In the vibrant city of Annapolis, Maryland, nestled on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, the Bmore Youth Arts Advocacy Council (BYAAC) recently converged on the historic Maryland General Assembly. Our mission?  Changing hearts and minds!

On March 4th, we met Nicholas Cohen, Executive Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts at 10:00 am for a tour of the State House exhibitions where we peppered him with questions about his role as a lobbyist for the arts community. Then we all walked to one of Mr. Cohen’s favorite spots, Potato Valley, a local restaurant frequented by legislators and citizenry alike. 

We had a tight schedule, but couldn’t resist taking a brisk walk to visit the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, located at the City Dock. We made a slight detour to the Storm Bros. Ice Cream Factory across the street before heading back to the Senate to meet with Senator Cory McCray in his office. 

Our topic of discussion with the Senator ranged from the importance of equitable access to arts education in Baltimore City Schools to how unreliable the bus system is for students traveling to and from school.  We were just getting started when Miss Sheena, our mentor, signaled that we had to hurry over to the House so that Isabella could give her testimony to fund the Maryland State Arts Council. 

The committee room was crowded when we arrived, but we were all eventually able to find seats. When it was Isabella’s turn, all of our eyes turned toward her.  As council member, Talyah Whittaker’s words make clear:  “ …one moment stood out above all. Isabella’s testimony.  Her impassioned delivery was both inspiring and captivating, reflecting the dedication and emotion she put into her words. It left an amazing impression on me, and she did it perfectly.”


Want to hear more? Read the full excerpts from other BYAAC members:

Something that inspired me was the statues of both Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglas. I think it’s very important to have them there to highlight the many obstacles that African Americans faced to even be able to testify in a white-dominated space and the courage it took. Ultimately, I think their statues represent the infinite possibilities and potential we as African Americans have. Lastly, I really enjoyed meeting with the Senator of the 45th district as he gave me insight into popular problems that students were facing and what he was trying to do to rectify these issues. Meeting with him also gave me a glimpse of what a Senate actually does on a daily basis. ~ Cairyn Leftwich 


My experience at the Maryland General Assembly was really good.. being there felt very different and almost powerful and made me feel the possible change that we can make as young artists. It was really fun to see the lobbyists like Nicholas and different people trying to help young students and hearing them read their statements/ testimonies. 

What really made me feel quite powerful was our conversation with Senator McCray, hearing his story of where he came from and how he grew up wanting to change this city, to hear about the things that he is doing for the adults and children of Baltimore city and even the children of his own. Hearing everyone’s testimony gave me hope that people are willing to make a change and maybe things can change in Baltimore. 

Something that I’ve learned during our trip was what Nicholas told us about the different hearings in the senate chamber and what the original people of the senate did, like the testimonies George Washington did, where his wife had to stand, the different things that the people or the senate wrote and the different rooms that they spoke in. What surprised me was when I heard about the things that they are trying to do with the troubles of Fafsa, I had someone recently discuss the things that they were going through with Fafsa right before the trip so it was surprising to see that someone was trying to do something about it. 

What inspired me was seeing young black women working there and the jobs that they are doing, made me feel like one day if I ever wanted to do something in law and make a change that I can do that.” troll scratched one of the one shot. How do you spell it? ~Zoey Phillips


I had a wonderful time during my visit to Annapolis and wish I could have stayed longer. Overall, I found Annapolis to be a fantastic destination, filled with enjoyable sights and beautiful stores. One highlight of my trip was visiting the government building, where I enjoyed impressive sculptures of Harriet Tubman and George Washington. Additionally, I appreciated the political perspective on issues commonly encountered in our school systems. I enjoyed new experiences like visiting the potato store and having wonderful treats at the local ice cream parlor. Yet,  in these adventures, one moment stood out above all. Isabella’s testimony, her impassioned delivery was both inspiring and captivating, reflecting the dedication and emotion she put into her words. It left an amazing impression on me, and she did it perfectly. ~ Talyah Whittaker


Throughout the trip to the Maryland General Assembly, I enjoyed all aspects of the trip, especially the portion in which we learned a bit of history behind the State House. During the trip I also learned how exactly the legislation meeting occurs and the process that you go through in order to get into the meetings. Something that was surprising to me about the trip was the amount of people that are actually in the meeting room. I knew that it would be a big amount of people but I didn’t expect it to be that much to the point where some of my group members had to stand up for a moment. It was inspiring to see how confident people were when giving their testimonies to the legislators. It was also very nice getting food and ice cream with my team and getting to know some of them a bit more in-depth. ~ Madison Fields



I learned that the Senator had children who face similar issues that I do in my day-to-day while attending schools in Baltimore City public schools like the MTA schedule issues. Something that totally surprised me was that scholarships are often handed out by many senators and people in political fields, and a substantial amount of money is handed out at that!  The application process also isn’t incredibly difficult. Something that inspired me was seeing the girl who used to go to City College get the scholarship and put it towards the college that she wanted to go to. I feel like because she did it, that it is achievable for me as well. I loved the ice cream. It was delicious and I miss it. Same with the baked potato. I enjoyed walking around and leading the group even though I had no clue where I was going but I pretended like I did!  I enjoyed looking at the architecture and the interior design of the various buildings on the Annapolis campus. I also liked giving my testimony. It was nerve-racking at first, but since I’m so used to public speaking it all just kind of dissipated when I started talking and I felt really professional sitting on a panel with a bunch of delegates and lobbyists who were fighting the same cause that I was. ~Isabella Akilo