By Sean Yoes

The organizers of the Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival have been intentional in their desire to “celebrate culture” in their beloved South Baltimore community. And once again they raise the bar beyond the typical 4th of July fare of hot dogs and fireworks as they welcome Hip Hop legend Monie Love as the musical headliner this year.

“It’s very exciting,” said Navasha Daya, the festival’s co-founder. “I’m looking forward to her show; she has a lot of heart. You know what I’m saying? Like she performs with a lot of heart,” she added. Daya, an internationally acclaimed singer in her own right should know. The artist and community activist is excited about the prospect of bringing Love, a two-time Grammy nominee to the stage at the Middle Branch Park in Cherry Hill. 

“I’m excited for the up and coming MC’s to see her, to bring that element of Old School Hip Hop, because obviously we’re honoring the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop with having her here,” Daya said. “We’re excited to present her to Baltimore. It feels good to be able to present this kind of quality and people who don’t know her get to learn about her at the festival.”

Love, the British rapper, is one of a diverse lineup of performers at this year’s festival. International Grammy award-winning Reggae artist Mykal Rose, the voice of the legendary group Black Uhuru, will also grace the stage at the Middle Branch. Others performing on July 4 include: Baltimore Club music pioneer Mighty Mark, Jazz master Carl Grubbs, Gospel group REIGN and the aforementioned Daya, among others. Syndicated radio host and actor Marcellus “The Bassman” Shepard will host the festival.

The theme of this year’s festival is, “Healing through the Arts,” which is the manifestation of a partnership between the The Black Mental Health Alliance and the Youth Resiliency Institute, an organization that advocates and uplifts young people based in Cherry Hill and founded by Daya and her husband Fanon Hill. Hill is also a co-founder of the Waterfront Festival. Other community partners sponsoring this year’s festival include: South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, Cherry Hill Community Coalition and Cherry Hill Family Congress.

“Being able to curate the stage, and as an artist I’m very excited about introducing other artists to people,” Daya said. “To be able to provide a platform for artists who are elders and to young people. We’ve got a couple of artists who are debuting at the festival. One group is debuting for the first time in their lives. It’s a vision I’ve always had, I received those kinds of opportunities as a child. So, for me…for our organization, specifically the Youth Resiliency Institute I feel really good about it,”

 added Daya.

“As Fanon says, “seven” is the end of a cycle. It’s also the seventh anniversary of Lom Nava Love, the movie and the soundtrack,” Daya said of her husband, who produced the movie that chronicles the life of Mama Shirley Foulks, one of the Matriarchs of Cherry Hill and one of the festival’s co-founders.

 “The Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival continues to be an accessible waterfront crown jewel in South Baltimore,” Foulks said. “Since its inception, Cherry Hill festival organizers have worked especially hard to ensure that the festival is free for everyone every year,” Foulks added.

“Middle Branch Park, which is the site of the annual Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival, is more than a place; it is a refuge,” said Hill. The work of the Youth Resiliency Institute and specifically the Waterfront Festival has become a reliable refuge for members of that community.

 “We lean into the wisdom of the community in order to put the festival on,” Daya said. “Of course we’re stewards obviously and it is a community led festival that is presented in a proper way. So, we’re very excited about lifting up the name of the community Cherry Hill and maintaining that name. We appreciate the family feel of the festival that we will always maintain,” she added.  

At the end of the night festival goers will be treated to a traditional 4th of July spectacle, fireworks exploding over the Patapsco River.

“We’re just very proud, I feel very proud of the community,” Daya said. “I feel very proud of the festival, I feel very proud to have this event and even to coordinate our fireworks with downtown and the city, it’s just an honor.”