The Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival was full of excitement and activities for everyone to enjoy on the Fourth of July holiday.

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO

The 6th annual Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival at Middle Branch Park took place on July 4 from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Veterans from Cherry Hill were honored during a special ceremony at the event. 

The festival was free, family-friendly and open to the public. 

Festival-goers could enjoy live music, food trucks, exhibits, vendors, and a massive fireworks show, overlooking the Patapsco River. International Reggae Legend Sister Carol, Baltimore Club Queen TT the Artist, Baltimore Club pioneer Mighty Mark, The Legendary Ingramettes, International Soul/Jazz artist Navasha Daya and a host of local artists performed, representing a wide spectrum of sounds from soul to gospel to reggae, and beyond. 

“Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival organizers intentionally include community elders and the youth in every aspect of planning. I am encouraged as I watch the positive interaction of the performers demonstrate their craft,” said Peggy Jackson-Jobe, Cherry Hill Community Coalition board chair.

The collaboration continued to be a hallmark of the festival, and this year it included the historic Baltimore Cultural Arts Program (CAP) photo exhibition and special activities in partnership with the Billie Holiday Center for Liberation and Inheritance Baltimore Community Archives Project. South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, a lead funder of the Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival, recognized the importance and supported the festival.

“The Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival has quickly become one of the East Coast’s premier waterfront festivals,” said Youth Resiliency Institute Executive Director and Cultural Arts Organizer, Fanon Hill. “In July 2019, we hosted more than 5,000 attendees. Accessibility and community participation are cornerstones of the festival. It offers entry points for artists living in Cherry Hill to share their passions and crafts.”

The festival was launched six years and co-founded by Hill and current Cherry Hill resident, great-grandmother and playwright Mama Shirley Foulks, who also serves as co-director of Mama Shirley’s Cultural Arts & Wellness Center which is located in the Cherry Hill Town Center.

The goal was to connect and collaborate with Cherry Hill residents, who could then embrace and showcase arts and culture in their historic community. Seated along the Patapsco River, Cherry Hill residents enjoy access to water via Middle Branch Park and it’s at a perfect location for the Waterfront Festival. 

This year’s theme, “Tubman 200: A Celebration of Freedom Seekers,” celebrated the bicentennial and undying legacy of freedom seeker Harriet Tubman, who was born in the state of Maryland. The special events included activities during the festival, such as historical re-enactments, exhibits, an elders’ fashion show, the presentation of “Harriet Tubman: 200 Festival Honorees” and much more.

“As an organization that has a key focus on community transformation and revitalization in South Baltimore, we are proud to have a continuing partnership with the Youth Resiliency Institute in their mission to support children and families in the Cherry Hill community,” said South Baltimore Gateway Partnership Executive Director Brad Rogers. “The Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival is an extension of their mission.”

Cherry Hill has experienced a plethora of social and economic challenges due to deliberate residential racial segregation also known as redlining. Despite this issue, the multi-generational community has not only maintained its resiliency, but also demonstrated its ability to thrive, even in the face of the pandemic. 

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