AFRAM features fraternity and fun Afrocentric culture and arts displayed

August 04, 1991|By Jessamy Brown

Red, yellow and green hats, African dolls and T-shirts featuring a black Bart Simpson are among the items for sale at AFRAM Expo '91, held this weekend at Festival Hall.

People who attended the festival yesterday said products with African-American themes sometimes are hard to come by, but they were in abundant supply at AFRAM, a celebration of black culture and heritage. "The black people here, they really like the African stuff," said Yacine Ba, a native of Senegal, who was selling hand-made dolls and jewelry. "I think it reminds them of their roots."

AFRAM, part of Baltimore's annual series of ethnic festivals, features clothes, books, jewelry and ethnic foods, such as spare ribs and fried chicken. Entertainment ranges from rap to gospel music, and an art exhibit features talent from local artists. The festival runs from noon to 10 p.m. today.

"I like a bunch of brothers and sisters getting together and buying from each other. A lot of times we buy from department stores. I like putting my money into the African-American community. This is the perfect opportunity to do that," said Cheryl Wilson, 22, who was visiting from Trenton, N.J.

For Anndell V. Banks, a Baltimore artist who was selling her paintings at a booth inside the Hall, the event was a chance to network with other black artists.

"I get a lot of referrals and a lot of compliments. We exchange ideas," she said.

People working together and supporting one another is what the festival is all about, said Dorothy Jordan, AFRAM spokeswoman. That idea is incorporated in the theme of this year's event, a salute to African-Americans in fraternal organizations, she said.

"By that we mean all kinds of organizations that help the community, not just the Greek letter groups," Ms. Jordan said.

"These kinds of organizations -- people working collectively to overcome challenges -- help the community grow stronger," she added.

Tabia Kamau-Nataki, who was selling books and clothes, said, "It's a gathering of African people. We need to be together and know that we're experiencing the same kinds of things. People are looking for things that are a positive reflection of themselves.

"It generates a particular spirit. It helps us break up those stereotypes of us getting together and having a chaotic time," said Ms. Kamau-Nataki, who runs Everyone's Place, a neighborhood cultural center in west Baltimore.

AFRAM, which Ms. Jordan describes as "a short form of African-American," started as a black neighborhood celebration called "Soul Festival." When the city ethnic festivals began in 1976, AFRAM was included.

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