Finding a home among the best Livability: Bonus points for charm, makeup and location put Baltimore among Essence magazine's Top 10 places for black families.

May 19, 1998|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

We made the list!

What list? The Essence magazine list of the Top 10 cities for black families. Sure, there are just as many lists as there are lifestyle magazines, and maybe the ranking won't change life in our little jewel along the Patapsco, yet being No. 6 is worth putting into the "feel good" file.

Essence based its report on universal concerns such as median housing costs, unemployment rate, violent crime, school enrollment and median household income for blacks.

Health care per capita -- as rated by the number of physicians, specialists and hospitals -- also became part of the equation. Researchers started with 75 places, then narrowed the list to the top 20.

After crunching the numbers, Essence rated Charlotte, N.C., first; Washington, D.C., second; and Detroit, third.

The survey also gave extra points to cities with large percentages of black residents, which worked out well for Detroit, Washington and Baltimore.

Our hometown also scored points for its "small-town Southern living" and proximity to the big cities -- Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.

Carla D. Hayden, director of the Pratt Library, agrees that Baltimore has a welcoming, small-town feel. "People reach out and embrace you and make you feel a part of things, and that's especially important when you're new and single," she says.

It seems that a livable city needs more than just Hollywood star power, bright lights and "inside-the-beltway" intrigue. Essence mentions Baltimore's Great Blacks in Wax Museum, which pulled in 150,000 visitors last year, the thriving black middle class and the city's rich black history.

In the years before the Civil War, 25,000 free blacks lived in Baltimore, more than in any other city. Frederick Douglass made his escape to freedom from Baltimore. Thurgood Marshall lived here, as did Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. The Royal Theater and Pennsylvania Avenue rivaled New York's famous Apollo Theater and the night life along 125th Street.

Now, the die-hard Baltimoreans who suffer from a lingering sense of municipal inferiority may well point to other lists that did not give the city high rankings. Last September, Ebony magazine wrote about the best places for blacks and came up with the usual suspects: Atlanta, Washington, Chicago and New York. No Baltimore. That's according to the magazine's 1997 list of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans.

At Money magazine, Baltimore fell smack in the middle of the 300 best metropolitan areas to live. The city came in at No. 156, just above Amarillo, Texas, and Atlanta, and a tad below New York City, Anchorage and Reno, Nev.

Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine cited a U-Haul migration survey that showed Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Chicago as having the highest number of people moving in. Fredericksburg, Va., has the highest percentage moving in as opposed to those leaving town.

That's all well and good, but we're going to put our attention on the list that gives us something to cheer about, even with the O's in a slump and the racing crowd still in a funk over the blackout at Pimlico.

"I've always felt that Baltimore was a wonderful place to live and work and I'm very pleased to know that a national publication feels the same," says State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy. "To me, the major negatives are crime and education. And we're working every day to try and get a handle on that."

Essence's Top 10

1. Charlotte, N.C.

2. Washington, D.C.

3. Detroit

4. Philadelphia

5. Cleveland, Ohio

6. Baltimore

7. Memphis NTC 8. Chicago

9. Rochester, N.Y.

10. San Francisco

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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