Favorite Things about Summer Time in a Black Neighborhood

The sun is out but it’s 5pm. The vrrmm of the dirt bikes are passing by and sound of Lor Scoota is blasting from a car radio. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. It’s the summer in Baltimore City. The weather has broke in the Black neighborhood and it’s the best feeling. I look forward to this time of year, when school is out and the nights are longer on the block. The only unfortunate thing are the bugs and the police circling the neighborhood. But there are so many things about summer time ova West that make me love my city and my neighborhood.

We all know the allure of the harbor and everything else downtown but it’s the little things that make me feel happiness and nostalgia. There is literally almost something for every one of the five senses. It’s how I know I am home and no matter how pretty or enjoyable other places are, home is always my favorite.

Best things about summer time in Baltimore:

The Smells

I won’t lie, the smells in the city can have you feeling nostalgic or feeling queasy. I live in West Baltimore and I have smelled everything from piss to fresh cut grass. But we won’t dwell on the pissy alleys. The smell that defines the season is the aroma of a chicken box with saltpeppaketchup- one word. It’s something about the way the grease combines with the fries and the ketchup. If you don’t smell that, you not in the true Baltimore. Somewhere someone is drinking a beer, no matter the time of day or place. The summer time heat will lead your nose to the scent of too much chlorine poured in a public pool. The kids jumping out with the smell of wet hair grease and old pipes from the pool. Of course, you can’t forget the one that makes your mother have bath water waiting for you as soon as you get in the house. Outside- “you smell like outside.” It’s like a combination of grass, dirt and metal. It’s hard to describe but everyone knows it as soon as they smell it.

The Sounds

The almost lullaby of a dirt bike followed by a police siren or helicopter. The sound of the bus pulling up or pulling off and someone cussing at the bus driver for leaving them.  The kids laughing and yelling obscenities about the shape of each other’s head. The snow ball machine grinding damn near solid blocks of ice or the sizzle of whatever on the grill. Summer wouldn’t be the same without hearing, “loud-out,” “diesel,” “body-oils,” or “CD’s or movies.” The cat calls and mating call of the average man in the city.  The “aye sweetheart,” or “’scuse me, can I talk to you for a minute?” The “How you doin’ ms. Lady?” or my other personal favorite, “I ain’t tryna waste ya time. I’m just tryna get to know you.” Hearing, “dummy, head-ass, whore,” maybe all in one sentence. It’s cook-out season which means cookout playlists. Music from our local rappers and K Swift club music. Summer time is cook-out time which means somewhere you will hear, “Before I Let Go,” “Follow me,” or a recent addition to the cook-out playlist. When the cook-out ends you can look forward to the pop of gunshots and the half launch of a firework.

The Taste

Obviously, we are in Baltimore, which means crabs. Crab cakes. Old bay! That’s a given. Chicken boxes- a given. Grilled to a crisp (with the blistering, crunchy black skin) hot dogs and hamburgers. The over sweet syrup of a sky blue snowball or the egg custard frozen cups.

The Sights

The murals on the walls from Pulaski, Payson, and Presbury. Baltimore has several artistic masterpieces on obscure buildings. If you riding too fast or blink at green light you might miss them. The parks full of kids on the rusty swings or playing tag. The sweat dripping off the brow of man caught up in an intense basketball game. A random dice game with crumbled dollars on the ground. A dancing yet lovable crackhead who attracts the laughs of pre-teens popping wheelies on mountain bikes. Kids are outside doing whatever for how ever long because there is no school tomorrow and they don’t have anything else to do. Rats, water bugs, and yes even the eye sore of a vacant house. Yes, an eyesore but it’s home.

The Feels

Summer time Baltimore is a whole vibe. The windows down; the music blasting; the sun out. Summer is where most of your laughs are made and a good portion of memories are created. Summer time brings out the best of Baltimore culture. The sights, sounds, and smells of the city all create a feeling that happens every summer. It’s nostalgic and fun. It’s sunsets at 7 pm and slapping mosquitoes away from you. It’s summer time in Baltimore.

 

 

A Word with Baltimore’s own Kotic Couture

This month we celebrate PRIDE.  Pride is more than the parade, the beads, and the bars. Pride is the people, the history and the culture. The city has few spaces and voices for queer Black people to be happy and together. There is an artist, creating a space every second Saturday for these voices and the people. Meet the artist restoring Baltimore music and creating a voice for Black queer people in the city. That artist is Kotic Couture, born Kyle Wilson. Couture is one of those people that defines style and pride in every sense of the word. Proud to be Black, proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community and overall proud of the journey to artistry. Couture is like a sermon on Sunday without paying tithes. They are a word, a vibe, and a mood wrapped all in one. Kotic started creating music for the love of music and to complete a bigger picture: opening the door for other artists who are gay, queer, non-binary, lesbian, or identify with those categories at all. The more Kotic succeeds, the more others can look to them as an example to defy odds.

A look at Kotic’s bold style.

Kotic got their humble beginnings on the Eastern Shore and made their way to Baltimore. Outgrowing subtle racism and homophobia and a town whose first LGBTQ parade will They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a Myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. l this year to hosting version every second Saturday at the Crown, Couture has come a long way. As they put it, “I was made in the country but built in the city.”

They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. Songs ranging from hyped up-tempo like “Get Ya Life,” to heart-felt truths like “Diary of a dreamer.” Couture is essential what Baltimore music is missing, a queer outspoken artist. “As queer people or people in arts community, we are very hyperconscious of gender, gender presentation, and sexuality. You have outside entities where if that’s not a thing to them they don’t think like that. They see straight, gay, male, or female. So, when somebody sees me for the first time, [they’re like] okay that’s a gay man in make-up. They can be a little weirded out, they can be a little iffy. Another thing I’ve learned is move in between these communities and being myself.”

As we continue to recognize June as Pride month. We should appreciate the lessons taken from Kotic. Appreciate yourself, develop your style, and be upfront about who you are and what you want. They have a simple yet clear message, “I did a little tastemaker’s series with Big Improv. They interviewed me, and all their sketches were based off my answers. It was hilarious. But one of the questions the interviewers asked me was, ‘what is something hip-hop fans would be surprised to know about you?’ Well I don’t know if it’s apparent but I’m queer. In our culture, in hip-hop and Black popular culture, queer people are always a cliché. My mentor told me when I was younger, ‘don’t ever pigeon-hold yourself into being a gay artist but always be authentic and who you are because outside entities will use that and oh yeah we like your music but you’re strictly a gay artist so there is nothing we can do with that.’ I think it’s important to represent myself but it’s also important to show people as queer people we’re not monolithic like there are so many things we can do.”

Remember the people and experiences that make pride what it is. From the first frontiers of Stonewall to everyday extraordinary artists like Kotic. Baltimore has a large LGBTQ community which needs to be acknowledge, not vilified or demonized. Kotic gives our city what we need, a fearless artist, fashion forward, and unapologetically Black.

Catch them every second Saturday hosting Version at The Crown or stay plugged in with SoundCloud

Actual Job Hunting Tips for Dummies

Who doesn’t know someone who’s looking for a job? Hating your job or not having one can definitely wear on your patience, so let’s not waste too much time. Here’s a list of tips that have actually worked for us in the past:

  1. Pay Attention to the Posting Dates

Most jobs posted online are filled within the first 10 days, so aim to apply to newly posted positions. You may also still have a good chance with job listings that are less than 30 days old. If you see that the job was posted 45 or more days ago, don’t waste too much time.

2. Take Advantage of Student Career Centers

If your university has a career center, please go. They will help with everything from resume building to scheduling on-campus interviews with employers. It’s best to see what the career center has to offer well before you graduate, but if you’re lucky, your school will still have opportunities for alumni. Some universities have their own online job systems that cater specifically to their students. This will be way more effective than shooting in the wind on other sites because those employers are looking for prospects like you!

3. Properly Design Your Resume for the System

You have to make your resume fit each job you apply for. Employers have applicant tracking systems that filter through submitted resumes looking for keywords. Carefully examine the job description and describe your work experience using the given buzz words. We’re not saying you should lie on your resume, but be creative. I came across one guy who wanted to work in IT, but lacked the experience. To make sure his resume made it to the top of the system’s list, he wrote a bunch of technical words in tiny, white-colored font at the bottom of his resume. Some may say it was unethical, but it worked!

4. Don’t Apply for Jobs You Don’t Want

Many of us believe that a job is a job, but constantly taking jobs that don’t interest you will only lead you into a cycle of dissatisfaction. Instead of searching for new jobs every other month or year, really consider what it is that you want to do and invest time in that. Consider taking a continued education class at a local college or getting a license/certification in a field that interests you. Check out Eventtrix.com to browse some options.

5. Look Out For Scams.

In this economy, it’s no secret that people are in dire need of better paying jobs and looking to supplement income. There are organizations that intentionally falsely advertise jobs to take advantage of your desperation. Here’s tips within tips:

  • Have you ever heard of this company before now? Always research the company online. No trustworthy employers are posting jobs without having their own well-designed website. If they do have a website and it looks too vague or shady in any way, move on.
  • If the employer is trying to sell the job to you, it’s likely a scam, a waste of time, or a super low paying sales job. Watch out either way.
  • Sex traffickers sometimes use job postings to lure victims. You have to be extremely careful because these listings can even show up in your school’s career site. Unfortunately, you have to make an effort to get the job you want. If it seems too easy, be suspicious!

6. Practice Your Writing

You may not need much calculus after high school if you aren’t an engineer, but trust and believe you will need to know how to write. We cannot stress enough how many job applications are rejected because of a poorly written resume or cover letter. Many adults struggle with language composition well into their careers, and employers practically beg universities to send candidates who can write. You do not need to be *insert famous writer* to get by. Search YouTube and Purdue Owl for language tips and guidance. Or ask for help!

7. Be Yourself in the Interview

Relax and let your natural charm shine through! You are qualified for whatever job you are interviewing for, otherwise you wouldn’t have been called. This means you already know what is expected of you, so avoid putting yourself under extra pressure to be or talk like someone else. Your accent is just fine. Do not think you have to become a whole new character to be professional.

Please share with your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin and them who need a job! If you have additional tips or suggestions, help us out and comment below.

A Little Jab at Gentrification …

Eventually every big city faces the sad reality of change. The question becomes who does change effect the most. For the “inner city” citizens and the urban dwellers, aka Black people and poor people, who are usually forgotten (until property and infrastructure are involved) it’s usually us with furrowed brows. We wonder what is going to come next. This is not just a simple matter of change construction-site-2858310__340but the buzzword of the century: gentrification. Everyone has some definition in one form or another of what this means. In layman’s terms, gentrification is when wealthier, mostly white people see something they want, and they take it. They take it, restructure it and manufacture it for white audiences. For example, the small cafes and restaurants popping up in what is called “Station North.”

Station North is blocks away from what would be considered dangerous or “ghetto” even, but “redevelopment” has started in the area. Redevelopment that allows white academics and art students to benefit from poverty (having lower rent) while being close enough away to feel safe but close enough to say they care about the plight of Black people and issues of poverty in Baltimore city. The gradual change in Baltimore has been happening for quite some time. The big universities started their bidding wars on properties on East North Avenue. The results are things like Parkway theater and (sorry folks) the notorious anti-establishment Red Emmas (which has left its North Avenue location). As nice as these places are, they both have an unspoken, “we only welcome certain types,” kind of vibe. You should be somewhere between wanting to free the nipples and having a Sinead O’Connor look with a septum piercing and tattoos of a dream catcher, geometric shapes, or the lunar cycle. They have the “I’m a cultured artist who is down with a revolution, some days, and I bike to save the environment” kind of vibe.

Look up the word in the dictionary and its synonyms are refurbishment, restoration, renovation, urban renewal, and even improvement. There is a constant question of what is being improved and who asked for the improvements. The problem with the “urban renewal” becomes losing the people who built the infrastructures around what is being “improved.” The problem becomes white people start moving in and pushing Black people out. When the hipster liberals come in, preaching peace, love, and all lives matter while taking your row home to hang ropes of paper lanterns from Target.

Gentrification becomes so important, especially to Black people in Baltimore city because it is more than a word or a synonym of “restoration.” So much culture has been built and erased in the city. From club music to style of dress and even the way we talk. You know someone is from Baltimore when you hear them! Higher rent and destruction of once were homes make life a lot harder for those relocating and reminiscing on “the good old days.” Gentrification is having your childhood memories become a portion of history because Johns Hopkins needs homes for residents and of course expansion of its famed facility. The Hippo, most of East Baltimore, Hammerjacks- places like these are no longer apart of the breath of the city. Instead when people think of Baltimore, they think of Natty Boh and Camden yards – which is a part of Baltimore but every neighborhood is not Canton or Camden yards.

East Baltimore should now be called “Hopkins Town.” Hopkins has changed most of it and is trying to mold it into a uniform, almost carbon copy of other cities. Baltimore once had a flair that is bitterly hanging on. That’s a problem with “urban redevelopment.” Gentrification is not just a textbook synopsis of the many inequalities Black & poor people face. It is the feelings, soul, and authenticity of a place being diffused brick by brick. It is almost as if Thanos snapped his fingers in much of East Baltimore, devouring the city. Higher rent and fancier grub makes nice for tourists and people who can’t afford New York and don’t want to stare D.C in the face, so we meet here in the middle, in Baltimore.

I Could Have Just Went Home

As I stared in the mirror in that stale-stenched bathroom, I knew I had fucked up. How had I gotten myself into this? I was just spending a casual night with my best friend/former roommate, and now I was hiding in her boyfriend’s bathroom. How quickly a favor asked can spiral into hours of reluctant participation in this awkward sitcom-esque scene. I was sick. To be honest though, the bathroom was slightly cleaner than I would have expected two or three college boys to keep it. I was grateful for the lack of shit stains around me, but I was more concerned with the amount of time I had before my friend returned to the apartment. Hiding in other people’s homes rarely goes well. As I stood waiting in silence, I became increasingly convinced of my imminent capture. Each second was more stressful than the last, and I just wanted to go home.

I’m pretty sure the night had begun under normal circumstances. I’d probably gone to my English and business classes. I may have eaten lunch at home because Chipotle hadn’t yet figured out its E. coli situation. I had gas in the car. I remember feeling really good about the way my fro had formed that day, so I was probably excited to be out and about with my friend, Tam. I didn’t live on campus anymore, so I would usually drive us to hang out somewhere after class before I went home. Tam had been fighting with her boyfriend the past few days, but they fought all the time so I thought little of it. I just listened to her current story of how he’d hurt her feelings this time. Most women with guy troubles have the same story every week, but hers were more and more dramatic every time. I chalked it up to them just being extra and angsty like every other young person in love. I did not think my proximity to this relationship would affect me in any way. I just continued to listen to her story.

By what I’d thought was the end of the night, we were parked outside her dorm building so we could rap for a little bit. Since I’d left campus, we hadn’t been seeing each other as often and always wanted to catch up.This usually meant sitting in the car for hours just talking about things on the minds of 20-year-old women. I’m guessing this is when she started talking about her man again. I think I remember her saying they’d broken up “for good this time,” and that she was fine and going to move on. But she could not believe that he wasn’t texting her back after a full day. It didn’t sit well with her spirit. She was clearly concerned and hinting that she wanted to see him. I must have been in a particularly positive mood that night, because I offered to drive her to his apartment. I didn’t want to let my friend walk to his place alone if I could help and, I have to admit, I was a little amused by the whole thing.My curiosity tends to lead me into some real shit.

While I’m driving up the block, Tam calls the boy at least twice with no answer. I believe he also sent her some long, cryptic text about his life and their relationship. If you haven’t caught on by now, this story has gotten a little hazy over the years. I was not high. Anyway, I pull up to the building expecting him to answer her call and let her in so I can go home.  Lesson #795423 about depending on a man for anything. She proceeds to call this man dozens of times with no answer. I’m confident that she called him at least 40 times in less than an hour before she got blocked. Now the whole thing just seemed kind of cruel. At this point I’m still a little intrigued but, while I want to support my friend, I’m not as hesitant to go home.

Now that we know calling him isn’t going to work, Tam comes up with a plan. You usually need a fob to get into the building but you really just need to be at the door the moment someone walks out. So she tells me she’s going to wait in the less-than-optimal night weather for someone to open the door and head upstairs. I agree to wait for her outside in case he doesn’t answer his door to let her in. I guess it wouldn’t have been a good story if he had let her in. Shortly after she leaves the car, we both end up inside the building. I don’t know if I was asked to come inside or if I volunteered, but we were marching like soldiers and Tam was now on plan B. Mind you, her boyfriend is still not answering the phone so, of course, he doesn’t answer the apartment door. We are now on Mission: Trespassing. Tam thinks to call one of her boyfriend’s roommates and ask him when he’s coming back. Apparently, of all four roommates, this one is the least shitty and only one who would help. He says he’s coming back from the cafeteria in ten or fifteen minutes, and he’ll let her in. I’m only slightly worried that something will go wrong, and only slightly less amused. As multiple residents walk past, we talk about which ones we recognize and how much of their business we know. Finally, the traitor roommate shows up and he does not look at all worried or confused about why his roommate’s girlfriend is calling HIM to get into the apartment they share! I figure he must be crazy and used to dealing with crazy women. No shade to Tam. She tells him what’s going on and he says he’ll let us in, but he’s leaving out afterward so he can only do it once. I’m thinking I can finally make it out of here! No. Commencing: Tam’s plan C.

There’s no one in the living room or kitchen and her boyfriend’s bedroom door is locked with the lights out. She knocks on the door asking if he’s in there and to be let in. Now this is the haziest part of the story because I have do not understand how I agreed to be in this bathroom. I remember Tam laughing and smiling at the absurdity of her request: I was to hide in the bathroom so that I could let her back into the apartment when she got back from God knows where because I have NO idea why she needed to leave! WTF, Tam?! But she did. And there I was, standing in this dingy bathroom shaking my head at my reflection. I hit the dougie real quick because why not? At this point in my life, this was the wildest thing that had ever happened to me. I have no idea how long I stayed in there. Maybe it was ten minutes, or maybe it was thirty-five. My phone probably died. Every time I heard a bump or scrape, I knew it was my time. I just KNEW I was going to get caught, so I prepared myself for what I would say to the first boy who saw me and asked what the hell my stranger ass was doing in his bathroom. Just when I’d decided not to throw Tam under the bus and to just take my simple ass home, I finally heard what I’d been dreading. The door knob turned, and I was ready to fight! The door swung open, and it was Tam. Apparently she made it back into the apartment just fine. I don’t remember her explanation, but I was now ready to say my good-byes and find my exit. I’d had enough excitement for the night. That’s when I saw that at least one of the other roommates was home, and our attempts to remain inconspicuous fell to shit. Then there was a second boy. This was not good. I couldn’t leave Tam in there with these raggedy boys and her possibly absent boyfriend. One of them started taunting her asking her why and how she got in his “house”. He was acting how ugly men typically act when witnessing a beautiful woman get dogged by a relatively more attractive guy: gleeful. It was so ugly. Of course, her boyfriend continued to ignore her knocking and pleas for him to answer the door. The tension was getting too thick and the night was getting too late. I was so embarrassed and angry for her that I eventually convinced her to just leave with me. It was a whole mess, up and down.

The night didn’t end well and Tam’s boyfriend continued to be a fuck boy until they made up again by the end of the week. The point is this all happened and I was not drunk or under any kind of influence whatsoever. I was just 20 and bored. Please check on your younger siblings and friends and tell them to go home because they’re probably out doing something stupid.

The End.