wake of the closure of Sparrows Point — the memories and experiences of those that worked and lived in the shadow of the steel mill.
    While Stefano hopes that the series will help preserve a piece of industrial history, she also sees the project as a valuable learning opportunity for her students.
    “Through this radio project, the students have gained valuable experience in conducting historical research through the use of archives, cultural research out in the field and ethnographic and oral history interviews with community members, as well as learning how to plan and facilitate arts projects in collaboration with communities, videography and digital story production,” Stefano explained.   
    Each day the series focuses on a different theme.
    Monday’s segment highlighted the history of the Sparrows Point and Baybrook areas.
    Tuesday’s broadcast centered around hard work and struggle while Wednesday’s discussed community and family.
    On Thursday, the series tackles the causes of industrial decline.
    Friday’s conclusion to the series will include a look at the future of industry and feature an in-studio discussion with members of the Baybrook   and Sparrows Point steel mill communities.
    Stefano, her colleagues and her students have been busy expanding and promoting Mill Stories across the area and region.
    The group hosted a well-attended screening of Mill Stories last month at the Creative Alliance on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore.
    Currently, Stefano explained, the group is working to prepare the film for submission to film festivals.
    They are also working to secure funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue expanding the project.
    For more on Mill Stories, visit the Web at http://millstories.umbc.edu.
    To listen to the entire “Stories of Deindustrialized Baltimore” series, visit the Mill Stories website or the Marc Steiner Show website at www.steinershow.org/category/podcasts/.