On a day that could have been gloomy, since the sun only peeped out occasionally, the Towson Courts Patriot Plaza became the heart of the city at the 15th Annual Baltimore County African-American Cultural Festival. Main Stage, Pennsylvania Stage and Chesapeake Stage – each of the areas differentiated in the messages they were trying to deliver, all had something equally intriguing to offer, focusing on the historical, cultural and entertainment aspects of the African-American community.
The Emmart-Pierpont Safe House Exhibit was a testimony to the great strides the Black community has made since abolition. Station masters Shirley and Jeff Supik were eager to share the rich history of this Underground Railroad safe house, over 200 years old and still standing in Rockdale, Md. When freedom seekers came to the safe house, one artifact provided reassurance that they had reached a safe haven, but only for one day and one night. “Now the one thing that makes this house very special is that this house has its own symbol. When the freedom seekers came through they lifted the basement door, reached down in between the rocks and felt for this brick. Once they had felt this brick they knew they had reached a safe haven,” said Judy Supik. The brick symbolizes God, outstretched arms of hope and continuity, factors that are steadfast in the Black community.
Mainstage was designated for vocal entertainment, where the smooth Neo-Soul sounds of Anthony David, Art Sherrod and Trina Broussard could be heard throughout the entire plaza. Festival attendees of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed the music that had rich roots in the sounds of jazz, gospel and blues. Carissa Matthews, a festival attendee, wife and mother of two commented on the significance of the festival. “I think the lets African Americans know more about their past and their history. We can come out and support each other, and have a good time and a safe time,” said Matthews.
There were a number of vendors at the festival, who were selling items such as artwork, food, minerals, oils and handcrafted jewelry. Dr. Elaine Marshall, a routine festival attendee and owner of El Sauna’s Jewelry Box, said happily, “It gives us a chance to pull together as a culture and show our younger generation that we can do business and be successful; we learn a lot about our history through the exhibits.” The festival was a learning experience for many youth and young families in the Baltimore county community who varied in age and background.
Buhdze, an establishment owned by Fran Ngong, highlighted the importance of natural ingredients in home beauty aids. She sells homemade soaps, hair products and oils. “It is a tribute to our culture because a lot of a our grandparents made homemade soaps to use within our families, so I bring that into our modern day time. I make it a little more contemporary by adding all natural perfumes, and I make it available to our people every day.”