City Pop-Up: Baltimore, MD
Live Hip Hop Daily Staff and Comedian Raheem Holt connect with the creatives and influencers of Baltimore, MD.
Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland
"I am what time, circumstance, and history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all." -James Baldwin.
In an effort to support Black and Brown businesses and creatives, our team will strategically pop and highlight who we meet on this journey as well as the experiences and history of that city. I judge cities by their skyline and quickly come to conclusions about their economic growth and job possibilities. I was enamored by Baltimore's skyline as we drove into downtown. The tall buildings, blue crab symbol and football stadium twinkled in my eyes. How can a city with such seemingly opportunities across various sectors, also be a city with high murder rates and poor reviews from neighboring cities?
My prior knowledge of Baltimore consists of two opposing things. I knew it held the
headquarters of the NAACP, an organization that I held various roles in on the collegiate level and it was where wildly popular HBO show, "The Wire" took place. I smirk at the wild contrast between those two knowledge points, but it speaks to the highs and lows of this city.
Wikipedia notes that the history of blacks in Baltimore, Maryland dates back to the 17th Century. It was counted by the Census that in 2010 blacks made up 63% of the population giving Baltimore, Maryland the 5th largest population of blacks in the U.S. Geographically it is reported that the blacks are centered in East and West Baltimore. This is referred to as "The Black Butterfly."
Quick facts on Baltimore:
The Royal Theatre first opened in 1922 as black owned Douglas Theatre. This famous theatre is a sister to theatres such as the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
Baltimore has also bred such musical notables such as Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Reginald Lewis, and Tupac Shakur.
But it's a radio ad I heard while driving through downtown that caught my attention and affirmed my methods for fostering relationships within the city. "The way we talk to each is other is with food. Baltimore won't be defeated."- a myriad of voices proclaim across 93.9 WKYS. This affirmed our instinct to invite a few influencers and creatives to Noir Baltimore to share what they do and what they love about their city.
Noir Baltimore is owned by interior designer and real estate entrepreneur Corey Brown. As he show us his attention to detail and his signature touches that can be seen in his other commercial projects (Members Only in Atlanta), we're in simultaneous discussions about government contracts with Desmond Acha and entertainment marketing with Logan James. Corey notes being committed to bring a well designed restaurant to a side of town that usually has is entertained in establishments that resemble "houses" and "basements."
Comedian and host Raheem Holt trades jokes with Smoove, a social media sensation before we shift the conversation to reflect what's the less than glamorous truth about the politics, poverty, drug trafficking and mindset of Black people in the culture. Amid the energy of the conversation I have to interrupt to note how succulent the seafood is here. The shells and the skin in my soup are evidence that their seafood isn't fresh out the can.
Music Creator and Streetwear Innovator Von Vargas trades Baltimore secrets and millionaire facts about the culture. "Ever heard of Domino Sugar?" Von asks me and my media team. We later get into how true Baltimore natives feel about "The Wire", how much the community is invested in their youth, and how Baltimore has one of the top art schools in the nation.
It was only befitting that we support the arts culture in the city. Through comedy and reference we make our way into a brick, garage like venue. The stage is centered with the food, liquor, and audience seating is adequately socially distanced.
"THE ARTS WILL THRIVE!", the host of Poetry Party Live yells and requests for the crowd to repeat. Newbies and those with their performance chops hit this stage that has occurred weekly. Raheem's comedy changes the energy and the crowd roars with laughter. The show continues with finger snaps and shout outs to long time supporters. Ending on a final note and standing ovation we watch as Lita Lachey blow down the house.
Watch the interview to the right with this songstress.
For me, I sum up Baltimore as a Black Butterfly that with adequate nourishing, one's dreams and goals can be widespread and allow them to fly high, or they can simply be stuck in growth, stuck in a cocoon.
Desha Elliott is former Editor-in-Chief of an education/entrepreneurship publication Be Your Own Success Story Magazine. Currently, she's the Sponsorship Director of Rap Plug, Inc., the #1 networking platform for the Hip Hop Industry, founder of Content Marketing Firm, DrDesha, LLC and author of the career transition book, Hi My Name Is. She stands on the front lines of capitalism and education advocating to make businesses and youth successful, and brings a high level of practical value and common sense to her work. Learn more about her at www.drdesha.com. This piece was co-written and researched by Wymanette Castaneda.