Tracie Jiggets (left) accepts a legacy award for Arena Players at the 2022 Baltimore Crown Awards, alongside Olu Butterfly Woods (middle) and Judah (right). Photo by Adib Aka Yo With The Camera.

When Baltimore native Chin-Yer Wright founded the Baltimore Crown Awards in 2006, she simply wanted to “make the community aware of the many people doing great things around the city.”

Sixteen years later, the awards ceremony continues to recognize the achievements of Baltimore’s creative and influential figures in the arts, activism, and business.

Held last month at The Garage venue in Midtown, the 2022 Baltimore Crown Awards featured nominees for Baltimore’s best DJ, vocalist, and other categories.

Wright said she wants Baltimoreans’ achievements to be given more attention locally and nationally.

“The Baltimore Crown Awards are designed to put some light and attention on noteworthy people and projects in Baltimore while simultaneously working to re-shift the narrative,” Wright said. “The BCAs takes its place in making the word ‘Baltimore’ synonymous with all the greatness that’s here. There’s so much talent, love, unity, positivity and great community service that happens in Baltimore.”

Many of the recipients at this year’s BCAs were awarded by a peer, mentee, or someone who was inspired by their work within the same field.

Brandon Woody, one of the most sought-after musicians in the DMV, awarded his childhood band mentor Craig Alston with his Baltimore Legend Award. Alston is a Baltimore music educator, producer, and player of multiple instruments, including as the saxophonist for the soul jazz band Fertile Ground.

“Presenting Craig’s award was truly an honor,” Woody said. “This is something that felt so natural to do because of he and I’s relationship. I know him so well and vice versa. This was truly a testament of community and Black music lineage in Baltimore. I truly believe Craig was sent to me as a guardian angel.”

Woody, along with other musicians, including multi-instrumentalist Clarence Ward III, also played a tribute set before Woody presented the award to Alston.

Alston said he was overwhelmed with Woody presenting his award, stating that it nearly brought him to tears as he is “proud of him beyond any words.”

“Chin-Yer created [the BCAs] to give people their flowers while they’re here,” Alston said. “It’s definitely a ray of hope and inspiration to those of us who are in the trenches, fighting to pass the darkness that people attempt to cast on our city. I believe Baltimore has some of the most remarkable and talented people anywhere in the world. We just have to keep pushing.”

Jason Noble, also known as DJ-Sun, was the house DJ for the night and was the 2021 recipient of BCA’s DJ of the Year Award. He performed a high-energy tribute set, spinning classic records and at one point scratching records with his hands behind his back, prior to DJ Boobie receiving his Baltimore Legend Award.

Noble said that before leaving Baltimore to attend college in Philadelphia, he didn’t consider being a disc jockey a serious prospect for him. But after honing his craft and taking it on full-time, he said returning to Baltimore and receiving the award were perfect timing.

“The Crown Awards, there’s something very special about it… They bring not only so many art communities together, but all the generations,” Noble said. “So, being able to be in that room and see so many different parts of Baltimore come together and acknowledge each other, it really means a lot, and meant a lot to me, and I know the kind of impact it has on other people.”

Maryland native Kelly Blake, the founder of Los Angeles-based clothing-line Elpē, was in attendance and described the BCA as being a display of hope for many city residents.

“I think that it gave a glimpse of hope,” Blake said. “All in all, the togetherness and mutual respect for Baltimore and Baltimoreans alike was definitely felt throughout the room.”

Jaelyn Aria, a vocalist and Morgan State University graduate, was nominated for the BCAs’ Vocalist of the Year. Katyrah Love, a former “American Idol” contestant, ultimately won the award, but that did not put a dent in the impact the nomination had on Aria.

“My experience was overwhelming, but in a satisfying way… I cried a little bit,” Aria said. “For someone to feel that I was good enough to be a part of a list noting the best vocalists of the year, it was great.

Aria added that the nomination is an inspiration for her to continue practicing her craft.

“It motivated me to just work harder and come back harder,” she said. “People are speaking about me in rooms I’m not a part of, and positively. It makes me want to do even better.”

Aria said the BCAs allow Baltimore creatives to be part of a space where they can be recognized and assured that their work matters.

Wright believes the ceremony’s arms stretch farther than just its immediate impact on Baltimore.

“I honestly think the Baltimore Crown Awards are important to the world — in terms of reframing the narrative of our Baltimore to the entire world so that this city is more accurately portrayed to reflect the genius, talent, love, joy, unity that this city so beautifully exemplifies but that is so often not spoke of or addressed,” Wright said. “The sacrifices, energy, and giving of one’s self isn’t always easy but there’s something about the energy of love and affirmation that has a magical way of renewing and allowing people to continue on their path rejuvenated.”