Expo informs and amuses thousands Annual event focuses on black experience

March 16, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Thousands of people flocked yesterday to the 5th Regiment Armory for the city's third annual People's Expo, turning part of downtown Baltimore into a celebration of African-American culture and commerce.

"This has become more than an annual event," said Pam Somers, organizer of the two-day expo. "It's an opportunity for people to come together, have some fun and build community spirit."

Singers dressed in white performed rhythm-and-blues rap tunes on stage as people strolled through the expo looking at handcrafted jewelry and the latest fashions from New York City.

"It's great to see so many people, young and old, enjoying themselves," said Donna Berger, a first-time visitor to the expo as she glanced at a case of sterling silver earrings. "And some of the items on sale here are really beautiful."

At booths, groups were selling sketches of black children, trendy hats made of pleated velvet and African-print clothing.

Seminars on affordable housing, baby safety and herbs were also offered. But the most popular attraction was the entertainment.

"I came to listen to the music," said Candice Hill, 15, who attended the expo yesterday with a group of youths from Mount Zion Baptist Church. "I wanted to spend some time with my friends and listen to the local groups that are going to be here."

Gospel artist Vicki Winans, local rapper Little Reds and comedian Chris Thomas entertained an audience of teen-agers gathered in front of the stage. Many of the youths said they heard about the expo on WERQ-FM (92.3), the top-rated radio station in Baltimore.

The station is one of four in the black-owned Radio One Inc. chain, which organized this year's expo.

"A lot of people come out for the music," said Somers, the event organizer and general manager of Radio One. She added that "most end up going home with useful information about community-based services and African-American products."

One vendor offered information on Jackie Robinson, who integrated major-league baseball 50 years ago. Another told a passer-by about the lives of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, who fought to abolish slavery. And the Walters Art Gallery told of its exhibition of Ethiopian art.

Staff members from a branch of Greater Baltimore Medical Center at 1017 E. Baltimore St. provided tests for cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and the human immunodeficiency virus.

The expo, which draws an average of about 25,000 people, will continue from noon to 6 p.m. today. Scheduled entertainers include comedian Dick Gregory, the New Spiritual Win Choir and Dru Hill, a local rhythm-and-blues group.

Admission to the expo is $5.

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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