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The Mulberry Tree
Phone: (240) 895-4795
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St. Mary's City, MD 20686

Four Entrepreneurial Alums Back Home in BALTIMORE

Cara Hergan Joyce with sons, Sean and Ryan (photo courtesy of Cara Hergan Joyce)


By Lee W. Capristo, Assistant Vice President of Publications and Media Relations

What do a pirate ship, a film production company, a magazine, and living classrooms have in common? Baltimore and a St. Mary's education.

If you don't have enough energy to keep up with Cara Hergan Joyce '92, you'll have to walk the plank!

Dubbed "the Pirate Queens of Baltimore," Cara and her business partner, Laura Bolin, own and operate Urban Pirates, a Fells Point tourist attraction onboard the pirate ship Fearless. Now in its third season, Urban Pirates has all the signs of a thriving mainstay of Baltimore tourism, and potential as a franchised business. Urban Pirates' success is a thrill to Cara, who admits, "I'm still in awe when the phone rings. It's such a fun business!"

Cara, who grew up in Linthicum, Maryland, and now lives in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore City, got the idea for a pirate ship when she went on a similar adventure ship in 2007. The call she made from that ship to her husband, Mike Joyce '92, started something like this: "Honey, I know what we're doing for the rest of our lives . . . ." Apparently, Mike had heard this before from Cara, who admits to having lots of crazy ideas.

As a student at St. Mary's, the advice she got from her psychology professor and adviser, Carol Giesen, was "Now Cara, you need to focus." Cara Pirates on assignment. author Lee Capristo with LaRita Hagar, International Educationadmits she focused more on sports at St. Mary's than academics (she played varsity soccer, swimming, and tennis, and was athlete of the year in both her junior and senior years). But, as one in an extended family of St. Mary's graduates (including her husband; sister Tricia '89 and brother Mark '90; brother-in-law Bill Matthews '90 and sister-in-law Pam Deem Hergan '90), she is grateful for her dad's advice to "gain all the knowledge and education you can, because no one can take it away from you!"

In the summer of 2007, Cara recruited two friends to join her in business. Theypitched their idea to their husbands in August, incorporated in September, and began the process of permits, fundraising, and boat-building. At each bank Cara approached, the response was the same: "You're building a pirate ship? No, you're not getting any money from us." Nonplussed, Cara persevered, making friends with the Fells Point Preservation Society, the city council, the Fells Point Business Association, the local mayor's office-whoever it took to sell the idea of Urban Pirates to Baltimore.

"Baltimore has great pirate history and Fells Point is at the heart of that history," says Cara. "Privateer pirate ships were built right here in Fells Point. Even The Pride of Baltimore was a privateer boat! It was called The Chaucer and it defeated the British in the War of 1812 and when it came back to port it was dubbed The Pride of Baltimore." Her knowledge of pirate history in Baltimore and Fells Point helped turn skeptics like the Fells Point Preservation Society into supporters of her pirate plan. The Ann Street dock where Fearless moors is a block away from the John Stevens Pub, a busy Fells Point business that often lodged and fed pirates back in the day. Funny, during the fall of 2007, the John Stevens Pub fed and practically lodged Cara too, as she squirreled away in a corner with her laptop, using the restaurant as a makeshift office to get Urban Pirates off the ground.

Besides getting at least a dozen permits in place before going to the City of Baltimore for approval, there were other matters uniquely challenging to starting a pirate ship business. Where do you buy a pirate ship? How do you get it certified by the Coast Guard? Cara and her husband spent several months traveling the Eastern seaboard in search of the perfect boat. Dave Mason provided the answer and a handshake sealed the deal. His Crisfield, Maryland, company, Chesapeake Boats, had built the Duckaneer pirate ship in Ocean City, and he offered Coast Guard certification as part of the purchase price.

Fearless in Baltimore's Inner HarborIn order to have a pirate ship by Privateer Day in April 2008, Cara and her sole Urban Pirates employee, Adam Sahhar, spent about three months in Crisfield helping the boat builders paint the boat, and install the ratlins, spars, crow'snests, and cannons. Being a trained actor with a background in computer programming, Sahar had the uncanny combination of skills Cara needed for Urban Pirates. Onboard the ship he plays the lead pirate, Peppercorn, making pirate history come alive through the songs, tales, and treasure that he and the rest of the pirates share. Shore-side, Sahhar does the web site for Urban Pirates.

"We opened in April 2008 with only one side of the boat painted and no money at all," says Cara. "We begged people to come on the ship, and we made our kids come just to fill up the boat. Even our husbands were part of the crew." Their enthusiasm was contagious and their knowledge of pirate lore in Baltimore impressive; they got through that first season barely breaking even but having a ball. Adam Sahhar as Peppercorn aboard Fearless

You can now find the Pirate Queens of Baltimore just about everywhere, talking up the greatest new way to see Baltimore's Inner Harbor. They've been featured on MSNBC's "Your Business" with J.J. Ramberg, Maryland Public Television, and local cable and TV news spots. Urban Pirates offers pirate story-time aboard ship, pirate weddings, corporate teambuilding gigs, and adult-only "bring your own grog" cruises. The ship is also a popular field trip destination for school groups.

Cara runs Urban Pirates in addition to the other three jobs. She has a master's degree in education from Loyola University and teaches special education in Anne Arundel County high schools. She's also a tennis coach at a local club and runs her own specialty florist company, C.H. Joyce Designs. But she says her most important job is raising her two sons, Sean, age 6, and Ryan, age 3.

Coming aboard Fearless means taking on the mantle of a pirate. Everyone participates. Costumes, face painting, tattoos, are all part of the experience and no one is exempt. Go ahead; jump in and find your inner pirate. AARRGH ! (Start by visiting 

Brian Morrison '04

A Thumping Case of Cinematic Deftness

By Flora Lethbridge-Çejku ’12, Publications and Media Relations Fellow

“Follow your dream now, and live with no regrets.” That’s the way Brian Morrison ’04 has been living ever since his mother gave him that advice six years ago.

In 2000, Brian transferred to St. Mary's,liking the fit of a liberal arts college and its proximity to his home in the Baltimore area. He had no clue what he wanted to study and finally settled on a major in economics. But by senior year he realized economics might not be what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

In the spring of his senior year, Brian was two credits short for graduation so he approached theater professor Joanne Klein about doing an independent study in film to fill the gap. "The film he made, entirely on his own, showed his impressive ability to use film rhetoric to communicate tone, ideas, and hilarity," Professor Klein told me. "I continue to admire his films for their skillful use of cinematography and editing. He's got a thumping case of cinematic deftness."

After completing his independent study project, Brian realized what he wanted to do after graduation. "Movies have always been something I could talk about, every minute of every day, and I wouldn't get tired of it," he says. "I thought, if I can make money at this, that would be the ultimate dream." After graduation, he interned with a Baltimore production company that made local television shows and car commercials, and gained valuable experience. "I didn't have many bosses, so I got to experiment with editing and graphics; it helped me learn a lot of the technology." He jumped around between local production companies until he became an editor and graphic designer for Cerebral Lounge, a production and post-production company in Baltimore, where he had the opportunity to work for bigger companies such as the Discovery Channel. Brian soon realized, though, that he was not really doing what he wanted. "They wanted me to become more of a New Age tech geek, and it wasn't really engaging for me," he says. "I needed to have a strong, creative role."

And so Brian went off on his own to do work that would reflect his creative sense and bring attention to him as a filmmaker. With his wood-paneled bedroom as inspiration, he created "The Wood Room," a film-directing, production, and post-production company. Brian admits working on his own is a struggle, "There's a high demand for jobs [in film] but there's not enough money. You just have to keep your head above water. . . . And you have to be as self-sustaining as possible to retain the ability to be creative in your work."

From the song Brian always has a distinct vision in his head as a writer and a director but getting that on film is difficult. "Film is an organic thing, it's made up of so many different elements, and it evolves as you go along. It's a series of letdowns, compromises, and disappointments, a challenge of getting what you want, and you just have to roll with it." It is hard for him to sit back and enjoy what he has done because it is hard to see it objectively. "I am just now looking at some of the videos I did at St. Mary's with an objective eye. . . . It's painful in a lot of ways. It's physically demanding and emotionally taxing."

As he becomes more proficient in his field, working with film in a variety of ways ranging from music videos to feature-length films, Brian wants to make sure he does not get stuck doing one type of film. "I don't like style, and I don't think I have a style. I don't think you need to have a certain way of doing things. "

At a disadvantage because he did not go to film school, Brian has attempted to catch up to his colleagues who are film school graduates by building a network of film professionals. He recently collaborated with cameraman John Cooper who has worked for CBS, BBC, and Discovery 3. With the help of Cooper and his high quality REDONE camera, Brian produced music videos that normally require a $25,000 budget for about $2,000. “It’s important to find people who have the same sensibilities and are willing to sacrifice money and time to produce content that rivals productions that cost infinitely more.”

Brian’s philosophy is beginning to pay off. Last December, The Baltimore Sun did a feature on his career as a local filmmaker. As a result, he has two new music videos coming up for production featuring national recording artists that will be aired across the MTV networks this summer. “With these next two projects, I have to go beyond what I’ve done previously. It’s important to get better with each one.”From the short film

Though Brian is still writing screenplays and scripts which he is hoping someone will pick up and put into production, he sees music videos as a more direct path to success as a filmmaker. “A music video is great because the band can take From the song “Coquette” by Lazerbitch, filmed in Baltimore possession of it and you can focus more on the work itself. I think there is a clearer path of progress; if you work with a little bit bigger band with a little bit bigger audience, you’re going to get seen a little bit more.”

Brian makes it clear that no matter how successful he becomes, Baltimore is where he wants to stay. “I really have faith in Baltimore, I think it’s such a great place for art. As far as films go, I think there’s a lot out there that Baltimore has to offer,” Brian explains, “I don’t want to be one of those guys that makes it and goes to New York or L.A. and never comes back.”

“I’m doing exactly what I want to do and some people can’t say that. I feel complete freedom; I just hope I can keep moving forward.” See Brian’s videos and upcoming projects at

Horne at the Living Classrooms Foundation campus in East Harbor, Baltimore.

When Success Becomes the Expectation

By Lee W. Capristo, Assistant Vice President of Publications and Media Relations

It was meant to be, what Talib Horne does for a living. He may not have realized it until he was 22 years old, but it was settled for him by the time he was 11.

Talib Horne '93 was born in 1971 to parents who were leaders in the Black Panther Movement's Philadelphia operations. Leaders in the Black Panther Party stayed at their house when they came to town for meetings.

By 1978, Talib's parents had separated, and his mother had taken a job as a missionary for the National Baptist Convention. She became principal of an elementary and middle school in Liberia, Africa. For two years, she and Talib lived in the bush, 50 miles from Monrovia, with no water or electricity. Like any other child in the village, Talib attended his mother's school, hauled water from a community well, boiled it for drinking, and bathed in it in a bucket in the yard. He missed TV and his friends from Philadelphia but made new friends in Liberia. "I knew Horne with his mother in Swazilandwhat my Mom was doing was important," Talib recalls.

These two years were followed by another two in Swaziland, where his mother ran another school. During breaks, Talib and his mother traveled to Egypt and Israel, and Talib came back to the U.S. to visit his dad and grandparents.

They returned to the States when Talib was 11, just as he was entering fifth grade. His classmates didn't know what to make of him: he spoke with an accent, his name was unusual; they teased him and asked him if he was American or African. Talib stayed in Philadelphia until high school, when his mother took a job that moved them to Baltimore. He graduated with honors from Baltimore City College High School, enjoying "the positive peer pressure I got by surrounding myself with successful friends. When you do that," he explains, "success becomes the expectation."

Talib Horne with his mother, Sandi McFaddenTalib came to St. Mary's knowing he wanted to study abroad at Oxford. He double-majored in political science and economics, played soccer and tennis, joined the Judicial Board, the Student Government Association, and led the Black Student Union. He and his roommates in Boone 4 (Rob Johnson, Spencer Wilder, and Quentin Hillsman) took it upon themselves to welcome fellow Baltimore minorities to campus. The friendships they made this way have lasted all these years. Talib set his sights on law school after graduation. To pay for the summer in Oxford, he and his mother asked neighborhood churches and businesses for assistance. The summer at Oxford "changed my life," he says. "It showed me what possibilities exist when you put your mind to achieving them."

Then, a setback that changed Talib's future: he wasn't accepted into law school. "That hurt," he remembers, "but it forced me to look at something else." He returned to Baltimore and looked for work in urban community development. He landed his first job with Ombudsman Education Services, a for-profit educational firm running several schools in Baltimore. He rose quickly in the organization, becoming director of all their schools in Baltimore by the time he was 23. "My mother always told me, ‘Use your talents and skills to help others' and it was around this time that I began to understand that this was going to be my career."

Next came a job with the Empowerment Zone where Talib worked as a community organizer and youth advocate in the streets of Baltimore's largest public housing area. In 2000, he began an executive master's program in community development. His thesis project became his future. He created the nonprofit East Harbor Development Corporation and ran it as the CEO for five years, under a subsidiary license to the East Harbor Village Center. His nonprofit offered volunteer income tax assistance, free financial advising and home ownership counseling, language services for Latinos, and building rehabilitation in the Spanish Town section of Baltimore's East Side.

The chairman of the board for Talib's East Harbor Development Corporation was James Piper Bond, the CEO of Living Classrooms Foundation (LCF). Bond persuaded Talib to come work for LCF. Talib recognized that with LCF resources, solving urban issues and investing in community development could happen much faster. And so, in 2007, he stepped down as CEO of his nonprofit and became director of development at Living Classrooms Foundation.

As director of development, Talib heads up the Target Investment Zone (TIZ) effort for Baltimore's Eastside. The TIZ is a 10-year effort to improve the education, career prospects, and self-sufficiency of Baltimore's Eastside residents. Talib has helped to raise $26 million for the effort thus far. Within the TIZ, Living Classrooms Foundation works with 13 public schools and runs its own middle school. A new $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation and several Baltimore churches provides children living in the TIZ with free after-school and Saturday programs at the LCF's Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum in Fells Point.

The Crossroads School PledgeThere are two community hubs in the TIZ, both in rehabilitated buildings. The first, made possible by a $1.5 million gift from NBA star and native Baltimorean, Carmelo Anthony, is in a former Boys and Girls Club facility. The Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center serves 200students a day and offers community programs and services. The Safe Streets office is in a converted row house, and is used for GED and job-training programs, conflict resolution, and health and family services. Since Safe Streets opened in 2009, shootings in the neighborhood have been reduced by 70 percent. Physical upkeep of the TIZ is aided by ex-offenders re-entering society through LCF's Project SERVE program.

In describing the yawing needs within the Target Investment Zone and Living Classroom Foundation's efforts to break the cycle of poverty, Talib shares his dream that everyone will achieve success and be self-sustaining by age 21. "We need to reach kids sooner than we currently are: by the sixth grade, these kids are three years behind kids in other parts of Baltimore. It costs too much to catch them up; it's not a sustainable model." He adds, "if you can develop kids from ages 0-14 they don't often fall back down; they stay successful and it becomes the expectation. That's what keeps me coming to work every day."

Keisha Reynolds on a safari in Tanzania

Keisha Keeps it Real

By Lee W. Capristo, Assistant Vice President of Publications and Media Relations

"People who know me now find it hard to believe, but I was sort of shy when I came to St. Mary's," says Keisha Reynolds '96.

She credits the size of the college as an advantage that helped her to be engaged in a variety of activities, including being a reporter for The Point News and being active in the Black Student Union (BSU). In fact, she explains that the BSU President Talib Horne '93 and his Boone 4 townhouse mates (Rob Johnson, Spencer Wilder, and Quentin Hillsman) reached out to her and other first-year minority students to make them feel welcome at St. Mary's. "I'm still close to Talib and the Boone 4 guys," says Keisha, "and I'm still close to the girls that embraced me in friendship during my first year. That's what's so special about St. Mary's, that I developed friendships that have lasted all these years."

Reynolds with children of the Tanzanian orphanageKeisha also found a friend for life in Helen Thompson '80, the periodicals technician she worked for as a student. "We would get into very deep discussions over the periodicals we were checking in to the library," Keisha recalls fondly. "Helen gave me all kinds of life advice." In her junior year, when there was no one to chair the spring formal (a dance sponsored by the BSU), Keisha wondered if she might be able to do it. Helen told her emphatically, "Keisha, you can do anything you want to do!" With newfound confidence, she chaired the dance, turning it into a campus-wide, mustattend event, selling 700 tickets to an event that had previously attracted fewer than 200. That spring dance was Keisha's coming out party: she's been confident and running full speed ever since.

Born in Baltimore City, Keisha grew up with one older brother. When they were in their early teens, their parents expanded the family by adopting two boys and opening their home to dozens of foster-children. In the same spirit, a high-school aged Keisha began volunteering with children at Agapé House in Southwest Baltimore, where drug-addicted, homeless, or abused families can find safe harbor. She still volunteers there today.

Keisha is a writer and a storyteller. She's creative and prefers to be hands-on in her work. She's also very ambitious: Keisha dreams of creating a mini media empire (magazine, TV, book, publishing company) and she is working on making that dream come true. She's launched her own magazine, produced TV tie-ins to that magazine, and written two books already. Keisha is still in her 30's.

How'd she get so far so fast? Her first job after graduation was with the Maryland Mass Transit Administration doing public and media relations. She quickly became the go-to person for speechwriting and events planning. She finished a master's degree at Towson University in professional writing-mass media in 2000. She worked in a paid position at Agapé House for a year, and then joined the Columbia Association in 2002, a quasi-government entity uniting the 10 villages of Columbia, Maryland. Under the mentorship of the association's president, Maggie Brown, Keisha built its communications department from the ground up, defining the work processes, hiring and training the staff. Brown nominated her for the Howard County Leadership Program which she completed in 2004.

Keisha joined Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH ) in 2004 and still works there today, as a communications consultant to government agencies in the defense industry. As such, Keisha helps the agency with communication needs assessments and strategic planning. Occasionally, she gets to develop newsletters and plan events as an outcome of the needs assessments. "I sometimes miss the hands-on, creative work I had when I was starting out at the Mass Transit Administration," she says, "but I appreciate that what I have developed over the years is a complete communications skill set."

Wanting to fill the creative void in her work life, Keisha set up a company in 2007 and launched her own magazine, Everyday People, in 2008. "I saw the need when I looked at magazines in the racks that were all about stars and their pets, stars and their favorite foods, stars and their Magazine coverfavorite vacation spots, and I thought, ‘We need more substance!'" "I knew from working at Agapé House that there were many amazing stories right in our own community that needed to be told." She approached friends about joining her in the effort to produce a free, quarterly magazine, primarily for and about Baltimore, but with distribution and reach into other parts of Maryland and metropolitan Virginia and D.C. They joined her every Sunday for two years, volunteering their time to produce Everyday People, paid for entirely by advertising and personal funds.

The nation's economic downturn brought an end to the magazine in early 2009, when advertising dollars no longer covered production expenses. "It's on hiatus," says Keisha, who plans to bring it back. "The support for it was tremendous. I had letters from people as far away as Chicago and New York, sending me ideas for stories." She's not disheartened by its hiatus. Last summer, she started working on an Everyday People for TV, producing cable-ready segments that she'll have ready for distribution this summer. Perhaps, the attention from the cable segments will reinvigorate the magazine.

Keisha's also written two children's books for which she's currently pursuing publishing opportunities. "I fell in love with writing for children when I took Lucille Clifton's class on it," she admits. Her first book is for young children, written in rhyme; the other is for ‘Tweens and is about rehabilitating chimpanzees. She got the idea for this second book in 2000, when she joined Professor Bill Roberts' study tour to the Gambia, West Africa. They visited Baboon Island, where mistreated and orphaned chimpanzees are rehabilitated and taught how to be independent. That experience led Keisha to Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees. It was through this love of chimpanzees and Goodall's work that Keisha learned of the Roots & Shoots internship program and decided to apply.

Reynolds (far right) and interns with Jane goodall in TanzaniaWanting to check out of the rat race for a while; to develop herself in a new way; and give of herself to others, Keisha took six months' unpaid leave from BAH in October 2009 to intern at the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Tanzania, East Africa. There she volunteered in a children's orphanage; started a community garden with microfinancing opportunities for community members; and, because of her communications skills, was asked to work with JGI-Tanzania to improve communications. She conducted a needs assessment, interviewed staff, reported her findings, and made suggestions based on strategic planning for the organization. Goodall herself was visiting the compound when the report was delivered; took interest in it and its author; called Keisha into several meetings; and implemented some of Keisha's recommendations on the spot.

What's next? Keisha is back to work for BAH , and hopes to transfer eventually to their international communications department. On the side, she is busy with Everyday People TV, looking for ways to publish her two children's books, and applying to Howard University's Ph.D. program in intercultural communications.