Celebrating Diversity: Cultural Festivals Display Pride and Foment Understanding With Food, Arts and Entertainment

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Performers at 2022 AFRAM
Performers at 2022 AFRAM (Courtesy of the Baltimore AFRAM Instagram page)

When Baltimore’s AFRAM festival hits Druid Hill Park June 17 and 18, on Juneteenth weekend, the festival will mark close to 50 summers of celebrating Black culture. AFRAM will highlight local businesses, arts, food and music and include headliners like Spinderella, Ty Dolla Sign, Tamar Braxton, Kid Capri and The Isley Brothers.

Launched in 1976 as part of Baltimore’s Bicentennial Showcase of Nations festivals, AFRAM is one of the city’s most important “time-honored traditions,” says Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “This festival provides a unique opportunity for Baltimoreans and visitors to celebrate African-American heritage and culture in our city. I look forward to AFRAM’s amazing lineup, which I’m confident people of all ages will enjoy.”

But AFRAM (aframbaltimore.com) is just one of the many cultural and ethnic festivals people can experience across the Baltimore area and beyond this summer and into the fall.

Semaj James in a traditional Carnival costume
Semaj James displays her traditional costume at the Baltimore Washington One Carnival. (Courtesy of the Baltimore Washington One Carnival)

After 10 years in Clifton Park, the Baltimore Washington One Carnival (baltimoredconecarnival.com) will also take place at Druid Hill Park, celebrating Caribbean culture July 7-9. This is the 42nd edition of the carnival, which will include Caribbean food, music and vendors throughout the three-day celebration.

Saturday’s highlight is the Parade of Bands, with about two dozen dazzling masquerade/costume bands displaying colorful Caribbean culture. The vibrant and impressive street parade will start off at noon in front of the Blue Caribbean Bar & Lounge at 5402 Park Heights Ave. and culminate in Druid Hill Park.

“The Baltimore Washington One Carnival is committed to an accurate and compelling depiction of our Caribbean culture and customs,” carnival President and CEO Elaine Simon says. “The Caribbean festival gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase local talents, from costume designers and musicians to cooks and performers. As president, the challenge is very difficult at times, but, thankfully, I have my members’ untiring support. We are all ‘cultural ambassadors of the Caribbean.’”

Making Connections

Celebrations like AFRAM and the One Carnival offer communities the opportunity to share their culture and traditions with the wider world, which may well be a needed tonic to help foster cross-cultural appreciation and understanding in these divisive times.

Trinidad and Tobago Steel Orchestra of Baltimore
The Trinidad and Tobago Steel Orchestra of Baltimore at the Baltimore Washington One Carnival (Courtesy of the Baltimore Washington One Carnival)

“Ethnic and cultural festivals in Maryland seamlessly blend arts, crafts, music, dance, food and drink, history and heritage into a unique, participatory and memorable experience,” says Tom Riford, Maryland Department of Commerce’s assistant secretary of the Division of Tourism, Film, and the Arts. “Visitors to these events attend for an array of personal reasons, but it is the collective experience that lingers within the host community.

“Finding commonalities among different cultures is transformative,” Riford adds. “And the ability to make these connections at ethnic and cultural festivals is nothing short of magic.”

Other upcoming events celebrate and showcase the cultural pride of German, Native American, Latin American, Indian communities and more.

So, bring your curiosity and open mind and delve into some of the many exciting cultural offerings that await at area festivals.

Dancecr at Howard County Pow Wow
A traditional dancer at the Howard County Pow Wow (Courtesy of the Howard County Pow Wow Instagram page)

Join the Celebration!

In Baltimore County, the German American Associations in Maryland host the 123rd German Festival at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, July 8 and 9. Delve into Deutschland culture with music and traditional folk dancing to German bands, while sampling German food, beer and spirits, shopping for crafts and collectibles, and checking out activities that include pony rides, rock climbing walls and puppet shows. md-germans.org/maryland-german-festival

Also in July, the Howard County American Indian Pow Wow is set to unfold July 15 and 16, 2210 Fairgrounds Road, in West Friendship. Kicking off with the Parade of Nations, throughout the weekend festivalgoers can experience Native American culture through dancing, singing, craft demonstrations, storytelling and traditional Native American foods. howardcountyfairmd.com/events/ pow-wow-2

Back at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, the Festival Latino de Maryland 2023 is slated for Aug. 6. facebook.com/PROMEXPRODUCTIONS

Save These September Dates

Check out Baltimore’s 46th annual Ukrainian Festival at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church, 2401 Eastern Ave., Sept. 9 and 10, with a celebration of Ukrainian heritage and culture, through traditional dance, music and song, with Ukrainian food, a beer garden and Ukrainian craft vendors. stmichaelukrainiancatholicbaltimore.org/ukrainian-festival.html

Baltimore County’s African American Cultural Festival takes over downtown Towson on Sept. 16, with music, food vendors, educational exhibits and demonstrations. linktr.ee/bcaacfest

On Sept. 16 and 17, Howard County Fairgrounds plays host to Festival of India, sponsored by the Indian Cultural Association of Howard County, who invite festivalgoers to get “a taste of all things Indian,” enjoying classical Indian and Bollywood dances, a fashion show, Indian clothing, jewelry, gifts, arts and crafts, children’s entertainment, and more. howardcountyfairmd.com/events/festival-of-india

And founded in 1987, the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival returns to Susan Campbell Park at the Annapolis City Dock, Sept. 23, with food, arts and crafts, entertainment, educational demonstrations and more. kuntakinte.org

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