After exploring the mass exodus of Black residents leaving Baltimore and driving its yearslong population decline, we decided to take a look at people who did the opposite and chose to make the city their home.
The Banner spoke to five people who moved into Baltimore in recent years. They came from surrounding counties and states and even from across the country. Even with its flaws, these residents saw something special in Baltimore.
They chose to live in the city because they found community, the home prices were affordable, they found jobs and they wanted to invest in Black neighborhoods.
Perhaps their experiences can be lessons for those working to reverse the city’s population decline.
Here’s what they said about moving to Baltimore.
AC Edwards, administrative assistant, 33
AC Edwards moved to Baltimore from Washington, D.C., in May 2022. She said she moved to the city, simply, because it’s what she could afford.
Like many people who aren’t from Baltimore, she said she only knew of it through HBO’s “The Wire,” the popular series about crime and the city’s drug trade. The city was never on her radar of places to live.
“I’m from Paterson, New Jersey, and that’s ‘the hood,’ and when I say that, it’s an area that’s historically disenfranchised people of color — there’s a lot to that and Baltimore reminded me of that, and I never wanted to go back to that,” Edwards said.
But after moving to Berea, an East Baltimore neighborhood, she said she was surprised by how communal and involved her neighbors are — it’s nothing like “The Wire.”
“I think my neighborhood has some issues, but I’m with my people. … Even though I don’t have family here, I still feel looked out for,” she said.
Before taking a leap of faith and moving, she said she researched the city more and found that Baltimore has a strong Black historical influence — something she said resonates with her as a Black woman. Edwards then learned about Charm City Buyers, a real estate development and consulting firm.
“I was really impressed that they were so passionate about Baltimore and the things that were important to me as a young Black woman,” she said. “They were talking about investing in Black communities — I want to be involved in that.”
So she got involved. Now, as a homeowner, she is working on recruiting more friends to move to Baltimore to invest in Black neighborhoods.
“A lot of Black people are moving to suburbs and it’s sad, but I get it,” Edwards said. “I think we should invest in our area.”
Lisa McGill, team lead, Office of Capital Access at the Small Business Administration
Longtime Miami resident Lisa McGill found herself in Baltimore in 2019, just six months before the onset of the pandemic.
She moved to Baltimore to live closer to her daughter, Lia Latty, who attended the Maryland Institute College of Art. She stayed in Baltimore because she fell in love with the art scene alongside her daughter.
“I remember coming here, and I was enamored with some of the neighborhoods that I observed,” McGill said. “I liked the architecture, and I could tell that there was this creative class here.”
She said she was struck by old buildings that didn’t look like they had been maintained properly, and saw Miami — before it modernized — reflected in Baltimore. McGill said she was invested in the metropolitan growth in Miami and sees the potential for similar growth happening in Baltimore.
“The city is kind of turning into a foodie city,” she said. “You can certainly access all different kinds of things, from sports, to the arts, to music, recreation — you can access all those things.”
Now living in Federal Hill, she said she sees Miami, but Baltimore style. The neighborhood is on the water and the energy is lively. She said her daughter loves being a part of the Black culture that was lacking in Miami, and doesn’t think she can convince Latty to go back to Florida.
Kellen Leech, government employee, 37
Kellen Leech, originally from Mississippi, fell in love with Baltimore’s architecture over a decade ago. In 2020, he moved to the city from Prince George’s County.
His transition to Baltimore started in the military, when he was stationed at Fort Meade and would come to the city to do advocacy work. He also found that home prices were cheaper in Baltimore and saw it as a place to grow generational wealth.
“I saw an opportunity in Baltimore,” Leech said. “I saw opportunity to build; I saw opportunities to join the communities in Baltimore.”
Leech said he started looking at the jazz scene, the art scene, the food scene, and wanted to be a part of the renaissance. He also found belonging in the city.
“I’m also a Black trans man who is a veteran,” Leech said. “I’ve also found queer community here, and that’s really important to me. I grew up in a foster family in Mississippi, was queer, and I’ve had to find community and family everywhere I’ve gone with my military journey, and Baltimore’s that place.”
Leslie Redmond, developer, consultant and adjunct professor, 31
In the ’90s, Leslie E. Redmond remembers her dad investing in properties in Baltimore and she thought, “Oh my God, dad, I can’t believe people live in these communities.”
Now, Redmond lives in Carrollton Ridge, and is doing the same thing as her father.
In 2021, she moved to Baltimore from Minneapolis, where she lived for eight years and was the president of the Minneapolis NAACP when George Floyd was murdered. “After that, it was tugging on my heart to come back to the East Coast.”
She and her wife have six properties in Carrollton Ridge, and “something unique and different about our approach is that we’re actually in the community we’re investing in,” Redmond said.
On Redmond’s block in West Baltimore, she said she’s seen people overdose, there are numerous vacant properties and it looks exactly like a scene from “The Wire” in the ’90s. “You don’t expect to have a HBO hit series and then the community still look the same 20 years later.”
She said no one cares that there are actually people who live in communities that feel like war zones and have food deserts, so she is being the change she wants to see.
Redmond found there was a lack of resources in the community, so she connected with Charm City Buyers, and they gave her insight into resources and helped her navigate through her investment journey.
Now, in Redmond’s properties, she and her wife give away food and host Christmas giveaways and block cleanups. They even have plans to develop affordable housing in the properties they bought, and also to open a child development center.
“Our philosophy is development without displacement,” Redmond said. “We don’t wanna see people moving out of the neighborhood, we want to bring resources to them and have quality housing … I hate that for so many people in the inner city it feels like you have to move away from your community to get anything good, and as a community we shouldn’t be okay with that.”
Christopher Smith, ordained minister, life coach and L3 Harris operations supervisor, 49
Christopher Smith, 49, always dreamed of moving somewhere new, outside of his home town of Fort Worth, Texas. He’s lived that dream for two years now in Windsor Hills, a West Baltimore neighborhood.
“I am a country boy, so the city living is a little more than I’m used to,” Smith said. “We actually live in Baltimore City, so we are getting the city culture. … And in West Baltimore, where we live, we bought a rancher.”
He said he and his wife also plan to buy a rowhome in the city, renovate it and rent it out to create some residual income.
On top of being easily accessible to Philadelphia or New York by train — something he said he’s not used to in the South — Smith found that Baltimore is a place where he can give back to the community and it feels like home.
“I grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood, but even in my early years, I’ve experienced some semblance of segregation in certain areas,” Smith said. “But being in Baltimore specifically, and even D.C., to be around a hotbed of a lot of Black people and to see some influential people my color doing well for themselves — no matter even if you go into a nicer area — to still be able to see somebody that looks like you, it was very encouraging and not something I’m used to.”
He chose to live in Baltimore because he received a job offer to be a youth director for a Christian nonprofit, which as an ordained minister, was his dream job. The offer ended up being a “catfish” – a fake job offer from a fake company – and “once I moved here, I still haven’t seen that individual who offered me a job to work for his company.”
He then leaned on his professional background and now works at L3 Harris, a defense company.
As a homeowner who said he finally feels like a Baltimore resident, Smith said he plans to live in the city for at least the next 10 or 15 years with his wife and children.