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Philanthropists Eddie and Sylvia Brown donate $3.5 million to the Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art announced Friday that philanthropists Eddie and Sylvia Brown are giving the organization $3.5 million to endow the position of chief curator.

Eddie and Sylvia Brown

The couple’s gift will provide a new way of paying for the post of the museum’s chief curator, the person responsible for overseeing the BMA’s 95,000-item collection and for supervising the museum’s curators, conservators and registrars. The position replaces the former job of deputy director of curatorial affairs role that was held until last summer by Jay Fisher.

Amy Sherald’s Planes, rockets, and the spaces in between (2018)

Asma Naeem, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, was appointed chief curator last August. Before coming to the BMA, Naeem was a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Fisher is now director of Matisse studies at the museum.

Now that the chief curator position is endowed, the funds previously allocated to paying Naeem’s salary and other expenses of that job can be freed for other operating expenses, according to a museum spokeswoman.

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

The Browns previously have given major gifts to other Baltimore-area cultural institutions, including to the Maryland Institute, College of Art, where the media studies building bears their name.

Eddie Brown founded Brown Capital Management, a Baltimore investment firm with more than $8 billion in assets under management. With his wife, Sylvia, he established a foundation in their names that focuses on improving lives in inner-city Baltimore.

In a museum news release, the couple said their most recent gift was inspired by museum director Christopher Bedford’s efforts to make the BMA more diverse and inclusive.

“In recent years, the museum’s commitment to excellence has been joined with a vision to examine and present a more fulsome picture of art history, giving a platform to those artists that have previously been underrepresented or left entirely out of our cultural dialogues,” the Browns said in a joint statement.

“With the appointment of Dr. Naeem … this seemed the perfect moment to expand our support for the museum.”


Source: The Baltimore Sun


Pastor Blends Faith and Farms to end Food Insecurity in Black Churches

Several years ago, Rev. Heber Brown III decided he needed to do more than pray. The now 38-year-old pastor at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, noticed more members of his congregation were suffering from diet-related illnesses.

In Baltimore City, one in three residents is obese and 12 percent has Type 2 diabetes — two conditions that disproportionately affect black Americans.

Additionally, 34 percent of black residents in Baltimore live in food deserts (compared to 8 percent of white residents) and don’t have regular access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods.

So Brown turned to seeds, in addition to scripture, and started a garden on a 1,500-square-foot plot of land in front of the church. Today, that garden grows everything from summer squash to kale, and yields 1,100 pounds of produce — all to feed the community that meets weekly to worship.

“It was amazing,” said Brown, who, in addition to starting the garden, partnered with black farmers in the area to bring pop-up markets to the church after Sunday service.

Rev. Heber Brown III and Aleya Fraser, co-founder of Black Dirt Farm, hold up produce from the farm.

“We saw attendance bump up in our worship, we saw a great energy … and it went so [well] here, that I wondered what would happen if we could spread it through other churches and create a network of churches that do the same thing.”

In 2015, Brown launched The Black Church Food Security Network — a grassroots initiative that empowers black churches to establish a sustainable food system to combat the systemic injustices and disparities that plague black Americans, who, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are sicker and poorer than non-black Americans.

The network currently operates at more than 10 congregations in Baltimore, most of which are located in the city’s “food priority areas.” There are also participating churches and farms in D.C., Virginia and North Carolina — and the list is growing.

“We have people contacting us from all over — different religions, different parts of the city. The phone is always ringing, the emails are always coming in from churches saying, ‘Hey, we want in,’” said Brown, who added that he also receives interest from people of different races.

“They see it as important, they recognize that farmers markets are great, but there are gaps that farmers markets are not filling, and African American farmers, in particular, have unique struggles.”

His goal is to meet a need on both ends of the spectrum by supplying under-served communities with the food they need, while moving and marketing the food produced.

Merging faith and food may seem unconventional to some, but Brown said every time he talks about connecting churches with agriculture, he gets “ready amens and strong head nods.”

Church members tending to the Black Food Security Network garden at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church.

“It just makes sense,” said Brown, who finds inspiration for his work from visionaries such as Fannie Lou Hamer, who founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative in 1967, and Vernon Johns.

“Spirituality and agriculture have a deep relationship that is outlined in sacred scripture and that is practiced in weekly gatherings in worship spaces, and so I have no problem getting people to buy into this vision.”

These days, Brown does less digging and harvesting and focuses more on connecting communities with farmers and matching volunteers with various church gardens. He also helps churches figure out how to make use of the space they already own — classrooms, kitchens and land — most of which are only utilized once a week.

“And I think that’s a gross waste of resources,” Brown said.

“If your Monday through Saturday approach can include agriculture initiatives — farming or gardening or supporting a local farmer — that’s a big-time plus.”

It’s also an empowering and sustainable model when it comes to fighting hunger. Too often, food insecure communities receive charity, which is great in emergency situations, but is not a long-term fix.

“And I think solutions for the long haul have to spring from those who are most directly affected by the issue,” Brown said.

“Food is always going to be a priority for our communities. And churches and faith-based organizations, I got a strong hunch, will always be here.”

Brown sees The Black Church Food Security Network “going far into the future,” one community at a time. He dreams of a day when churches across the country have markets where “people can come and praise and worship and sing and get a good chunk of the groceries they need for their household at the same time.”

And for those outside of the black church who want to help, Brown said supporting, not leading, is the most productive strategy.

“If you come in with the mentality that I cannot be fully free until everybody is fully free, it makes for better partners,” he said.

“And if we are strategic in being courageous subversives for each other, then I think the world that our children will inherit will be better than the one that we’re in right now.”


Source: WTOP 


Amy Sherald to paint Michelle Obama’s Official Portrait

Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004 and just joined the faculty there, has been commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to paint the official portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama.

New York-based Kehinde Wiley will paint the official portrait of President Barack Obama.

Kehinde Wiley

The paintings are scheduled to be unveiled next year and added to the National Portrait Gallery’s popular collection of presidential and first lady portraits.

Sherald’s portraits of African-American models are known for her use of gray skin tones.

Last year, she became the first African-American and first woman to win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition; she was chosen for the $25,000 award from among 2,500 entrants.

Work by the Baltimore-based Sherald, 44, is in collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

She will give a free talk at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in Room 101 of the F. Ross Jones Building, Mattin Center, on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University.


Source: The Baltimore Sun


Couples Inc. : Beauty Supply Store Owners, Quintin & Megan Lathan

After all the conversations about how too few Black people are involved in the beauty supply industry, we were glad to learn about Quintin and Megan Lathan. They own Beauty Plus, a beauty supply store in Baltimore.

How did you both meet?

Megan: We met through Quintin’s cousin who was my co-worker at the time.

How do you decide what products to carry in your store?

Quintin: A mixture of customer/professional stylist requests, social media, and different cosmetology industry publications.

It has been said that it can be difficult for non Asian business owners in the beauty supply industry. What has you experience been?

Megan: Once our business was established, we had immediate access to most hair products. The only difficulty we had was with purchasing hair from certain hair companies.

In what ways do you both have similar entrepreneurial traits and in what ways are you different as entrepreneurs?

Quintin: The number one trait we have in common is that we believe in good customer service and drive. We differ on inventory selection and marketing ideas at times. 

What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?

Megan: Quintin has taught me to be more focused and intentional with how I spend my day as it pertains to the business.
Quintin: Megan has taught me patience and how to be steadfast on certain business decisions.

What is the most important thing to remember when you are married to your business partner?

Quintin: To not get into heated arguments about the business so much that it affects the marriage because the marriage is more important than the business. Also to always make time for romance and quality time.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Megan: Don’t wait to start and commit to ownership. 

Contact: Beauty Plus
Address: 2107 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: (410) 685-0955

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