By Beverly Richards,
Special to the AFRO
The Rev. Jerome Stephens is a transplant from Plain Dealing, La., a small town north of Shreveport, La., 15 miles from the Arkansas line.
Nearly 50 years ago, after graduating from college, Stephens bought a one-way ticket and caught a Greyhound bus to Baltimore. The plan was to stay with his uncle for “better career opportunities.” Admittedly, he exclaimed, “I never looked back.”
Indeed he did fall in love with Baltimore, the city’s neighborhoods, its diversity, cultural experiences, and the numerous education prospects. “It’s all here in Baltimore City,” said Stephens, a man now well-known around Charm City and within the faith-based community.
“We talk about the bad part of Baltimore too much, and don’t accentuate the good part,” he said.
When he first arrived, Stephens enjoyed driving downtown around Park Avenue, marveling at the area’s large, distinguished row houses. “You could ride through at night, and everybody had their lights on, and you could see through their houses and see how they had decorated them. They were showing off the grandeur of the row homes. Those are little things,” he added, “that we don’t talk enough about.”
There’s a lot of beauty here, said Stephens.
It’s true that Baltimore neighborhoods have their own unique qualities and traits.
“You can go from Ashburton, Ridgely’s Delight, Barre Circle, or to some of the other areas like Canton, or Roland Park and they each have their own distinct characteristics,” said Stephens, who also enjoys Baltimore’s proximity to New York, Philadelphia, and D.C. “It’s easy to just get on the beltway or a train and go to any of those cities. Then come right back to Baltimore.”
Stephens believes Baltimore’s best kept secrets are the educational institutions that call the area home.
“If you want to go to school for higher education, this is the place. We have Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, and Loyola. They are all here. Some of the nation’s brightest minds are educated here. I think Baltimore is the place that if you prepare yourself
], there’s a job for you.”
Baltimore is a city of culture, he shared. He recalled the first play he saw here.
“It was ‘Bubbling Brown Sugar,’ starring Melba Moore, at the Morris Mechanic. But if you look at Baltimore, culturally, it has different genres of music and plays. We have various playhouses like Everyman Theater, the Hippodrome, and Morgan’s Murphy Fine Arts Center. From time-to-time I get to take in a nice show.”
Stephens said he is anticipating the recently announced multi-million dollar renovation of the Arena Players in the 800 block of McCulloh Street. “I’ll be right there,” he said.
The reverend is also fond of the culinary options the city has to offer, and cheekily professed to visiting various restaurants around town, particularly around the waterfront area and Fells Point. Miss Shirley’s on Coldspring Lane is one of the places he frequents, as he enjoys the restaurant’s grits.
“Baltimore is a great place. The different communities, wherever you want to go in the city, there are homes at every price level,” said Stephens, adding that he would tell anyone, “Come home to Baltimore, it’s a city that will embrace you too.”
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