Museum Cuts Ties With Party Promoter In Wake Of Killing

December 23, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,

The deputy director of the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, where a 20-year-old man was fatally stabbed during a fight at a party Friday night, said he was cutting ties with a local promoter who had described the parties to museum officials as Christian fundraisers.

Fliers for the parties, posted on a Web page for Big Les Productions, describe them as events for young adults and "mature" high school students. Many of the posters show young men flashing what appear to be gang signs or raising their middle fingers, and promise a "sexy ladies dance contest."

"There will be nothing but my sexy people here all night," read an advertisement for the Dec. 18 party.

There is no mention of the Baltimore Christian Warriors, the group that museum officials say they believed was hosting the event.

"My concerns are, here we have this event going on, and it's portrayed as one thing - if we're trying to do something good for the community and good for our children, we need to stick to that," said Jonathan Wilson, deputy director of the museum, after being shown fliers by a reporter. "We're going to sever our relationship."

Wilson said that he spoke with the event planners but did not verify their information. The Baltimore Christian Warriors are said to organize a football team and marching band and are affiliated with the Baltimore Christian Community Association, which state records show has been defunct since 1996.

Wilson said the group did not receive any discounts because of its purported nonprofit status.

The parties have been occurring weekly at the museum, in the 1600 block of E. North Ave., since Nov. 20, according to the promoter's Web page. Wilson said security was adequate, and museum staff who were on hand did not see anything that raised eyebrows. On the Big Les Productions MySpace page, organizers warn against "wild dancing" and promise strict security at the events.

But police say the parties, which ran from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. according to the fliers, had been attracting very large groups of teens, many out past the city's midnight juvenile curfew.

On Friday, security broke up a number of fights, and 20-year-old Joshua Hargrove was fatally stabbed as a group was being escorted out. An 18-year-old man has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder after police say he confessed to his involvement in the altercation.

The promoter, Lester A. Horton, could not be reached for comment. A man who answered the phone number for Big Les Productions said he was not Horton but would pass along a message.

The City Paper reported in 2006 that the Baltimore Christian Warriors and Baltimore Christian Community Association had obtained the liquor license for a strippers' showcase in the 400 block of N. Eutaw St. that was raided by vice detectives and liquor inspectors.

Horton told the City Paper at the time that he believed the event was a fashion show and said they only set up a bar to raise money.

"That's what we do, we raise money by setting up a bar," Horton told the City Paper. "It was supposed to be a fashion show. Next thing I know, the girls start taking off their clothes."

According to liquor board records, the Baltimore Christian Community Association did not apply for any one-day liquor licenses in the years after that raid. But Sam Daniels, executive secretary for the liquor board, said the group applied for and received licenses this year for a March 6 banquet and a May 9 dinner and fundraiser.

Wilson said the juxtaposition of the group's purported Christian mission and the images of gang symbols and scantily clad women was "ridiculous."

"We're not about that," Wilson said. "Not only that, he's got to take that out of his name. That defames Christianity, and what Christianity's about."

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