I’ve been a photographer for almost four years – I got my first camera in 2013, and my grandmother helped me to buy it. So much has happened in the space of these past few years – and now to be able to share my vision of my Baltimore community in photos with A Beautiful Ghetto – both through my exhibition at The Gordon Parks Foundation in New York, and through my first book – means so much to me.

I was honored to be recognized for my photography and to be named one of the first Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship recipients. Gordon Parks was the first black photographer that I knew of, and when I started diving through the archives of work, I said I wanted to be that guy! His legacy has had a transformational impact on me and the way I document my surroundings.

With “A Beautiful Ghetto,” I wanted to change the way people look at my community, the way people look at the ghetto. When you think about the word ghetto it’s always a negative perception, but I like to think of the beautiful elements – the beautiful people that go through the ghetto and go on to do amazing things. I want people to respect and love it. Also, with this project, I wanted to make sure the story of Freddie Gray and Baltimore could go further. I wanted to tell the full story. I wanted to take images to create a conversation.

I’m excited that with the support of the foundation, I was able to launch, Through Their Eyes, an arts collaborative showcase that partners with students in Baltimore City schools to learn the skills of photography and display their images in art exhibitions. The program puts cameras in the hands of local youth in underfunded schools. I can’t work or mentor everybody but I do my best to inspire them to chase their dreams. This grant will allow me to purchase more cameras and work with and inspire more kids here in Baltimore City. This is the most important thing I can do.