Eight months after its opening, here’s an update on our Unity Hall

Amir Muhammad is a freshman at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, and a youth journalist for The CHARM Report. Here he interviews Petula Caesar.

Unity Hall is a new non-profit community-building space on Bolton Hill’s western edge, opening its doors on July 17, 2022. Creating a safe space for the people and organizations in Baltimore is important to what Unity really is and hopes to be.

Petula Caesar, as the founding executive director of Unity Hall, says she is setting the stage for what was once a headquarters for a garment workers’ union can be: a place where you can host baby showers, birthday parties or any other events you could think of; a base of operations for the people who need one; and a hub for diversity and inclusion which is something that the city of Baltimore really needs and has needed for a while.

“It is meant to be a place where people can gather and share community,” Caesar said. “Especially as the pandemic is less intense than it used to be, I think people are valuing gathering in person more.  We’re here at a time when people really want to be in the presence of others, and that’s what we do  — we provide a home.”

Caesar is building this home not just as a figurehead but by being hands-on with the community events in Unity Hall. When a community member is having issues storing items for an event, Caesar will be there to provide options and even offer Unity Hall’s employees to cater and help with the event. 

The organizations that live within Unity Hall’s walls include No Boundaries Coalition; Equality Equation; Baltimore Music Box;  CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth;  Arts Every Day and The Community Builders. There are also six artists that are in residence and coworking areas.

Unity Hall is trying to mend the bridge of safety that has been broken over so many years of consistent hurt dealt to the city we live in. It’s also a place that should inspire change, not only within Baltimore but extending to many other areas around the world. 

“It is important to me that I make sure this place continues to be welcoming and continues to be in operation,” Caesar said. “Especially for a lot of the people who are in Baltimore there isn’t really a place where they feel comfortable. For a lot of people in Baltimore, they don’t necessarily feel safe all day, every day. It’s important to me that people feel comfortable here. They feel safe here. They have a good time here. And I need to work to make sure all that continues to happen.” 

–Amir Muhammad

What you should know about Charm. . . .

Bolton Hill resident and former middle school educator Whitney Ward Birenbaum was one of a group of teachers and students who in 2013 founded CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth.  Since then the non-profit organization has produced 14 publications that feature the poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork from students across public schools in Baltimore City. She is now its executive director, based at Unity Hall.

“In addition to the magazine, we offer programming for middle and high school students both during and outside of the school day— seeking to develop, inspire, and amplify student voices,” she said. She co-founded CHARM because she saw how much her students grew—both academically and in their self-confidence—when they produced writing that made an impact on the world around them. 

The Bolton Hill Bulletin will publish contributions from CHARM authors over the coming months.