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Bringing Chesapeake Communities Together Through Film

How can watching a video create better stewardship of our watershed? The Maryland Humanities Council’s (MHC) “Let’s Be Shore” project is using the humanities to connect with Eastern Shore residents, inform them about their county water implementation plans (WIPs), and bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives together for civil discourse. “Let’s Be Shore” offers a space for dialogue and listening, so that residents may explore issues of land use and sustainability along the Shore.

Beth Barbush, MHC’s “Let’s Be Shore” Project Manager teamed up with filmmaker Doug Sadler, conducting about thirty audio portraits on the subject of water quality along the Bay. Audio transcripts were reviewed by a panel of Shore residents, who helped to identify eight video portrait subjects representative of all stakeholders, from an oysterman to a poultry farmer, developer to riverkeeper, all providing their unique perspective. Now MHC is asking for your viewpoint via comments on www.letsbeshore.org.

“Let’s Be Shore” does not seek to change people’s opinions or values, rather to foster an understanding, enabling communities to come together for civil dialogue sessions. Video portraits offer a very personal view of residents’ connection to the water, the challenges faced, the need to find common ground, and the search for solutions. When we listen to and experience our neighbors’ feelings about the future of the Shore’s heritage and landscape, we may also learn a little bit about ourselves—film can be an effective tool for reflection, creating an open space for dialogue.

How can you get involved? Watching a video and sharing your views is a first step. Here are some other ways to join in:

• Visit www.letsbeshore.org  – Watch a video or read audio excerpts from your neighbors, then share your response.
• Stop by a sharing station tent – Visitors can pick up a free bumper sticker; contribute their reactions to photos, videos, and other forms of content. Click here for other sharing station event locations and dates.
• Connect via Social Media – Get updates, take a poll, and share your views on our Facebook or Twitter pages 
• Attend a public dialogue event.- Join the email list to receive invites to three distinct public dialogue events in the fall in three counties along the Shore.

The Maryland Humanities Council is a statewide, educational, nonprofit organization that uses the humanities to stimulate and promote informed dialogue and increased civic engagement. “Let’s Be Shore”, a project of the Maryland Humanities Council’s Practicing Democracy program, uses the humanities (history, literature, documentary film, ethics, scholarship, etc) to bring people with multiple perspectives together for passionate and respectful dialogue about land use and agriculture, and their effect on water quality along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Contact MHC at letsbeshore@mdhc.org.  

Michele Baylin is the Communications Manager with the Maryland Humanities Council.