Mondawmin Mall was alive with more than the sounds of pre-Christmas shoppers yesterday as singers at the fourth annual "Salute to Black Families" turned the shopping center into a choir hall.
A pastor urged the audience of about 50 people to shun the "me-ism" trend so prevalent in American culture today in favor of strong family values.
"My dear brothers and sisters, we must watch the family as it shifts from the 'us' to the 'I,' " said Father Peter Bramble, of St. Katherine's Episcopal Church in Baltimore.
Bramble said individualism is "fundamentally foreign" to black Americans because they come from tribal ancestry. "Tribalism, which at best is the extended family system, is not bad," he said. "Let's be tribal again."
Bramble said too many people have been predicting the demise of the black family in recent years. "The news about our demise has been too exaggerated," he said. "Let's just celebrate our families as they exist in Baltimore and as they exist in the nation."
Bramble called the family the "locale of all salvation" and the "future paradigm . . . the one that is going to see us through."
The event was sponsored by the Baltimore Urban League and WEAA-FM radio, which broadcast the singing and speeches live. Among the presentations were a dramatic poetry recitation by Baltimorean Nzinga Ama, singing by "Godmother of Jazz" Ruby Glover, songs from the First United Church of Jesus Christ Choir and a speech by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who had designated yesterday as Black Family Day.
Audience members, near the end of the program, recited a long pledge to promote black family unity by loving all black people; remembering black ancestry; educating young black people about their heritage; and supporting institutions, writers and artists in the black community.
A resource fair preceded the show. Eighteen groups, including the National Black Child Development Institute, the Health Education Resources Organization (HERO) and Coppin State College, were there to recruit and inform people about their services.