Cultural festival celebrates diversity

Towson event planned Sept. 15 changes scope to include all minorities

Entertainment, tours set

Banquet honoring those who promote concept also to be held this month

September 04, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

September is the unofficial month for celebrating cultural diversity in Baltimore County, with a banquet being held Thursday to raise money for minority scholarships and a festival Sept. 15 to showcase African-American, Korean, Latino, Indian and other cultures.

Both events are being sponsored by the county's Office of Fair Practices and Community Affairs and the Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival Inc.

The fifth annual Towson festival, formerly the African American Cultural Festival, has been renamed the Baltimore County Cultural Diversity Festival.

Highlighting other cultures at the festival will reflect the county's growing and diverse minority population, said state Del. Adrienne A. Jones, executive director of the fair practices office.

The 2000 census found that 20.1 percent of Baltimore County's residents are black and that its Asian and Hispanic populations, though small (3.2 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively), are growing.

Jones said the nonprofit festival group has raised $5,000 toward scholarships and a summer camp in Towson.

Jones said she helped begin the Towson festival "because often times when African-Americans come to the Towson area, it's for court, for traffic tickets or paying taxes."

She that "Towson is for everybody" and that there are sides to black life that some white county residents know little about.

The county has many historic black communities, she said, that date back 200 years, like Arbutus' Cowdensville neighborhood, where she grew up.

The festival, said historian Louis Diggs, will feature free bus tours of historic black communities surrounding Towson.

"We're going to take people to the Hampton mansion. They will have the opportunity to actually go through slave quarters [and hear a] talk about the mansion that was built on the backs of slaves," said Diggs, a festival board member and author of four books about the county's black communities.

The tour will also include a visit to the burial site of the Cockey family slaves in Cockeysville, said Diggs.

Jones said no alcohol will be sold at the family-oriented festival, which will include a sweet potato cooking contest, miniature golf, chess games and performances by several musical groups, including the Isley Brothers, a steel band, a Latino band and gospel singers.

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Towson Courthouse Plaza, at Bosley Avenue between Pennsylvania and Chesapeake avenues. Bus tours will begin from the Maryland National Guard Armory at Chesapeake and Washington avenues at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The banquet Thursday, which is in its second year, will honor several business people who promote diversity in the workplace and community.

Proceeds from the banquet will be used for scholarships and to help preserve African-American historic sites in the county. Harold D. Williams, Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival Inc.'s president, said his group is trying to raise money to restore several sites and to buy bronze markers for them.

The banquet will be held at Martin's West, 6817 Dogwood Road, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Tickets for the dinner are $75. For reservations, call Marie Henderson at 410-521-1011.

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