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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.

Lauren Carnesi

When I was three years old my parents put me into a dance class and that was that. Twenty-nine years later I still find joy and purpose in the dance studio. Growing up I trained at Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts as a member of their competition team and once I was older, the ensemble. MCPA gave me the technical foundation I needed in order to pursue my dreams of becoming a choreographer. Read more>>

Tenbeete Solomon

I always had a love for art growing up but never really took it seriously or considered the possibility for a career. As I was nearing graduating undergrad, where I was studying Marketing, I felt a lack of passion for anything and dreaded the idea of working for someone. I started drawing and painting to relieve stress and fell absolutely in love. At that point I decided I would do whatever I had to to live my life as an artist. After graduating I continued to create art and share it on my social media and showing all over DC for parties and events, growing a following, and getting to a point where I could freelance full time. Read more>>

Barbara Sparks

I’m Barbara – but everyone calls me Barb; at an early age, I always knew I was a leader and wanted to teach, but I didn’t know how to do it. It wasn’t until high school that I started my first side hustle, creating resumes and cover letters – helping people get jobs. I did Career Coaching for 10 years before pivoting to focus on Business and Marketing about 3 years ago. My mission was to help people make impactful decisions by giving them the resources to move toward their dreams and goals. Read more>>

Nyema Igwe

I used to have an online boutique, called Asa Afrique, that enabled me to participate in various popup shops and markets. I realized that I enjoyed the experiences and wanted to recreate them for Black entrepreneurs and creatives like myself. There was something empowering and dope about creating safe, fun, and progressive spaces for Black entrepreneurs to represent their brands, network, and connect with the community. It has always been about building community. Read more>>

Jamaul Johnson

I originally grew up in south Florida, and i have always had a passion for art. I got started by sketching until over the years I eventually developed other skills to go along with what i had already developed . I do different types of art , painting , drawing, logo design etc. And I try my best not to just stick to one topic when I use my pieces to send a message. I am influenced and inspired by people, events , and just my overall understanding and experience living as a black man in America. Read more>>

Charles Thomas III

I attended the University of New Mexico as a student athlete, and I received a BA in Recreation. During my internship was the first time that I had worked at a summer camp. After college I pursed my career and traveled to Canberra Australia where I was a professional basketball player, and I also ran basketball camp in the off season there. Read more>>

Leonard Drake

I started acting about 8 years ago with a small part in a stage play. I would be hanging out with some friends who were older than me and these guys was from the streets like me. These guys would leave the block and go straight to rehearsals. I first started by just helping with the set and things like that. That quickly turned into me having that small part in a big stage play. I’ve been acting every since. Read more>>

Marcus and Meagan Smith

A Step Ahead Fitness was started in the winter of 2019 as an idea to introduce children to the fundamentals of sports and fitness without the hassle of parents having to add more to their busy schedules. To accomplish this, we thought it would be ideal to provide mobile sports and fitness classes to local daycare centers, schools, and churches. The plan was fully developed and just as we were ready to begin marketing our services to potential partners, the pandemic came and shut the entire country down. Read more>>

Juliet gilden

I grew up in a family with a mother who was an artist and a father who spent his early adult years stage acting in New York City. My parents eventually back to Baltimore and opened an art gallery. I spent so much of my childhood in their gallery looking at art and meeting artists. I always loved to draw, paint and make collages. I eventually grew up to go to The Maryland Institute of Art and took all of my studio classes there. Read more>>

Cassandra Denton

My passion for photography really started the moment that my cousin who is now 16 years old was born. It brought me and my family so much joy as we had these memories to hold onto as he grew and discovered the world. In 2008, I was gifted my first DSLR camera for college graduation and others noticed that my photographs of him were getting better. In December 2008, a co-worker asked me to take photos of her family and right then, my heart grew 100 sizes larger knowing that I was serving my community with photos that they would cherish for a lifetime. Read more>>

Lisa Rogers

In 2019, I formed the Gathering Point Giving Circle (GPGC) with 13 close friends after we decided we enjoyed working together on community service and could have a greater impact as an organized group. The journey of GPGC has been a very organic one as we were and continue to be led to the organizations we serve. We decided in the early days of discovery that we wanted to partner and help fill gaps with women, children and families in crisis in Baltimore. Read more>>

Erica Hampton

With the support and encouragement of my husband, I started InJoy in February of 2021 after being laid off from my job of 9 years. Before working that job, I had a dream job, planning meetings and events across the country. While I loved that job, a tragic event occurred when my son passed away, and it really made me rethink my time away from my family. So, I ended up getting a desk job in a different industry. My love for event planning had always stayed with me, so when I was laid off, I saw this as an opportunity to fulfill my dreams in addition to supplying a need for unique intimate gatherings during the pandemic. Read more>>

County Kravitz

I started managing artist at 18 years old and after successfully propelling a few careers I decided to get ahead of the game and start marketing and promoting for artist and businesses. Once the pandemic hit I went into radio because it was a way I could stay connected with the people even if I couldn’t see them. Since then our reach as grown internationally. Read more>>

Rachel Johnson

My name is Rachel “Rae Denise” Johnson. I’m a native of Northwest Baltimore, MD. I’m an Entrepreneur, Brand Strategist & Visionary. A Hometown Girl, Making a Legendary Impact! I founded my company Limitless Consulting Solutions LLC., back in 2014 but it wasn’t until 2019 that it truly came to life. Limitless is a boutique branding agency that specializes in Brand Strategy, Business Solutions, Graphic Design, Idea Strategy, Social Media Management/Strategy and Website Development. It was birthed from my passions: branding, marketing, and helping business owners identify and cultivate their “WHY”. Read more>>

Ishear Townes-Weaver

As I am currently the founder, Certified Phlebotomist and Certified Phlebotomy Instructor of I.T. Phlebotomy Solutions. I learned the skill of Phlebotomy at the Sojourner Douglass College back in 2001. Since then, for many years, I’ve worked as a Certified Phlebotomist. This vision of me starting my very own phlebotomy school/workshop came from a car ride with my supportive husband one afternoon back in January, 2020. Read more>>

Christopher Dipnarine

In October 2018 launched 4MyCity a 4 Phase Environmental Sustainability program that I knew would change lives and better the planet. As humans, we naturally generate waste and it’s causing problems all over the globe. For example; the tons of plastic in oceans, used tires in landfills, mountains of retired computer parts, even crazy amounts of old clothing. While those are examples of waste, there is another one that has been devastating communities for even longer. Food waste. Read more>>

Kat Brower’

I grew up a couple of hours north of NYC in a town called Hurley, NY. I was always fascinated with the stage and remember going to see plays at the high school with my mom and sister as a little girl. My family ended up in Northern California where I finished out high school, and while most of my classmates that I performed with in school plays went to nearby Los Angeles, I knew I had to go to New York if I wanted to pursue a career as a a stage actress. Read more>>

Jarrick Browner

I was getting ready to quit my labor intensive job and I didn’t want to gain any weight. I knew I was prone to excuses so I was looking for something that’ll take all the excuses away. I watch a lot of anime and they were talking about Meditation, Yoga, and Prana, finding their center and achieving unimaginable feats from it. So I decided to give yoga a shot. It was perfect. Took all the excuses away, it was just me, my mat and my word. Read more>>

Kourtney Hunter

Well, I have always had an eye for real estate. I have worked in the mortgage business as a loan processor and document specialist. That’s where I got the financial side of the business. Good thing I got it in early too because I sucked at math lol. I also searched for properties for investors to buy, fix and sell. So much so that I wanted to do it myself. I always thought the profit was incredible and it still is. I started taking real estate courses just so I could know the laws around real estate. Read more>>

Nicole Brewer

I started directing plays in 2012, however I first started in the theater as an actor. I now work as a director, professor, and facilitator of an anti-racist theatre approach I developed in response to the treatment I experienced in the theater industrial complex. I was in Baltimore for 2.5 months when I directed Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith at Baltimore Center Stage in Fall of 2021. I absolutely adored the city and people I met. Read more>>

Nakita Addington

Sweet Tooth Kupcakery began as a bright idea. One day my husband Marshall and I were having a casual conversation about business ventures we’d might be interested in looking into. He asked me what I thought I could do to start a business and honestly, I didn’t know. I’ve never had any real special talents that could bring in income. I thought back to a previous meeting on my corporate job when some cupcakes were brought in and I fell in love with the cookies and cream cupcake I selected. It was then when I said to my husband “maybe I can try to make some cupcakes”. Read more>>

Jacob Jordan

Well I’m from Northeast Baltimore (belair road ) And I’m currently 17 . I fell into the streets when I was about 13 and In them I met a local rapper in my area and he Kept askin me to rap on a song with him because Of similar stories about living in Baltimore. He asked me about 2x then on the 3rd I said ok and I agreed to do a song with him. But he said he didn’t know any studios nearby and I didn’t either , so we recorded a song on his phone. We did about 3 songs that day using apple headphones , after that I started makin songs on my own . I started meeting more people who also did music . Read more>>

Noelle Jackson

I am a self taught Faux Loctician and I started around the age of 16 doing hair. I felt I always had a passion for hair due to the women in my life who used to always do my hair. I loved the smells of grease, the touch of someone else’s hands in my scalp, and sitting there being able to relax and feel even prettier afterwards. I was a natural girl and I love trying new styles in my hair, but being natural and a high school student was tough because I always didn’t have the time to do my hair or for my hair to come out right. My mother was raising five of us and didn’t always have the time anymore. Read more>>

Jada Roy

I started out as a stereotype that have been blessed to overcome many challenges that I face daily. I come from a broken home, I am a first generation college graduate, and I am a young black woman in corporate. Read more>>

Aryana Ahsan

My name is Aryana Ahsan, and I am the founder, owner and curator of Boards and Bows. Since becoming a wife and a mother my love for hosting and bringing people together through food blossomed like never before and I thought what better way to do so than by creating beautiful charcuterie boards that provide a great centerpiece for everyone to gather around!
In August 2021, I decided to go from being a Stay at Home Mom to a Small Business Mom and create Boards and Bows, the rest is history! Read more>>

Clara Mount

The short version is that I wanted to listen to inclusive podcasts about gaming, but couldn’t find one – so I made my own. Let’s start with the basics: it sucked being a female gamer in the 90s and 2000s. I grew up in a time when gaming was aimed primarily at men. I grew up being actively excluded from gaming with “the guys” around me. I grew up watching pro women gamers receive death and rape threats and get attacked for winning tournaments against men. Read more>>

Lyque OConnor

Hello, my name is LyQue & I have been married (3X) yes. 3 times (1) had (3) kids while we were married & he was on drugs really bad. (2) had a SEX ADDICTION, need I explain??? (3) FINALLY, my dream man. I am the only family member left in my immediate family. I have suffered a lot of loss, over the past years, mother, father, grandmother, father, sister & brothers are all died, But I have a son, and stepson(s) and other family members so that I am not coincidently depressed. Read more>>

Kaitlin Newman

I have always had a love and passion for journalism. I started my journey in high school; I was the editor of the music section at our paper, The Hawkeye. We had journalism as an actual class which was pretty cool. When I went to college, Towson University, my first major was political science. It didn’t take long for me to switch to journalism. I remained in the journalism major for six years – the extra two were basically filled with internships. I proceeded onto graduate school there as well, studying professional writing with a focus on long-form journalism. I received my Master’s of Science in 2016. Read more>>

Kersey Caldwell

Back in 2012, I attended The Art Institute of Virginia Beach and I studied 2D animation, I just knew I was going to work for Dreamworks or Illumination but then I realized my passion for drawing was not strong enough to pursue a career of drawing for life so I spoke with my academic advisor and she suggested to me to get my degree in Photographic Imaging, I enjoyed taking pictures on my phone and doing, what is now very cringy, trendy edits to my images. Fast forward about 2.5 years, Read more>>

Anya McKenzie

I started doing hair at the age of 14 from my parents kitchen & began to take it seriously after I had my first child at 19. I went to hair school & after working as an assistant and hairstylist for a few years I decided to open my own shop at the age of 21 . Providing a good life for my daughters was the push I needed to become what I am today. Read more>>

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