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Portraits of Baltimore

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around Baltimore.

Ohdehliyah Gordon

I’m Ohdehliyah small town gal born, and raised in Israel of the Hebrew Israelite community. Cosmetologist, and owner of Twisted Aloe a aloe vera base natural hair product line Started this business immediately out of school. I go back to Israel yearly to visit family acquire thee best ingredients for products, and make products to provide for my people back home. When I first started this business all I wanted to do was make women feel beautiful and after that I would Gass you all the way up before you leaveing my chair. I’m a women women, meaning I root for women hard, love on women, and I make theme feel beautiful no matter what. What I’ve received in return is a trib of women with so much knowledge and love that it propelled me and Twisted Aloe to new highs. Most thankful, abd thankfull to be among these women Read more>>

LAUREN SIMONE

Thank you for selecting me for an interview. Let’s have a little story time: My decision to join the world of Public Relations started in the summer of 2012 at Virginia State University. I was standing in a long line of students with my mother as we planned out my classes during Freshman Orientation. Initially, I planned on obtaining a degree in Education but secretly had an interest in the Mass Media Field of Work. Read more>>

Jantra Silbert

My sisters & I have been dreamin’ big since the 80’s! We’d play pretend for hours imagining we owned companies & always hoped we’d work together someday! As we grew older, our dream seemed out of reach as I went off to study fashion, travel the world & live in NYC while the other 2 coincidentally studied speech pathology and settled down locally to start families. When I decided a few years ago to move back to the area to raise my daughter, I realized the need for affordable clothing in all sizes. However, the timing still wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit creating layoffs that I decided the time was now or never. I brainstormed one night and sent them the text, “it’s finally time to start a boutique!” Read more>>

Susan Soorenko

I opened my first ice cream shop in McLean, Virginia in 2002 after my children decided making ice cream professionally would be a good idea. We opened our Silver Spring shop in 2005. Because we could make special flavors, we became very popular with restaurants in the Virginia/Maryland/DC region, who would come to us for signature ice creams. We also became popular with local markets given that we’re locally made, woman owned, and natural. In 2009, we moved the entire Moorenko’s Ice Cream operation to a much larger facility in Silver Spring, Maryland. And we currently have three locations – South Silver Spring, Eastern Market, DC, and Westfields Montgomery Mall in Rockville, MD. Read more>>

Barbara Bowers

Hello! Thank you for taking time to speak with me. My name is Barbara Bowers. I spent most of my early career in EMS, running calls on ambulances and helping the community. In time, I moved off the ambulance and into the billing office. When my job was outsourced, I took my career into my own hands and developed Lancaster Wax Co in 2019. My husband suggested that I needed a hobby – so after a candle making class with my Aunt, our business was born. Learning everything about wax, candles and running a small business, I grew the business into a six-figure business in just over three years. Read more>>

Rina Rhyne

Serving my community by leading a nonprofit has been a dream of mine since becoming a social worker. I’ve come a long way from my corporate job in the early 2000s, something that provided the financial stability my immigrant parents understandably wanted for their children, but was not fulfilling to me. I was 16 when I went to college, so I did what I was supposed to do and majored in information technology, starting a job at IBM soon after graduation. On paper I was living the dream, however, I couldn’t shake the urge to work for the betterment of my community. I enrolled in UNC-Chapel Hill’s part-time Masters of Social Work program and spent three years between full-time work, internships, and classes. Read more>>

Colleen Kimberly Broersma

Hello, my name is Colleen and I am grateful to share my healing journey and story with you. My story truly begins when my love, partner, and best friend, Lou, unexpectedly died while celebrating my birthday in Paris.
I had just turned 50 years old. They say a spiritual awakening can happen spontaneously or it can happen after a life-altering trauma. Mine was a little of both, having found yoga in 2014 followed by this life-altering trauma in 2018, a few days after my 50th birthday. Read more>>

Justyn Iman Roy

Justyn Iman 27 years of age born and raised in Washington, D.C. on December 17, 1994. A mentor, author, motivational speaker, dreamer, thinker, visionary and independent native Washingtonian with a special heart for the emotional health and well-being of our young girls. Since the tender age of 17, I have taken all my trials and tribulations and created the blueprint for my signature program, Laces to Bows, Inc. Every day since I have worked hard and dedicated every free moment to mentoring others and developing my platform. Read more>>

Brianna McKay

On the internet people who’ve seen my art know me by Artless. Let me introduce myself and tell you a little bit about this creative roller coaster I’ve been on. I’ve always loved graphic novels and manga as a child, so I guess you can say that’s where my interest in illustration started. I loved all of the colors, bold lining, and expressions that went into comics. That developed into a passion for creating characters, Not just creating them for an aesthetic, but creating a story, an entire life behind the character. Read more>>

Tommy Carr

Music has played a huge role my whole entire life. I started off playing the piano at a young age and from there, learned how to play violin, trumpet, guitar, drums and so on. I knew at a young age that music would be the career path I choose. After playing in many local rock bands, I put down the guitar and started singing a lot more, originally just for fun. I started going to karaoke nights after I got off work. From there, I knew I wanted to be a DJ/KJ. I slowly started learn the ins and outs of the DJ world. The same person I saw running karaoke eventually became my employer. Him and his partner gave me my first career opportunity as a DJ entertainment and I am grateful that they took me under their wing. Read more>>

Desmond Pettross

I fell in love with music at a really young age. Some of my earliest memories in life are of me dancing and reciting Lil Bow Wow lyrics in front of my family. I was always exposed to music whether it was from the music that my mom played in the car or from the music videos I would watch with my older sister, or from the music that my cousins would put me on to every time I visited them. Music was always around me and I always wanted to listen to music. At 9 years old I was even using Limewire to download hundreds of songs and put them on my mp3 player. As I got older and went into my teen years,  Read more>>

Shenise Foster

My origin story like everyone in the food and travel content creator space began with posting my pictures on my personal social media pages and quickly evolved into my friends and colleagues asking for recommendations of where to check out the up-and-coming restaurants & attractions. Travel and food exploration has always been my passion and I had always dreamed of becoming a travel guide writer for DK Publishing or possibly work on the Anthony Bourdain production team. Read more>> 

Sara Allie

I started my travel blog in 2018, after leaving the fashion industry and starting my career as a teacher. I still needed a creativity outlet and as a writer, I could never fully put my pen down. I started my first blog in 2012 called Art of a Lady-a lifestyle blog that discussed women issues and topics. I shut down the blog once I started working in the fashion industry in NYC due to schedule conflicts. Coming back home to Baltimore, I wanted to start blogging again, in particular I wanted to start blogging about my travels because many young Black women in Baltimore wanted to know my experiences traveling internationally. Read more>>

Allysa

My love for music started when I was young. According to my mom, when Angel by Shaggy came out I was obsessed with the song ( I believe I was 4 years old). I don’t really remember much about when I was that young, but I do know since first grade until college, I have been involved with choirs at the schools I attended. After graduating college, I then decided to take my passion for music seriously and pursue it professionally. I released my first ep project in 2020, and another ep in 2021. It has honestly not been an easy road, but I enjoy what I do and it makes me happy when people reach out and tell me how much they enjoy my music and encourage me to keep going. Read more>>

Danielle Greene

I started baking with my father as a kid, and always took it with me through life as I grew older. In 2018, I was forced to quit my Wendy’s job I had been working for already 8 years, 3 months later, I began working at my local Walmart, unloading boxes and stocking shelves, I was there almost 8-9 months before I heard about a cake decorator position at a bigger Walmart location, I took my opportunity and applied for the position, even though I knew absolutely nothing about decorating cakes, only baking, I still went for it. So there I was 2019, learning how to decorate cakes, then I got really really really good at it, and made the decision to take it home and make it mine. Read more>>

Katrina Lee – Parker

I stumbled into the field of esthetics. Initially my interest was make-up artistry however, in 2008 Maryland no longer required a MUA license, so I enrolled in to an Esthetician program. Being completely honest, I had absolutely no clue what an esthetician was until my admission rep explained and he sold me by stating that the program featured courses in make-up artistry, so I quickly enrolled! During the course of the program the skincare element piqued my interest and I truly began to fall in love with learning about the skin, the different conditions and modalities and the interest in make-up became an afterthought. Read more>>

Zaamwé

My love for music was cultivated at a young age thanks to my parents eclectic vinyl collection. I also credit my uncle Victor’s painting sessions and art exhibits for my taste in art — these sessions and exhibits would often have songs from Fela Kuti, Sunny Ade, and Bob Marley playing in the background. I started playing drums for my church at 13 and from there began exploring other instruments. Around 11th grade I got into producing on GarageBand using my school’s iMacs. Once I entered college I was gifted a MacBook Pro and continue making beats and recording cheesy freestyles. With much encouragement from my friends and after years of making songs here and there for personal enjoyment, I decided to take music seriously and publicly. I began releasing music as “Zaamwé” in November 2016 with my first single “Crush” and here we are. Read more>>

Paris White

As an African American author and educational board game designer, born and raised in Washington D.C. I understand the educational struggles and hardships plaguing our communities. I am working diligently to build a company that represents, educates and gives back to the African American family. The Board Games, Books and Trivia Cards I designed are Fun, Interactive, Educational and great Family Fun for ages 4 and up. At the same time, they reflect a rich tapestry of African American Culture and History. Read more>>

LaTisha Jones

Styled4You Boutique, nameless at the time, started out as a clipping on a vision board over 20 years ago. I had a long time desire to create a family owned and operated business with my daughters in the Fashion-Beauty industry. I’ve always had an innate eye for fashion and was well known for keeping myself and my daughters fashion-forward. As my girls matured into their own personalities, their own sense of style took things to another level. One of my daughters was always pulling looks together that were before it’s time. Read more>>

Kaidey Baer

After high school, in 2017, I moved to Georgia to go to esthetics school in Atlanta after seeing how successful my aunt’s med spa was. After a little bit, my mental health got worse so I decided to start online college and moved home. That next summer in 2018, I applied to universities up and down the east coast and transferred to the University of South Carolina in the fall. After a semester of driving home every weekend, I transferred to Towson University the next semester. fast forward 4.5 years and I graduated in December 2021 with a BS in Psych and a minor in family studies. After graduation, I was deciding what I wanted to get my master’s in. Read more>>

Angel Hart

I started writing when I was a little girl, and learned quickly that it was my passion. The art of expression through poetry and spoken word has led me to three digital albums of my work, and many platforms across the DMV. Read more>>

Christina Allen

My very close friends have had their own businesses and they frequently asked me over the years when I was going to start my own. For years, I could not fathom breaking out as an entrepreneur. As the idea of owning my own business began to grow on me, I just could not figure out what type of business I wanted. A creative side of me began to open in 2020, the year my daughter was born. It started with a flower name sign I created for her nursery and blossomed into Spaaarkle Me. Spaaarkle Me handcrafted & unique wine glasses, tumblers and an array of drink-ware. Read more>>

Ian Rashkin

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance (BJA) promotes and supports jazz in the Baltimore region for the benefit of both artists and audiences by presenting, educating, collaborating, and informing, to foster the rich legacy of jazz in our community. Founded in 2003 and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 2012, the organization’s goals include increasing visibility of existing opportunities for audiences to hear live jazz in the Baltimore area; increasing opportunities for jazz musicians to perform in the area; promoting local musicians and venues through information sharing in print and digital media;  Read more>>

Shon Wright

As a Child I was Taught to Dream. I felt i lost the ability to dream at the age of 9, or so I thought. Retrospectively Ive always been a creative Kid from North East Baltiomore. Drawing, Painting , Creating Movies for The Neighborhood and Family via Cam-cordings on Caset , burning dvds then YouTube or movies with My brother and the rest of family members. My Mother Shontelle Jones was very Influential with that side osf me because it kept me out of trouble and allowed me to Cherish working with what I had, aswell as making something out of nothing. Read more>>

Lei Renee

I am multifaceted individual. I believe my childhood played a big part in my life as far as learning new things quickly and being able to adjust my life to what ever came my way. I was raised by my strong single mother. I moved around the entire DMV area so I was able to meet a lot of people from many backgrounds. I started singing and rapping when I was about 12 years old. Music is a big thing in my family. From my mother to my aunts and uncles. The majority of us sing. I was able to observe some things from them. I was on my high schools dance team for four years and that is when I found that I wanted to be an entertainer and/or move a crowd through art. Read more>>

Raginald Paz

Cooking has always been my family’s forte. I’ve watched my parents make different dishes growing up and I remember being fascinated watching them through the process. That is where I believe my passion for food stemmed from so I became a “foodie” and started documenting my journey on my Instagram account (@raginaldpaz). I do enjoy traveling around the country and the world. What I look forward to the most when traveling is being able to try the food from different places. I do not have any specific preference when it comes to the taste so I eat pretty much anything and everything. Read more>>

Regina Claudy

A Little About Me….. So, I’m a hobbyist, a crafter, a wanna be artist. I’ve dabbled in stamping, scrapbooking, blogging. I love to be creative (when my OCD lets me!) I’m also a full time mom, wife, and Social Worker. I have no time; no time for me, my crafts, my family, yet I make time for it all! I really can’t imagine my life not being hectic, but what mom can!? Read more>>

Lacy McKinney

I have a business called Broken to Blessed Apparel. I couldn’t truly decide what I wanted the name to be, but I wanted to show that you can go through things and God can still bless you. You may not see it then, but he truly does. When I was 10 my family and I were in a bad motor home crash and I broke my right femur bone. I had to learn how to walk again. In that I learned how to work to get my strength back which took time. I was in the 888 Bestgate Road building when the Capital shooting happened. Read more>>

DeAngelo Xavier

I started writing music a few years after I graduated from high school. Always have been fluent in poetry, so the gift of word play and rhyme scheme has always been a talent of mine. I just never put it to use musically until then. Read more>>

Sarah Berns-Zieve

Fell in love with dance at the age of 8 Attended Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA/BSFA) focused on becoming a professional dancer♾ Learned incredible time management and discipline♾ Explored my creativity through choreography♾ Saw and felt power of art and community to heal and unite people ⚫️ Dance related injury summer prompted the creation of The Arts Collective at BSFA in my 3rd year Read more>>

Gregory (Hym or CEO) James

Where should I begin? (I’ll keep it as brief as possible) Business is my first love & everything that falls under. Including marketing, music, fashion, etc. I remember being a small kid seeing my godmother, who’s a marketing specialist at Disney World, coming up w/ marketing strategies or being out & about and calling the offices because posters and flyers weren’t correct. Business etiquette & mannerism go hand & hand where my parents installed that in me from birth. W/ my being a military brat, I was able to take in multiple cultures and adapt to multiple people which helps me in business today. I was always online as a kid researching new music & was always the kid at school that heard music before everyone. Read more>>

Jay Londyn

It all started from God giving glory to him first, I don’t know where I’ll be without God. Traveling to the states at a young age and going through some challenges and persevering gave me a new look at life and I’m starting to convey that through my work. Londyn is me the “Y” in the name is what I see to remind me of my purpose because often we forget why we do what we want when adversity seeps in and that also comes from my name “Ja(y)” shoutout to my kin (Tune) for creating the name with me. I wanted to pay homage to my country and the city my parents were raised in to create a deeper meaning for me so I won’t ever stop when times seem difficult because there’s a purpose to my mission. Read more>>

Andrew Stallings

I‘m originally from Southeast Virginia, and my entire life I knew that I wanted to be in sports. It probably wasn’t until I was ten years old when my family uprooted and took us to the other side of the state to a little town called Roanoke. I was completely behind the learning curve, the social curve, and everything in between. The reason that I was able to cope socially during that difficult time was because my dad purchased season tickets for us for the minor league hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League, the Roanoke Express. We would go to every single game, and that was a great bonding experience. It helped me a ton as I was adjusting to this new life. Read more>>

Ryan Orengo Sostre

My journey within the visual arts really started in high school. I was about 14-15 years old when my father gifted me my first camera. It was summer of 2012 I believe and that’s when I really started to explore photography and video. I already had an appreciation for tv/film and media, but it wasn’t until I was deeper and deeper behind the lens that I grew a strong passion for documenting and telling stories. Read more>>

Adrian McClanahan

I started my journey into IT 15 years ago. I often tell people it was by accident because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I stumbled into it taking a general studies. But it excited me and kept my interest so I went ahead and got my Bachelor’s in Network Information Systems. I’ve held roles as a Personal Computer analyst, then transitioned to a Network Center Engineer, and currently work as an Information Systems Security Analyst. When I say that I love IT I mean it, and the lead me to start my tech blog, ChicDivaGeek, where I shared my thoughts, tips and news about tech. Which grew into a Web design company where I provide website services to other businesses. www.chicdivageek.com. I love to share my love of tech to help people in just about any way I can. Read more>>

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