Baltimore News: Judith Scott, LGBTQ+ Protection in Baltimore, Fourth of July Festivities

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This week’s news includes: AVAM announces solo exhibition of Judith Scott, a prolific, deaf artist with Down Syndrome, all the Fourth of July Fireworks and Festivities in Baltimore, the Cherry Hill Festival returns, Ghost Signs, Toki Ramen Billboards Challenge the Crabcake, the BMA acquires LaToya Ruby Frazier’s More Than Conquerors, Mayor Brandon Scott signs new LGBtQIA+ Protections at Pride, LGBTQIA+ Hip Hop, Afrofuturism with Myrtis and Terri Lee Freeman, Vee Vee Majesty’s Storytime, and more reporting from Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Banner, Baltimore Magazine, and other local and independent news sources.

Header Image:“Baba” By Judith Scott. Photo by Dan Meyers.


Judith Scott

American Visionary Art Museum Announces New Solo Exhibition, The Secret Within: The Art of Judith Scott
Press Release :: June 26

The American Visionary Art Museum debuts its latest solo exhibition—The Secret Within: The Art of Judith Scott—on Sunday, July 2, 2023. The exhibition, which will be located on the 3rd floor of the Zanvyl A. Krieger Main Building, explores the work of Judith Ann Scott (’43-’05) who—despite enduring institutionalization for most of her life because of being deaf as well as having Down Syndrome—grew to articulate her personal narrative through creating intricate, cocoon-like sculptures. In this intimate showcase, we honor Scott’s resilience, creative spirit, and her transformative influence on the world of visionary art.

“Judith Scott’s artistic creations captivate and engage on multiple levels,” says Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield. “Her work serves as a powerful reminder that every person, regardless of their personal challenges, offers a unique contribution to humanity.”

The Secret Within: The Art of Judith Scott will touch upon a variety of themes that focus on both her physical work and her process while also sharing anecdotes from throughout her life. The exhibition will feature 14 to 18 of Judith’s works spanning her lifetime as an artist at Creative Growth Center. These works consist of both her 3-D fiber art sculptures and earlier examples of her 2-D drawings and paintings. More than a retrospective, this exhibition offers insight into Scott’s process, the materials she used, and how her story is a shining example of the art of embracing life.

The exhibition focuses on liberation of self as a vessel for transformation. As one dives deeper into Judith’s world, they will hear from the voices in her life who knew her the best. Anecdotes from the likes of Joyce Scott, Judith Scott’s twin sister, and Tom di Maria, Director at Creative Growth Center, will provide visitors personal perspectives while also serving as retrospective contemplations of Judith’s resiliency of spirit, which empowered transformation and evolution in herself and her art.

In addition to expanding on personal narratives of Judith’s life, the exhibition will explore accessibility in the arts for persons with disabilities, driven with informative contemporary resources from organizations that serve artists with developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities.

Whitfield continues, “Judith’s intricate circular weavings unveil the often overlooked rhythm of life akin to the beating of our hearts. Her mesmerizing forms spin in a wild and beautifully repetitive fashion which, in Judith’s case, was a form of communicating with the world. We take pride in presenting our audiences with the unexpected, the unintended, and the unpretentious genius found within our collection.”

To read Judith Scott’s artist biography, click here.
To learn more about the work of Creative Growth Art Center, visit



Baltimore based rapper Dapper Dan Midas poses in Station North in Baltimore on June 7, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

LGBTQ artists in Baltimore challenge hip-hop’s straight, masculine perspective
by John-John Williams IV
Published June 23 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Dressed in an ombre caped shirt, neon yellow fishnet shorts and an LED mask, Emmanuel Williams — who goes by DDm, or Dapper Dan Midas — captivated the audience of nearly a thousand people at Baltimore Soundstage.

Gusts of air reminiscent of a Beyoncé wind tunnel made his garment float behind him. His backup dancers bounced and popped as they shook their metallic pom-poms.

As he launched into a rap over a sample of Rick James’ “Super Freak,” the crowd went wild, with those gathered hanging on his every word.

Black hip-hop artists are part of the LGBTQ community and act as a bridge between both. With nods to the past while remaining ahead of the curve, these entertainers are constantly exciting, entertaining and cutting edge.

When DJ Kotic Couture is spinning, she’s paying homage to Baltimore club music as well as breaking down barriers as a trans woman. And when the statuesque Aave Blue is not turning heads performing drag, he’s whipping up mixes of Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson and GloRilla.



Terri Lee Freeman, Executive Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Musuem and Myrtis Bedolla, Curator of "Afro Futurist Manifesto: Blackness Reimagined."

A look into the future: Afrofuturism at the Lewis Museum
by Tom Hall, Teria Rogers, Sam Bermas-Dawes, Malarie Pinkard-Pierre
Aired June 19 on WYPR’s Midday

Excerpt: On this Juneteenth edition of Midday, we also take a look at the future of Black culture and history. Tom’s guests are Terri Lee Freeman, the director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of MD African American History and Culture, and Myrtis Bedolla, the owner of Galerie Myrtis here in Baltimore. Myrtis has curated an exhibition at the Lewis Museum focused on Afro Futurism. Presented in conjunction with the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University, it’s called “Afro-Futurist Manifesto: Blackness Reimagined” and is at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum until September 5. Terri Lee and Myrtis joined Tom in studio.

The special slate of Juneteenth events at the Lewis continues until 4:00 this afternoon. Admission to the museum today is free.



Mayor Scott Signs Historic Bill To Expand Protections for LGBTQIA+ Community at City’s Annual PRIDE Parade
Press Release :: June 24

Today, Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, LGBTQ Affairs Director Londyn Smith de Richelieu and City Officials came together at the city’s annual PRIDE parade for a bill signing that expands protections for Baltimore’s LGBTQIA+ community.

The bill, titled Unlawful Practices – Discrimination Based on Characteristics or Status, solidifies the City of Baltimore’s commitment to protecting and upholding the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and building a more inclusive and equitable city for all residents.

“We believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “In a time when states and communities across the country are taking the regressive steps to eliminate protections, the City of Baltimore is taking the opposite approach and expanding them. Our city is dedicated to creating a space where LGBTQIA+ individuals are embraced, respected, and afforded the same rights and opportunities that everyone deserves.”

With the assistance from LGBTQ Affairs Director Londyn Smith de Richelieu, Councilman Kristerfer Burnett introduced the bill during a City Council hearing that protects against discrimination to an individual regardless of the individual’s HIV or AIDS status, other characteristics or status, or association with individuals with a particular characteristic or status. The bill also prohibits the willful and repeated use of the incorrect name or pronouns of an individual after clearly being informed of an individual’s correct name and pronouns in employment, public accommodation, education, health and welfare agency, and housing settings.

“This is an essential piece of legislation that establishes certain legal protections on the individual rights of our LGBTQIA++ community members & other protected classes such as HIV/AIDS status. The LGBTQIA+ community faces an alarming amount of discrimination in many areas, including housing, employment, healthcare facilities, and even public accommodations such as restrooms,” said Councilman Kristerfer Burnett. “This discrimination has devastating impacts on their lives and wellbeing, leading to job loss, homelessness, and even violence. This bill establishes additional protections to combat discrimination and ensure that LGBTQIA+ individuals have the same legal rights and protections as everyone else across our city.”

The LGBTQIA+ community has long faced discrimination, marginalization, and denial of basic human rights. Under the Scott Administration, the first ever Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs was created and led by Director Londyn Smith de Richelieu to eliminate discrimination and create a more inclusive environment by embracing differences and forging a more equitable and compassionate workplace.

In a powerful display of commitment to equality, Mayor Scott officially signed this latest bill amidst the vibrant celebrations of love, acceptance, and inclusivity that define PRIDE.

“We have taken progressive strides to eliminate barriers and promote equality for everyone,” said LGBTQ Affairs Director Londyn Smith de Richelieu. “Discrimination, in any shape or form, has no place in our society, or in our city. It undermines the principles of fairness, justice and human rights that are the foundation of a harmonious and progressive society. I appreciate Mayor Scott for recognizing the imperative need to protect and promote equality for all individuals, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other characteristic or status.”

The bill signing at the PRIDE Parade served as a powerful symbol of hope and progress, not only for the City of Baltimore, but also for communities nationwide. It underscores Baltimore’s position as a beacon of acceptance and a leader in the fight for LGBTQIA+ equality.



Vee Vee smiles as she puts on her accessories before her performance of Drag Story Hour at the Made with PRIDE Maker Market at Open Works on June 10, 2023. (Marie Machin/The Baltimore Banner)

For a Latina drag queen, story time is a way to share her culture and authentic self
by Marie Machin
Published June 26 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Vee Vee Majesty, a professional drag queen, arrives at Open Works on Greenmount Avenue for her 10:30 a.m. Drag Story Hour performance. The story hour is part of the Made with PRIDE Maker Market that Open Works is hosting in honor of Pride Month. This is her third story hour for kids, events that have brought her back to why she loves drag in the first place: making safe spaces and building community. Vee Vee has embraced her culture, her queerness and her religion through drag.

Vee Vee is adamant there is a difference between a drag story hour for children and a full-on drag show for adults, referencing the anger surrounding events that have led to protests, such as one at the Church on The Square in Canton in January.

“I’m an adult; I know context. … I can be a sexy diva at night and then during the day be a family-friendly fairy princess goddess. Both can be true, both can exist,” said Vee Vee, whose legal name is William Magaña. (Vee Vee uses she/her pronouns in drag, and they/them pronouns out of drag.)



Mayor Scott Announces 4th of July Fireworks and Activities at the Inner Harbor
Press Release :: June 26

Mayor Brandon M. Scott proudly announces that the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), and Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore (WPB) are teaming up again to light the night sky over the Inner Harbor this 4th of July. The celebration takes place Tuesday, July 4, 2023, from 3:00–10:00 p.m. and features an afternoon of family-friendly activities culminating in fireworks set to the sounds of the BSO.

“Our annual Fourth of July celebration at the Inner Harbor is a highlight of the summer for the entire city, and I invite all Baltimoreans to come down to the Waterfront Promenade to enjoy the family-friendly fun. This event showcases the best of Baltimore, where we can come together as a community to enjoy each other and some of the best food and entertainment the City has to offer,” says Mayor Scott. “I want to thank all of the organizations from across the city who help make this landmark summer event possible.”

Following last year’s successful return of the 4th of July fireworks to Baltimore, BOPA, BSO, and WPB will collaborate again to produce a magical evening of programming spanning the Waterfront Promenade from Harborplace to Rash Field. Also joining the festivities is the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Arts Museum (AVAM), and media partner WJZ.

“The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is proud to collaborate with our esteemed partners once again to deliver a magical evening that will captivate the hearts and imaginations of all attendees,” says Todd Yuhanick, Interim CEO of BOPA. “Our goal is to create an unforgettable experience, weaving together the beauty of our iconic Inner Harbor, the melodies of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the awe-inspiring display of fireworks. We invite you to join us in celebrating our city’s vibrant spirit and the power of unity.”

Laurie Schwartz, President of WPB, emphasizes, “We are excited to once again see the Promenade filled from Fells Point to Rash Field with the return of the fireworks over the Harbor and a fun-filled daylong experience for Baltimoreans downtown. The Waterfront Partnership is working alongside BOPA, the Mayor’s office and other downtown organizations, to bring entertainment for the whole family to the waterfront and to celebrate what makes Baltimore so special.”

The event kicks off at 3:00 p.m. with food, fun activities, and a DJ at the Red, White and Blue Picnic at West Shore Park. US Coast Guard Dixieland, DJ MyTy, and Soul Centered LIVE will keep the crowd entertained from 4:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater. A DJ, street performers, and activities from various attractions will take place along the entire promenade throughout the event.

At 8:00 p.m., the BSO will host its Star-Spangled Celebration concert under the baton of Sameer Patel in Rash Field Park. “The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is excited to take centerstage at the beautiful Rash Field Park to bring awe-inspiring music for all to enjoy” says BSO CEO & President, Mark C. Hanson. “From classical favorites to modern expressions of patriotism, we couldn’t feel more honored to rejoin our partners and audience at the Inner Harbor to celebrate the magic of music.” The BSO’s Star-Spangled Celebration is made possible thanks to the generous support of PNC Bank. With their support, the BSO can ensure its programs are accessible to all.

The full orchestra performance will culminate around 9:30 p.m. with a dazzling 15-minute fireworks display produced by fireworks company Pyrotecnico. The best views are along the Inner Harbor promenade and surrounding areas, including Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Harbor East, and Locust Point. The entire evening’s events will conclude at 10:00 p.m.

The American Visionary Art Museum invites friendly pets of all kinds to enter this year’s 4th of July Pet Parade and Animal Talent Show! AVAM Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield says, “From feathers to fur, scales to tails, the American Visionary Art Museum celebrates our 4th of July with a patriotic salute to our beloved pets! Watch as a costumed parade of owners and their adored companions strut through the museum’s campus. We also encourage everyone to join us in a moment of silence for those we’ve lost in the pursuit of freedom—pets and people alike.” This event is held each year in memory of supreme animal lover and dear friend, Ellis Rosen. Pet registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the pet parade begins at 9:00 a.m. Participation is free. For more information, visit Please note, the Pet Parade and Talent Show will be canceled in the event of extreme weather or high heat and humidity. Participants are asked to check the AVAM website on July 3 for updates.

Additionally, the Maryland Science Center (MSC) will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on July 4th—as well as every other Tuesday this summer. “We’re pleased to be a part of celebrating the 4th of July at the Harbor this year as we return to six-day operations and welcome visitors all summer long to our city,” says Mark J. Potter, President and CEO of the Maryland Science Center. For more information about new summer hours and all of the exciting science taking place at MSC, visit

Last, the annual 4th of July Baltimore Beach Volleyball Tournament kicks off its 24th year at the Baltimore Beach in Rash Field. Check-in starts at 11:00 a.m., and play begins at noon. Players will break for lunch around 2:00 p.m., then knockout rounds/finals will start at 6:00 p.m. The tournament will wrap up at 8:00 p.m. just as the BSO takes the stage. To participate, register at



Co-owner Jeff Jetton used his background in marketing to design a series of billboards promoting Toki Underground. (Handout photo courtesy of Jeff Jetton) (Handout)

The Dish: ‘Goodbye crab cakes. Hello ramen’? Toki Underground has a Baltimore mission.
by Christina Tkacik
Published June 28 in The Baltimore Banner

Excerpt: Jeff Jetton is coming into Baltimore like a 747 ― loud and fast.

Toki Underground, the D.C. restaurant he co-owns, has not even opened its new location on Greenmount Avenue yet, but Jetton has plastered the city with text-based billboards hyping up the ramen spot and positioning it as “a Baltimore thing.”

One self-aggrandizing example lists Toki Underground below the names of prominent residents, from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to fictional character Omar Little of “The Wire,” concluding: “Legends are made in Baltimore.” Another includes “Baltimore ramen” among such regional staples as Buffalo wings and Nashville hot chicken. Then, there’s what may be the most combative billboard: “Goodbye crab cakes. Hello ramen.”



LaToya Ruby Frazier. More Than Conquerors: A Monument for Community Health Workers of Baltimore, Maryland 2021-2022, 2022. Installation view: LaToya Ruby Frazier, Gladstone Gallery, New York, March 2 – April 15, 2023. Commissioned by Carnegie Museum of Art for the 58th Carnegie International and funded in part by National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, 2021-22. © LaToya Ruby Frazier, Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery.

BMA Acquires LaToya Ruby Frazier’s Carnegie Prize-Winning Installation Celebrating Baltimore’s Community Health Workers
Press Release :: June 26

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced today that it has acquired LaToya Ruby Frazier’s acclaimed installation More Than Conquerors: A Monument for Community Health Workers of Baltimore, Maryland 2021-2022. Featuring a series of portraits and related narratives mounted on 18 socially distanced, stainless-steel IV poles, the large-scale installation captures and celebrates the essential work of community health workers in Baltimore during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Powerful and deeply evocative, the installation monumentalizes the Community Health Workers’ efforts and offers an alternative approach to monument-making that challenges us to consider the nature of how and who we honor. More Than Conquerors is being generously gifted to the museum by the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland. Initially created for the 58th Carnegie International, where it won the Carnegie Prize, and recently presented at Gladstone Gallery in New York, the installation will go on view at the BMA in 2025 as part of a year-long initiative focused on the environment.

“More Than Conquerors reflects the distinct quality of LaToya Ruby Frazier’s artistry and her innate ability to encapsulate stories of profound personal and communal meaning. The installation offers a poignant tribute to some of the most important but underacknowledged heroes of our community, and it is with great pride and gratitude that we are able to share that it will become part of the BMA’s collection,” said Asma Naeem, the BMA’s Wagner Wallis Director. “We also want to extend our great appreciation to Glenstone co-founders Mitch and Emily Rales for their vision and support in helping us acquire this work for the benefit and enjoyment of our community.”

“As with all monuments, the meaning of More Than Conquerors is inseparable from its location. For this reason, we were inspired to gift this work to the Baltimore Museum of Art so that the community that these workers serve would also be the primary audience for this powerful installation,” said Emily Wei Rales, Director and co-founder of Glenstone Museum.

More Than Conquerors is an outgrowth of Frazier’s long-standing relationship with Dr. Lisa Cooper, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. The two first connected during a 2015 conversation hosted by The Contemporary and the Baltimore School for the Arts that explored the power of art, science, and medicine to address environmental racism and remained in personal dialogue following the event. During the pandemic, Frazier was awarded both the National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship (2020-2021) and a commission for the 58th Carnegie International. When she experienced an incident of medical injustice while trying to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination, she was inspired to develop a project that both revealed the depth of healthcare inequity and celebrated those individuals on the frontlines working for change. […]



Lashelle Bynum poses with the most vivid ghost sign in the city, advertising both CUBANOLA 5¢ CIGARS and N. FAULSTICH CARRIAGE & WAGON BUILDER at East Fayette and Duncan streets. —Photography by Matt Roth

Fading History: “Ghost” Signs Evoke Baltimore’s Commerical Past
by Ron Cassie
Published June 22 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: “The first one that caught my eye, and I didn’t know it was the only African-American one in Baltimore, was Lenny’s House of Natural in Poppleton,” recalls Lashelle Bynum, flipping through her photography collection of fading “ghost signs” which adorn many older and often neglected buildings in the city. “I knew that’s where Oprah got her hair done when she was here,” says the 63-year-old recently retired state administrative specialist.

Lenny Clay, owner of Lenny’s House of Natural, and once dubbed the “Mayor of Poppleton” by former Mayor Kurt Schmoke, also cropped the hair of Baltimore’s leading Black sports figures, preachers, and politicians, including former Bullets star Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, Rev. Vernon Dobson, and former Congressman Elijah Cummings.

“It was the nostalgia,” says Bynum of her instinct to shoot the building. “I thought it was fascinating. And then I interviewed Lenny about the history of the shop and found out that, actually, the sign was put up for a movie, The Meteor Man, they were shooting in the neighborhood. But that was the catalyst.”



Highly Anticipated Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival Returns for its 7th Year
Press Release :: June 22

Thanks to lead sponsor South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, The Youth Resiliency Institute (YRI) in partnership with the Cherry Hill Community Coalition and the Cherry Hill Family Congress will host the 7th Annual Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival at Middle Branch Park (Middle Branch Park, 3301 Waterview Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230) on July 4 from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.—celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop with the international flavor of British female hip-hop legend Monie Love. The festival is free, family friendly, alcohol free and open to the public. The event will be held rain or shine.

Festival goers can enjoy old favorites with new offerings, including live music, food trucks, exhibits, vendors, and a fireworks show overlooking the Patapsco River. A diverse lineup of performers will take the stage this year, representing a wide spectrum of sounds from soul to gospel to reggae, and beyond. International Grammy Award-winning Reggae Legend Mykal Rose (The voice of Black Uhuru) will headline the festival. Other artists include Baltimore Club pioneer Mighty Mark, Jazz Master Carl Grubbs, International Soul/Jazz artist Navasha Daya, Gospel group REIGN and a host of artists from the DMV region. Actor and syndicated radio host Marcellus “The Bassman” Shepard will host the festival.

The Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival is a Black-led-and-founded- festival that was launched seven years ago to connect and collaborate with Cherry Hill residents as they imagine and realize arts and culture in their historic community.

The theme of this year’s Festival is “Healing through the Arts.” Through a partnership with The Black Mental Health Alliance, festival organizers will connect festival goers with culturally responsive mental health resources on the day of the festival. The Youth Resiliency Institute will launch three important art- based projects on the day of the festival.

“We See Your Light” is a project that honors, acknowledges, and celebrates the beautiful humanity shining bright in individuals affected by addiction in so many ways: those we’ve lost whom we love; those living with addiction every hard day; 

those who have found recovery and now are giving back to community with all they can. 

“Community Safety Photo Voice” is a project that empowers Cherry Hill residents to observe and record issues about community safety in Cherry Hill through community- based photography experiences. 

“Cherry Hill Charm Vol. 1” is an album of original music and historic interludes featuring elders in Cherry Hill sharing their lived experiences as lifelong residents of one of America’s most historic Black communities. 

“The annual Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront festival creatively activates Middle Branch Park not only on July 4th, but throughout the year, through yearlong Youth Resiliency Institute arts-based programming that helps to address racist histories that have curtailed African Americans’ access to public parks,” said Navasha Daya, Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival co- director. “Each year, we curate the festival with legendary artists who share our stage with emerging artists. We are proud to present artists who are innovative, socially conscious and align with the values of our festival – Culture, Community and Family.”

The history of the development of public housing on the Middle Branch is one of the most striking examples of deliberate residential racial segregation in any city. Cherry Hill was an isolated peninsula adjacent to a city landfill and incinerator and later developed as a community for GI’s returning from WWII and Korea. This location was selected after several other options were opposed by whites who did not want African Americans moving too close to their neighborhoods. Recognizing that the plight of Black artists from high poverty communities often becomes stuck in narratives focused on stereotypes and negative statistics, the Youth Resiliency Institute works in collaboration with artists of all ages in Cherry Hill to create culturally affirming spaces that validate residents’ identities.

The festival was co-founded by current Cherry Hill resident, great grandmother and playwright Mama Shirley Foulks and Youth Resiliency Institute executive director and cultural arts organizer, Fanon Hill.

“The Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival continues to be an accessible waterfront crown jewel in South Baltimore,” said Shirley Foulks, Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival co-director. “Since its inception, Cherry Hill festival organizers have worked especially hard to ensure that the festival is free for everyone every year. This year, with so many people now struggling as a result of pandemic economic safety nets now gone, we are extremely humbled to be able to once again offer a high-quality free arts and culture experience in Middle Branch Park, in partnership with our lead sponsor South Baltimore Gateway Partnership and additional sponsors and partners.”

This year, through a special partnership with African Ancestry, Mama Shirley and a surprise Cherry Hill resident will have their African ancestries ceremonially unveiled during the festival. Founded in 2003 by Dr. Rick Kittles and Gina Paige, African Ancestry is the world leader in tracing maternal and paternal lineages of African descent. With the industry’s largest and most comprehensive database of over 30,000 indigenous African DNA samples, African Ancestry determines specific countries and specific ethnic groups of origin. African Ancestry is committed to providing a unique service to the black community by working daily to improve the cultural, emotional, physical, spiritual, and economic wellbeing of people across the African Diaspora. The ceremonial ancestry unveiling will kick- off a countdown to a special trip from “Historic Cherry Hill” to “Historic Ghana” organized by the Youth Resiliency Institute. A cross-generational “Lom Nava” delegation from Cherry Hill will travel to Ghana, west Africa late July 2023 and engage with Ghanaian artists and learn about African- centered models of preserving and showcasing art, history and culture that break from western models. Furthermore, members of the delegation will learn about Ghana’s Volta River restoration and conservation best practices and how they may benefit Patapsco River conservation efforts. In the process, the delegation will advance the rich and valued tradition of cultural, economic, and intellectual exchange between Ghanaians and African Americans.

“Middle Branch Park, which is the site of the annual Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival, is more than a place- it is a refuge,” said Fanon Hill, Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival, co-founder. “The flow of the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River connects the past, present, and future while beautifully reminding Festival organizers of the power of freedom and restoration. As sure as the Patapsco River drains to the Baltimore Harbor area, then to the Chesapeake Bay and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean; the Cherry Hill “Lom Nava” delegation will fly over the Atlantic Ocean and greet the Patapsco River from the shores of Ghana- the same shores our African ancestors stood on before the Middle Passage.”

Visit for more information.



Header Image: "Baba" By Judith Scott. Photo by Dan Meyers.

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