By Beverly Richards,
Special to the AFRO

Political pundit and former mayoral candidate Catalina Byrd is a self-described “hopeless romantic” when it comes to Baltimore City. “It’s one of my first loves,” she said. Catalina has been loyal to Baltimore and has dedicated her entire adult life to its residents trying to “make what’s wrong right.” 

“I love Baltimore because of the people. We have every kind of personality and every race. It’s a melting pot. We’re a predominantly Black city, but not just American Blacks—West Indians and Africans. So, there’s so many cultures represented here, and I think that’s one of the things that’s most special about us.”

Catalina also boasts that Baltimore is the place of almost everything great this nation has to offer the world. “We were the first ones to pass redlining as an actual legal covenant. But also, we have a place where the Civil War took its turn—Fort McHenry. And we have a really promised history because of Johns Hopkins and the B&O Railroad. There’s this rich history [here] that ties into the country.”

One of Baltimore’s best kept secrets, claimed Catalina, is the diversity in art. “There is every type of art here. You could do well here as a painter, sculptor, or a dancer. We have many different genres of music.” “I think a lot of people think of New York and LA when they think of artists’ cities, but when we really are an artist city.  There’s Larry “Poncho” Brown, Miss Valerie Maynard, who recently passed away, just to name a couple,” she added. 

Catalina has two favorite hangout spots, Nancy by SNAC, located in the hub of the Station North arts community, and her kitchen. Catalina is drawn to the restaurant because of the energy, she explained, that feels like an extension of home. “You’re always going to see someone you know or you’re going to meet new people.” But what makes Nancy particularly special are the owners, Kevin Brown, and Bill Maughlin. And they love her too. “[Catalina] is a breath of fresh air. She is honest, genuine, authentic, makes me feel appreciate and most days she’s right,” chuckled Kevin.

She loves the chicken salad and the potato soup Kevin makes. “You’re also surrounded by beautiful art. But most importantly there’s love.” The other place, in heart of the city that brings her joy is in her home.  “Having been in politics so long, you can’t enjoy yourself as much going out as you can having people over.”
When asked what she would tell someone thinking about visiting her city, she said, “I would tell them to come with an open mind and to not judge us from The Wire. Come and enjoy themselves. Find a native that can show them a genuine, authentic experience and not just the Harbor and Harbor East like tourists tend to do. There’s a lot of uniqueness in all of our different neighborhoods, so come with an open mind. Don’t be apprehensive based off the way we’ve been characterized in the past.”