Discover Baltimore’s Black culture and creatives
Tracy E. Hopkins | 6/13/2019, 11:06 a.m.
Baltimore City will always be near and dear to my heart. It’s where I grew up and where my family still lives, so I visit often. Yes, to quote the Nina Simone song “Baltimore,” this “hard town by the sea” has had its share of problems—like many working class American cities. But Charm City is still full of charm.
“You like living in New York?” is typically the first question my car share driver asks when I’m picked up from Baltimore Penn Station.
“Yes, I’ve been there a long time,” I usually respond, to which the driver confesses, “I don’t think I could live there. It’s too crowded and too fast for me.”
Truth be told, there is something to be said for taking time to smell the Black-Eyed Susans and steamed crabs—even if it’s just for a couple of days. So to help you map out your visit, here are a few summer calendar highlights, and African-American restaurants and cultural attractions to check out during a slow cooked weekend getaway to Baltimore.
Thousands of visitors flock to Baltimore each year to attend Artscape (July 19–21; http://www.artscape.org), the nation’s largest free outdoor arts festival. In and around the Station North Arts and Entertainment District along Mount Royal Avenue, Cathedral Street and Charles Street, attendees enjoy an array of visual arts, local food, and arts and crafts for kids, silent disco dance parties and live performances. Award-winning girl group TLC takes the main stage July 19.
Before there was Afropunk, there was AFRAM (https://aframbaltimore.com)—one of the largest African-American festivals on the East Coast. Taking place in the 745-acre Druid Hill Park, the free, two-day festival (Aug. 10-11) includes Afrocentric clothing and jewelry sellers, food vendors and music performances. This year, the concert headliners are Teddy Riley, Guy, Rick Ross, Sevyn Streeter and hometown heroes Dru Hill. Before the festivities, pause for brunch or homemade baked goods at Dovecote Café (http://www.dovecotecafe.com), a vibrant cafe and community gathering place in nearby Reservoir Hill.
Neighborhood on the Rise
Located in the heart of Baltimore, the Station North district is a diverse collection of artist live-work spaces, galleries, row homes, and businesses bordered by Penn Station, Mount Vernon and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Area highlights include the cozy Station North Arts Café (https://stationnortharts.com) and Motor House (https://motorhousebaltimore.com), a nonprofit performance space and arts hub that provides studios and residences for Black artists, including muralist Ernest Shaw and Michelle Obama’s National Portrait Gallery artist Amy Sherald.
More Arts and Cultural Attractions
Visit the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture (Admission is $6-$8, free for children six and under; https://lewismuseum.org) to get a comprehensive look at the accomplishments of Maryland’s African-American population. A Smithsonian Affiliate, the museum features over 400 years of history in its Permanent Collection —encompassing areas of industry, the arts, politics, sports, education and more. On view through Sept. 1, the exhibit, Linda Day Clark: The Gee’s Bend Photographs, captures the richness of the region’s rural landscape as well as the bond between the women carrying on the quilt making tradition in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Gee’s Bend quilts from the Baltimore photographer’s personal collection are also on display.