“Art and culture are the base upon which communities heal, unite and become strong. Art and culture connect people to their past, their present and their souls, and give communities something that can never be taken away.” — Carlton Turner

“Summertime in the city” vigorously started with party after party, food, music, and a chance to enjoy the beginning of Baltimore’s summer. The “heat wave” had us “dancing in the streets” at the African American Festival and “grooving” to Uncle Charlie Wilson’s sounds. The cabanas rocked to the music, as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake surprised the crowd as she danced old school. She made a boss turn and there was 10-year-old Eric Herbert “busting loose” with the mayor, showing his impressive old school moves.

The caravans of food, artwork, music and the crowds of thousands showcased a “hot time in the city.” Spotted at the festival were Karen and Marty Brown, radio personalities Larry Young and Tim Watts, Reggie and Sharon Pinder, Stan and Rosiland Lawrence, Ivan and Denise Brown, Marsha Jews, Kim Washington, Shirley McCarthy and Valerie and Pierre Stewart. Kudos to festival event producer, Shelonda Stokes.

“The nature of celebration is freedom, and freedom is a powerful medicine. When a community is empowered through celebrating together, it creates dreams and visions that will exist into the future,” — Ashley Milburn

The July 4 party aboard the Constellation ship docked in the harbor, sponsored by the Living Classrooms, was the ultimate spot to watch the fireworks. We gathered on the top deck to watch the firing of the cannon to start the fireworks. The picnic style menu included cold fried chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and more. It was exciting meeting people from Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, New York and Chicago vacationing in Baltimore.

“You can destroy a community but not its culture. Just listen to their music, you’ll understand.” — Carlton Turner

The backyard cookout hosted by Rita and Tim Johnson at their spacious home on Benton Heights, dubbed Johnson’s Bar and BBQ Grill, lived up to the name. There was so much food on the six 8-foot tables I thought they were expecting to feed Cox’s Army (OK, I went way back); shrimp and grits, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, dirty rice, fried chicken, salads, fish and did I mention the grill with ribs, corn and more. “It’s getting hot.” DJ Gregg was the “man on fire” as we started doing our thing in the massive yard in spite of the heat. Some of the “groovy people” were Karen Waters, Lenora Pearson, Smitty, Leslie Nicolson, Marilyn Brown, Shannon Sorrell-Jones, Michael Johnson, Patrick Dorsey, Richard and Simone Hemsley and Art Peterson. “Round midnight” I danced out the yard, realizing I lived on the other side of town. “What a night to remember.”

“Sitting on the dock of the bay” at the waterfront home of Tony and Paula Hawkins on the Magothy River was a perfect way to spend a summer day. This annual event during the “lazy hazy days of summer” for family, friends and grandkids is an opportune time to relax. The rippling of the kids diving in the river as the “summer breeze” cooled us relaxing on the deck watching the sunset was a Norman Rockwell moment. Enjoying the afternoon were the Smith girls Laurie and Stephanie; Erica and Michael Cryor; Dan and Delle Henson, back from Paris, celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary; Frank and Marcia Coakley; Reggie Thomas; Cheryl Hitchcock; Aileen and Dwight Taylor and Tony and Paula’s daughter Shannon looking fantastic, recuperating from a successful medical procedure.

“Daddy’s girl” let me tell you about my dad, Ben Johnson. We went to Nationals Park to watch the Orioles’ third game against the Nationals. For two days, my father called to say the Nationals were beating the Orioles. I said “a change gonna come.” “Come Sunday” Lisa, Greg and the boys drove in from Virginia in Nationals gear, and Kevin and Angela Johnson, David and Bebe Ashford and Keith arrived in Orioles gear ready for the family showdown.

“Root, root, root for your home team.” Daddy grew comfortable surrounded by Jean, grandsons, great-grandsons and friends enjoying a win for the Nationals (he thought). After a few innings, silence. So I innocently asked, “How you doing?” His reply: “I was doing good until you showed up.” The Orioles won! I must be their mascot; they won opening day too.

Happy birthday to my grandson Matthew Packer and Nelson Mandela- celebrate!

“Only you can make this world seem right. Only you can make the darkness bright. Only you and you alone can thrill me like you do and fill my heart with love, for only you. Only you can make this change in me, for its true, you are my destiny. When you hold my hand, understand the magic that you do. You’re my dream come true my one and only you.” — The Platters

Happy anniversary to an idyllic couple, James and Gloria Bogans who walked “down the aisle” 50 years ago to a life of “love and happiness”. Trudy and Peck “you bring me joy,” watching you “so in love” enjoying the secrets and knowing glances “only you” share. Celebrate “this magic moment” knowing “the best is yet to come!”

“Crème de Crème South Beach style white affair hosted by Perfect 10 Susan Smallwood, July 23. For tickets, call Garland Perkins at 410-493-4502.

“I’ll be seeing you.” — Valerie & the Friday Night Bunch