Mahila Joyce

Mahlia lived in Carroll County for most of her life. When she was younger she explains how Carroll County was a lot simpler and a better way of life for her.


INTERVIEWER: This is [INAUDIBLE]. Friday November 19, 2010. I’m interviewing Mahlia Joyce in Westminster. Hello.


KAYLA PEARL: How long have you lived Carroll County?

MAHLIA JOYCE: Since I was, um, I don’t know, a couple months old.

INTERVIEWER: OK, so you grew up in Carroll County?

MAHLIA JOYCE: I grew up here, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Um, do you think your time in Carroll County has– has an effect on your quality of life?

MAHLIA JOYCE: Uh, yeah, definitely.

INTERVIEWER: OK. What changes have you seen in Carroll County since you first remember it from now?

MAHLIA JOYCE: Well, so when I was growing up, um, in the county, um, it was actually a lot simpler, and I think sometimes I take for granted that I have a certain level of comfort here, and so things like just walking to the corner store that used to be where Maggie’s is now, um– well, that used to be on the parking lot where Maggie’s is– there’s a store called Samios. I used to walk to from my great grandmother’s house, and being able to just play out on the sidewalk, um, being able to just be outside without a whole lot of supervision, um, I think I take for granted, um, and expect that that’s just kind of the way it’s been sometimes for everybody.

But in reality, if I really think about it, I know that that’s not the way it’s been for everybody, and I know that that’s not the way it is now. So I think that’s one big change that, you know, it’s definitely, um– I don’t know that I feel as safe physically as I used to, um, feel in the community. But, interestingly enough, I think I feel less safe psychologically than I did back then too, so I might– I don’t know, it’s kind of a weird mix. Like, I know the police are here but, I mean, I’m not really the– thank goodness I haven’t had a need to call on them, because I’m not really, you know, much of a person to be, like, hey, let me call the police. My interactions– I’ve had good, I’ve had bad interactions with them.

And um, say with other public agencies, um, I mean, of course, growing up I, um, my inter– maybe that– maybe that did shade sort of how I perceive public officials and people who work in agencies and things like that, because growing up, um, we were usually going to request services at an agency, so like when we were on welfare, and we were involved with Department of Social Services, and we were getting, you know, food from feeding programs or whatever, um, my experience with those agencies usually was that, you know, they clearly had the power, we clearly didn’t.

And they let you kind of know that, and sometimes not so subtle ways and other times subtle ways. Just through attitude or tone or what they didn’t tell you, what they chose to tell you or didn’t tell you, and I’d see how they, you know, how they talk with my mom and how they, you know, like treat my mom sometimes. And even how they treat my brother and I and, like, clearly we were second class, and I don’t– I don’t know how much of that is– well, I don’t know how much of that has changed from that standpoint, because I obviously now been put in a different socioeconomic status and a different group.

Um, but so seeing like that change, um, and which– one of the reasons that I’ve become so involved, or try to become so involved in, um, in community outreach, because I’d like to be the person, um, involved in some of these agencies or help to shape these agencies to be more sensitive, to be more responsive, culturally competent, not just around issues of race, but around issues of class, and– because you can have, you know, a white social worker be just as rude to a white client that’s coming from poverty as that social worker could be to a black client or vice versa.

Um, so it– it’s um– I think more so than community, my– my experience of the community has changed, um, from being, um, you know, from being here at the college, from having left the community and then coming back, um, and seeing it through, like, sort of a different set of eyes. Um, I was always critical of it, but then coming back I’ve even learned being more appreciative of certain things. Um, sometimes the simplicity, the way that things do tend to much slower, um, the way that things do happen– tend to happen based on relationships and social capital, which is a good and bad thing, because if you’re on the receiving end of that, and you’re in that network, then you’re in good shape. If you’re not in that network or not connected with any of those networks, you’re like, really trying to row a canoe with I’d say one oar but sometimes for some people it’s no oars. So I– I, um, yeah, I could probably ramble on and on, but you probably have more questions.

INTERVIEWER: Um, well, I was going to ask how have those changes impacted you? Um, but since McDaniel is around Westminster, and you grew up in Westminster, has McDaniel ever had, like, a relationship with the community, from like the time that you remember, like– I mean, we’re so close to the Westminster, like, has McDaniel reached out to the community? And then, because I know in some cities– some colleges are like interlocked, like they have like programs for the kids to come in, so has McDaniel like ever did that? I mean, do you wish that McDaniel would do that, like–

MAHLIA JOYCE: I mean, that’s kind of hard for me to say in terms of like– except from my perspective growing up, so I know when I was younger, um, when I was little, I’ve participated in some summer enrichment programs, um, and some are like learning camp kinds of things, and I don’t even remember what pro– what agencies, organizations they were through, but I feel like some of the activities happened here on campus. Like I remember going to the swimming pool. I remember being in different places on campus for us to use the facilities, but it wasn’t really so much like we were interacting with the campus community.

We were just kind of here in our own little world, sharing space with whoever else happened to be here. But I rarely saw other people, like on the– you know, who were around. Um, so I didn’t see that so much as outreach, um, and and um, so other than that though, I don’t– I can’t think of too many other examples in my lifetime.

I know that there were things like SOS and Hinge beforehand, um, in which volunteers– students as volunteers– went out into the community for Project Hinge, and students as well as volunteers went out across the country and sometimes into other countries, um, as sort of like a Western Maryland version of the Peace Corps. That was in the ’60s and ’70s, um, but I don’t know that I’ve seen like much of that since I’ve been more connected with the college.

Now, of course, there’s the relationship between the college and the Boys and Girls Club, somewhat between the college and higher learning, um, and um maybe a couple of other agencies here or there, and I know that the president is really, um, trying to create more opportunities for the community and the college, um, to become more connected.

Um, I’d say that my– my concern with that sometimes though– not specifically with the president– but my concern with this connection between the college and community, and one thing that I try to bring up any time I get a chance in some meeting somewhere, um, is that it should be mutual and it should be based on mutual respect and mutual, um– of mutual service to both parties. So not this like, we are the college, we know what’s best for you the community and or we’re going to help you out community because you’re less powerful and weaker than we are, you’re not as smart as we are, you’re not as whatever as we are. Like I really– that turns my stomach, like I can’t even tell you. Um, and um, so I just really hope that it happens in a way that’s– that’s equitable so that it’s not, like I said, that like weird power dynamic and that very patriarchal and hierarchical and um oppressive kind of scenario.

INTERVIEWER: Um, what advice would you have for someone moving to Carroll County if they decided to move?

MAHLIA JOYCE: Have a car. Make sure you have a well running car, because otherwise you’re going to be trapped.


MAHLIA JOYCE: Um, think of different ways to get involved. Involvement– community involvement– doesn’t always look like it does every place else. I mean, I know growing up I would always say, there’s nothing going on, and that was one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to move away from this place, and when I moved back here I was like, what am I doing? Well, actually it’s funny, because I was looking forward to coming back on one hand, because I was really more appreciative of the wide open spaces, the quiet places, um, being able to go out to Hashawha, being able to go really closely and quickly to the Catoctin Mountains or to the grotto up at Mount St. Mary’s.

Having so many parks around that I could go to, um, waterways being close by, gardening, driving– just driving through, you know, some of the back roads. I love taking back roads, because I love driving through farm land and, um, looking at the rolling hills and– and thinking about, you know, the work that people do. And especially when I ride out 31 towards New Windsor and through the Wakefield Valley area, and that’s probably what drew me back here really, because that’s the area where my family had actually worked as slaves and lived as slaves, and so I just felt this strong connection, and I wanted to connect more with that part of my– my roots here, um, which to me meant the land. I was connecting more– trying to connect more with the land, like with the actual place.

It’s been more of a challenge connecting with people, so I think any, um, advice that I gave to somebody moving here is to really just come here with an open mind, um, not moving here trying to like change things quickly, because change definitely happens slowly here.

Um, be willing to listen and listen to people’s emotions. Like I think one thing that Carroll County has taught me, um, particularly when I, um– whenever I hear people express like really intolerant or insensitive or prejudiced thoughts against any group, um Carroll– being here has taught me to listen to that– to first of all be able to stomach it, but then to be able to listen to it and listen to some of the emotions that might be behind it, so to listen for the fear and to try and empathize and understand where that’s coming from, to listen to like the fact that people have a really strong sense of tradition and what’s been simple, and they’re scared of losing that simple life and, you know, a bunch of poor people moving here or a bunch of black people moving here or a bunch of non-Christian people moving here or a bunch of, like, whatever is different– gay people moving here– is going to upset the whole balance, and it’s not going to be safe.

So I used to listen to that and just be like, I don’t hear it. That’s like– that makes me even more want to run away from this place again, but the more I’ve stayed, the more I’ve really tried to work on, OK, I need to listen to what’s behind that. So it comes out sounding like hate, to be quite honest, but I always think that behind hate is fear, and then I try to listen for like what is that people are actually afraid of and then also, beyond that, what is it that people value? And then that’s where I feel like I can connect with people, because I do value some of the same things. We just have different ways of expressing that, and we have different ways of like holding onto it, if that makes sense.


MAHLIA JOYCE: Sorry to ramble.

INTERVIEWER: Any final thoughts on Carroll County and growing up in Carroll County?

MAHLIA JOYCE: It was tough. It really was tough. I um– I hadn’t really thought so much until recently about– yeah, until maybe the past couple of years about– not so much– I mean, it wasn’t– it definitely wasn’t the kind of place where, you know, like um– or time. I grew up, of course, in the ’80s when, um, it was– so there were– this is after the water hoses and the dogs and the, you know, things that didn’t really happen so much here anyway. Um, this was much more of a quiet community, even during the Civil Rights movement and with other, you know, human rights kinds of issues, our community tends to stay really quiet about that.

So it’s not like a big protesting kind of place, which– when I came back, I’m like, yeah, I’m going to make it a protest place. We’re going to learn to protest. I’m going to bring all this energy, because I was coming back from Washington DC, and I was like fired up. And I’m like, I’m going to come back, and I’m going to get people in my community fired up. Yeah, I had to learn to put that away somewhere, because that’s just not how we do things here.

Um, but um– but the fact that it is sort of like, you know, OK, slow, we think about it, we change things slowly, we try to change things from the inside instead of, like, you know, always from the outside. Um, it took me a while to figure out that that had a really big psychological impact on me. Um, and I’d say that’s probably been the toughest thing about being back here.

And so then when I ask myself, or when other people ask me, so why do you stay? Um, because there’s still work to do. There’s work definitely still to do, and just because it might be psychologically, emotionally taxing for me– really, really hard, um, it’s changed me in ways that I don’t like sometimes, but– I mean, I get reminded a lot of times that if I was in a community where there was more of a tradition of like activism and protesting and speaking out and like making more– being more, I guess like forceful or radical with changing– there’s a lot– there are a lot of communities like that. Like when I worked in DC, that’s just how things happen. When I lived in DC and worked there. That’s just how things happened.

And it’s um– but in a way it’s easier, because there is– those networks are already in place. There’s already a system set up to support people and do a network. Those systems aren’t here, so it is harder, but that doesn’t mean not to do it. That just means for me to find– I need to find ways to like um– like reaffirm and– and affirm other people when they also do the work, because it is– it is tough– it is tough to be here.

So I– if I had the time, what I’d love to do is form some kind of like coalition of people who can talk about and work through– first of all, acknowledge the, you know, sometimes mental health implications of– of working and living in a community that doesn’t reflect you and– and not reflect you, I mean, physically and also not reflect you in terms of, like, values and political views and world view and things like that, but to really acknowledge that that can have effects on mental health.

Um, to then fit, you know, just be in a community of people who are willing to talk about that, um, and then willing to figure out, like, what we can do about it. What are the things that– how– where does that come from even? Like how long has that been here and that would just be like– I think that would be my dream job to do here in Carroll County. If I somehow did that through the college, great but, um, just to be able to do it, I don’t know.

I think it would be so healing for me as well, of course, but as well as like for a lot of people. I think it would be– it would have to go to that like hurtful, open wound place first, but then I think it just has the potential to really be so healing too in the end and empowering for people to say, you know what? The reason maybe I have chosen to or I have, like, fallen prey to drugs and other kinds of things in the community is because, you know, there’s some messed up stuff that goes on. I’m not saying that that’s reason, but– all the time, but if we don’t ever have a way of healthily working out these, like, unhealthy patterns and– and dysfunctional patterns and oppressive patterns, then people do reach out in different ways to get those psychological needs met.

So, you know, drugs might be a way of reaching out without knowing it necessarily– for me it was, you know, I became addicted to academia, I became addicted to learning. That was my– that was probably my addiction, you know, my escape. To learn and then figure out how to get away and to be able to travel, to be able to travel in my mind, to imagine other things. Um, you know, I think we all just like reach out for different stuff, and um, yeah, I’d– I’d like to be at some point, somehow, I’d like to be a part of– of really like getting together with a group of people and changing– talking about– at least talking about it. At least starting a conversation, um, because I think we stay too quiet about it.

INTERVIEWER: OK Well, thank you for your time. The interview is over.


INTERVIEWER: That is it.

MAHLIA JOYCE: All righty.