The Baltimore Sun’s readers and staff scoured the region for the best public figures and media, from academics to visual artists.
First, you’ll find critics’ picks from The Sun’s editorial team — who we recommend and why.
The Baltimore Sun will celebrate the winners with a party at the Assembly Room on May 9. Visit baltimoresunevents.com/best for more details.
Here’s who came out on top in 2019:
Morgan State University Professor Jason Johnson is a public intellectual tailor made for today’s multiscreen media demands.
In addition to being a professor of politics and journalism in Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism & Communication, he is also an MSNBC contributor, politics editor of The Root and author of “Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell” (Westview Press, 2012).
“Being on TV and writing for The Root is just an extension of what I do in the classroom. If you can hold the attention of a group of 18-to-23-year-olds for 55 minutes, 3 minutes on TV is a snap,” Johnson says.
DeWayne Wickham, dean of the School of Global Journalism & Communication, calls Johnson “a politically astute journalist and academic who has an impressive presence in the nation's print and broadcast media.”
According to Wickham, “It is his closeness to this country's political life — and his ability to dissect it for our students — that makes Dr. Johnson such a dynamic member of our faculty.”
Sujata Massey beguiled readers in 1997 with her first Rei Shimura mystery. A dozen novels followed, and the 55-year-old Baltimore author, a former reporter for The Baltimore Evening Sun, has begun a series set in 1920s India featuring Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female attorney. The second installment, “The Satapur Moonstone” will be released in May. Publishers’ Weekly claims it’s “even better than the series’ impressive debut.”
Tammy Rivera Malphurs
Baltimore native Tammy Rivera Malphurs is the quintessential celebrity of the social media age because she does it all. She married rapper Waka Flocka Flame in 2014 and remarried him in an elaborate celebration earlier this year. She’s also a fashion designer, singer and television personality (she's a cast member of “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta”). Maybe that’s why her Instagram account @charliesangelll has swelled to 6.2 million followers.
Baltimore cinematographer John Benam has been on a roll as director of photography on the Netflix documentary series “The Keepers” and co-director of photography on “Charm City,” which will have its TV premiere April 22 on PBS. Next up: He’s directing a documentary on Hampden’s Rocket To Venus restaurant.
The self-taught designer has attracted a major celebrity following and has also had his work featured in Vogue Italia and Elle Vietnam. But the crowning jewel for the Baltimore native is competing on this season of Bravo’s “Project Runway.” The 28-year-old, who is known for his avant-garde designs and structural, geometric silhouettes, says he will continue to build his brand and connect with his customers.
When Donna Hamilton retired from WBAL in May, she left large shoes to fill. But Deborah Weiner stepped right in as co-anchor on the 6 and 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts, and the station hasn’t lost a step. Weiner has become a welcome fixture on nightly Baltimore TV.
WBAL, 3800 Hooper Ave., Woodberry. facebook.com/deborahweinerwbal
‘Truth and Reconciliation’
Taya Graham, Sean Yoes and Stephen Janis bring a powerful sense of social justice to their podcast on WYPR, and that’s why their voices matter at this time of struggle and spin in Baltimore. These are three journalists who are not cowed by City Hall.
WYPR, 2216 N. Charles St., Charles Village. 410-235-1660. wypr.org/programs/truth-and-reconciliation
No one brings more passion and a deeper sense of Maryland politics to the radio every day than WBAL’s Clarence Mitchell IV, better known on the airwaves as C4. If there is controversy at City Hall or in Annapolis, Mitchell’s show is the place in Media Baltimore where you will hear the major players talking about it the next day.
WBAL, 3800 Hooper Ave., Woodberry. 410-467-9225. wbal.com/shows/c4-show
Lynn Selby, 55, knows how to turn heads when attending parties. As president of the Baltimore chapter of The Links Inc., one of the largest service organizations of professional black women, she's accustomed to throwing high-end events that attract the likes of former presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, White House correspondent April Ryan and any black female mover and shaker in the region. And she's showing the next generation how to do the same through her etiquette classes for teens.
Watching Carl Schurr portray an elderly, dimwitted — and determined — butler named Merriman setting a table for tea last fall was a master class in comic acting.
In Everyman Theatre’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Merriman held the tablecloth in both hands, pawing the ground like a bull taking the measure of its opponent. Then he took off at full, creaky-legged tilt, gathering enough speed to hurl the fabric square over his wooden nemesis. Winded, Merriman lost his balance, landed face down on the tabletop and sent a spoon flying.
The butler lowered himself painfully to the ground, taking a full minute to reach his destination. He picked up the spoon, and — finding a speck — fogged the utensil with his breath. Not satisfied, he wiped the offending spoon on his lapel before returning it to its place on the table as the horrified tea guests watched.
Schurr, a member of Everyman’s resident company with half a century of stage experience, pulled it off without a syllable of dialogue.
“Ninety percent of that business, Carl came up with himself,” the show’s director, Joseph W. Ritsch said. “And it made an impression. People still talk to me about that scene.”
Though the Korean-born artist Eunice Park slathers her canvases with alarming reds and yellows and insistent blues, there’s nothing cheerful about them. They grab you by the shoulders and stop you in your tracks.
The 60-year-old Parkville resident was one of six finalists for the 2018 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize. Though Erick Antonio Benitez took the top award, Park’s paintings — disturbing but, above all, urgent and utterly original — are near-impossible to forget.
In one, a man’s perfectly egg-shaped head emits a cloud of steam. In another, the space between a woman’s open lips is just wide enough to contain a miniature human torso.
At times, the artist, who dropped out of art school in the 1980s and supported three children through a series of dry cleaning jobs, speaks as though her paintings were her enemies. She scrubs canvases that displease her with a bathroom brush.
In an email, she wrote: “Sharing the images makes me feel shameful, to be honest.”
That’s OK as long as Park keeps painting. Like it or not, she’s the real deal. Recently, she reluctantly yielded to her children’s arguments and set up a website with contact information where the public can view her work:
— Mary Carole McCauley, John-John Williams IV and David Zurawik
Readers’ choice winners
“Why Waiting Works” by Rob Kowalski
Chris and Lori Lockemy, Epic Church
Eddie and Sylvia Brown
Gov. Larry Hogan
Ken Pipkin, St. Joseph School - Fullerton
Unelected leadership figure
Mr. Trash Wheel
Stan Stovall, WBAL