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Baltimore News: Sam Sessa and the Baltimore Music Scene, Art in East Baltimore, Elijah Cummings Portrait at JHU

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This week’s news includes: Christopher Batten’s portrait of Elijah Cummings, Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann interviewed by Rob Lee, Caleb Stine composes for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, and more reporting from Maryland Matters, The Real News Network, Baltimore Brew, and other local and independent news sources.

 

WTMD’s Sam Sessa Makes His Directorial Debut
by Grace Hebron
Published May 3 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Sam Sessa didn’t always dream of being on the radio—at least not in the role he plays today, as a DJ with Towson’s own WTMD. “Sometimes sports writers are failed athletes, and music writers can be failed musicians—that’s definitely me,” says Sessa, who cut his teeth as a journalist before becoming the Baltimore Music Coordinator and host of Baltimore Hit Parade.

He grew up playing the accordion, eventually pivoting to the keyboard and organ bass during college at the University of Maryland, where he performed with a local jazz and cover band. Upon graduation, the journalism major went on to cover the entertainment beat at The Baltimore Sun from 2005 to 2013, which “just happened to be at a time when Baltimore’s music scene became one of the best in the country. I got really lucky,” Sessa says, pointing to the storied rise and record deals of artists such as Beach House, Future Islands, and Dan Deacon at the time.

“In the ‘90s, we had Dru Hill and Sisqó, which were incredible success stories for the city,” he says. “But we didn’t have as large of an audience, with attention being spread out on so many different bands, like it was in the mid to late 2000s. It was like your home team coming out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl.”

 

 

New art installation in East Baltimore lights the way for better community connections
by Adam DeRose
Published May 3 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Lit blue and amber to mirror the twilight, a new art installation in East Baltimore aims to make the area safer, more welcoming, and more visually appealing.

Mayor Brandon Scott joined elected officials, community leaders and residents Monday evening to celebrate and dedicate the 16 neon structures lining sidewalks of the Amtrack underpass along Gay Street between Wolfe and Ellsworth streets.

“The folks in this neighborhood have been doing this great work for many years by literally lighting up a way to show the rest of Baltimore how we can make peace in our community,” Scott said at the dedication. “This beautiful installation, like so many others, is a reminder of how powerful and necessary the contributions of our communities are to our city.”

The light installation, dubbed The Beacon, is part of the “Last Mile Park,” a new project transforming the dark, unwelcoming underpasses in the area that cut up communities in East Baltimore into links connecting the neighborhoods through artistic lighting, landscaping and art.

 

 

Johns Hopkins University adds a portrait of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings to its Homewood campus
by Ed Gunts
Published April 29 by Ed Gunts in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Leaders of the Johns Hopkins University this week paid tribute to the late Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings by installing a portrait of him in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Painted by Baltimore artist Christopher Batten, the portrait depicts Cummings against a backdrop that includes an American flag and Baltimore rowhouses.

“This portrait does not simply seek to represent a single man,” said Hopkins President Ron Daniels, at a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the installation. “It is, as Elijah would have wished it to be, a portrait that captures not only what he stood for but, as importantly, who he stood for.”

 

 

Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann
by Rob Lee
Aired May 4 in The Truth in This Art Podcast

Excerpt: Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann merges traditional Chinese and Japanese ink painting techniques with approach rooted in Western abstractionism.

 

 

Caleb Stine Composes Original Score for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s ‘Henry V’
by Grace Hebron
Published May 3 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: Henry V, Shakespeare’s tale of a young monarch’s quest to prove himself a capable and trusted king against all odds, has seen its fair share of lauded adaptations throughout the decades. And in a first for Baltimore, the latest iteration, which runs through May 15 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, features musical contributions from local folk musician Caleb Stine.

Charm City’s own “Cosmic Cowboy,” known for recurring shows like his long-enduring Round the Mountain series, provides the gritty, thought-provoking score for Washington D.C. director Alec Wild’s interpretation of the classic play. Following a performance at the downtown theater this Saturday, May 7, Stine is set to take the stage with live renditions of his compositions for a special post-show concert.

Ahead of the exclusive show, we spoke with Stine and Wild to learn more about the passion project—which marks both of their debuts with the iconic city theater.

 

 

Crowd inside City Hall was riled up by Mosby and his bill-booster from Boston
by Fern Shen
Published April 29 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: Krisha Syrkes, who has been trying to buy a home in Baltimore through the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, was excited when she got an email from the group’s CEO, Bruce Marks, summoning program participants to Baltimore City Hall.

“This is a crucial hearing to pass legislation where homebuyers can purchase a city property for $1 and renovate it with financing through NACA’s Best in America Mortgage,” the April 23 email from Marks said. “There is also additional assistance of $50,000 for rehabs for either homebuyers or homeowners.”

Syrkes, a federal employee who lives in Virginia, drove north on Tuesday and found herself in a City Hall meeting room at a press conference-cum-pep rally,organized by Nick Mosby, president of the City Council and sponsor of the Dollar House bill.

Her account provides a fuller picture of events leading up to a committee hearing that was apparently meant to garner support for the legislation, but ended up as something else.

 

 

In Calif., Hogan Re-Wraps Himself in Reagan’s Cloak as Trump Notches Big Win in Ohio
by Josh Kurtz
Published May 3 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Just as Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) was finishing his half-hour speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Tuesday night, urging Republicans to follow Reagan’s path, Politico and TV networks were declaring author J.D. Vance the winner in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

Vance’s come-from-behind victory was largely fueled by a late endorsement from President Trump, trampling on Hogan’s message and perpetuating the narrative that Trump remains the unparalleled driving force within the GOP.

Hogan has a different view of his party. Since the election of 2020, he has attempted to wrap himself in Reagan’s cloak — ever since he revealed that he cast a write-in vote for the late 40th president rather than for Trump or President Biden that November. He has made the case that Republicans should follow Reagan’s example, harkening back to an era when Reagan rang up landslide victories and expanded the GOP base.

 

 

Workers at Maryland’s First Unionized Starbucks Describe Their Fight for Workplace Democracy
by Maximillian Alvarez
Published April 29 in The Real News Network

Excerpt: On Monday, April 25, the N. Charles cafe in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood became the first Starbucks location in Maryland to unionize. The final election results, certified by the National Labor Relations Board, were a clean sweep: 14 “Yes” votes and zero “No” votes out of 22 eligible voters, with zero voided ballots. In this special podcast edition of Battleground Baltimore, recorded minutes after the official vote count, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez speaks with four Starbucks partners from the N. Charles location—Violet Sovine, Nico Finol, Jennifer Clawson, and Kieren Levy—about their collective fight for an inclusive, safe, and democratic workplace, and about the larger movement to organize Starbucks partners across the country.

 

 

After Leak of Draft SCOTUS Opinion on Abortion Rights, Maryland Lawmakers and Candidates Pledge Action
by Danielle E. Gaines and Elizabeth Shwe
Published May 3 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: The U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a nearly 50-year-old right to abortion would lead to strict restrictions or bans by states across nearly half the country almost immediately, though not in Maryland, where lawmakers ensured abortion access in state law three decades ago.

A Democratic majority in the General Assembly approved the most sweeping changes to the state’s abortion access laws this year — including to expand access to providers and insurance coverage — though those efforts didn’t go as far as many lawmakers wanted. The House of Delegates approved a bill from House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) that would have enshrined abortion rights in the Maryland Constitution — creating a higher bar to overturn Maryland’s statutory protections — but the measure failed to advance in the Maryland Senate.

Jones vowed Tuesday to pursue the legislation again.

 

 

As Baltimore rebuilds from 2019 ransomware attack, is $10 million for a cure better than prevention?
by Donte Kirby
Published April 29 in Technical.ly Baltimore

Excerpt: What does $10 million, committed for curing a city’s ransomware affliction, actually buy you?

AJ Nash, VP of intelligence at cybersecurity company ZeroFOX, says it depends on how you want to handle the situation. Firms can negotiate the ransom. For Baltimore, trying to recover from the devastating 2019 ransomware attack, that ransom was $76,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Beyond these cyber companies, intelligence organizations can help a victim better understand the cyberattack and the organization claiming responsibility. Contractors can come in and attempt to decrypt data, as well as restore backups and networks.

These are all specialties and there are very few organizations, if any, that can provide all the different services that are necessary during an attack. Perhaps that helps explain why the city of Baltimore ultimately spent $10 million purely on IT recovery.

 

 

Header Image: Photography by Christopher Myers in Baltimore Magazine

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