Special Event Spotlights New Black ‘Essence Magazine’ Owner, Editor

— About 300 well-dressed locals showed-up on the 7th Floor Conference Hall of the Newseum in Washington to acknowledge the recent purchase of Essence Magazine by entrepreneur Richelieu Dennis.

The upscale societal meet-greet included several of metro DC’s influential types and others who are high-rollers in their particular industries. In addition to Dennis’ current exploits, TV personality and comedienne Loni Love provided tasty wit and humor to the scene, in a moderator’s role. Love appears on network TV as a daily co-host on nationally-syndicated ‘The Real’ talk show.

The outdoor balcony with lofty views of the U.S. Capitol building and other government monuments felt expectedly wonderful considering the unseasonably 78-degree temps that splashed welcomed sunrays.

An appearance by DC Fox TV 5 news woman Allison Seymour, was special. Seymour provided a calm collected aura and professional glitz to the entire ambiance, as Dennis and magazine editor Michelle Ebanks entertained questions from the audience.

Event creator Sheila Eldridge of New Jersey-based Miles Ahead Entertainment, said the event was a fulfillment to ensure Mr. Dennis realizes the full support he still receives from many of the black women business owners who were present. Other who’s-who A-listers who showed up for the invitational-only event was former TV-ONE talk-show host Roland Martin, along with former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and current State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Marylin J. Mosby. Moseby’s star rose exactly three years ago when she filed charges against six Baltimore police officers related to the notorious Freddie Gray case. On a lighter note, also in the house was Wanda Pratt Durant, mother of NBA World Champion (Golden State Warriors) and DC-native Kevin Durant.

In addition to celebrating Mr. Dennis’ new business ventures, the event, also helped pay homage to Women’s History Month, Café Mocha radio show success, and collaborations with Ubiquitous Beauty Hair Health Expo to present “My Journey: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

Loni Love, a Detroit native, co-hosts the nationally broadcasted, online streaming and SIRIUS Radio-broadcasted Café Mocha radio show.

Both Mr. Dennis and his editor, Michelle Ebanks, eagerly discussed future ventures with Essence, and assured attendees that they would realize and appreciate the publication returning to a black ownership status. Dennis noted that the annual Essence Music Festival will continue its yearly trek to New Orleans on the July 4th weekend. He also said the Essence Festival has now made a presence in Africa, an announcement which erupted in appreciative applause. Dennis is a Liberian native who founded the Shea Moisture Corp. in 1991. The Harlem-based operation quickly generated successful sales numbers helping Shea Moisture become a major player in the personal care business.

Sixth Annual Annapolis Film Festival Showcased 80+ Films

A documentary film about the life of entertainment legend Sammy Davis, Jr. packed the house at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts at the Annapolis Film Festival, held March 22-25, 2018.

Sammy Davis Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me documentary was an immediate show-stealer on just the second day of the annual film showcase, which hopes to someday rival events like Sundance, Cannes and Tribeca.

At the former Annapolis High School auditorium, nearly a thousand folks packed the venue to witness the soon-to-be-released feature film, directed and produced by Samuel D. Pollard. The filmmaker is a colleague of Shelton “Spike” Lee, and is also a product of New York City, Spanish Harlem to be exact, he said during the post-film question and answer sessions with the audience. Suzanne Kay, Dianne Carroll’s daughter, also joined Pollard onstage to respond to audience reactions to Pollard’s production.

Though recent works have focused on Sammy’s life via the TV idiom, including the TV One-produced UNSUNG HOLLYWOOD biopic, Pollard is able to dig much deeper in taking an in-depth view at the complicated life of the superstar. Surprisingly, Davis Jr. died at a somewhat youthful age of 64. His career began at age three, however.

Pollard’s film reveals the “ups and downs” of Davis, who’s considered the original trailblazer for all black performers who ultimately wanted to entertain multi-racial audiences. Though it came at a price, Davis Jr. fought a continuous civil rights battle to achieve equality as a true human being, and for his entire race. Interestingly, Pollard’s film utilized onscreen interviews with Davis’ close friends like Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Lewis, Quincy Jones and a former lover actress Kim Novak.

Pollard said his now-finished product is headed for PBS-TV’s “American Masters,” with a release date set for late spring, early Summer 2018.

Pollard began his career as a producer on “Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads in 1989.”

Another intriguing film, which screened as one of the 80-plus that appeared from March 22-25, was “Flock of Four.” The Gregory Caruso-produced film spotlighted a quartet of young white jazz musicians who were enamored with the premier black musicians of the period. The piece was set in 1950s Los Angeles, and displays when the youngsters gathered their nerves and took a cab trip to South Central Los Angeles.

While the film had a great opportunity to display racial harmony through the bonds of musicianship, unfortunately – the theme took a played-out, over-used flavor of racism on both ends. While filmed mostly at night, or within doors – the movie had a dark edge, and is simply one I cannot recommend for further viewing. Entirely way too much use of the “N” word and other negative vibes permeate the otherwise classic jazz music soundtrack (“Night In Tunesia” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk”), which flows throughout the entire film.

Suzanne Kay, the daughter of legendary actress Diahann Carroll, appeared at the festival where she promoted her upcoming feature film, dedicated to ‘Sullivision: Ed Sullivan’ which examines the variety show host’s ground-breaking record of staging black artists on his show in the 1950s and 1960s, when such appearances on TV were unusual and rare.

Lastly, Joanne Froggatt, the English actress of stage, television and film, was a special attraction at the Annapolis Film Festival, where she starred in the Spotlight Film called “A Crooked Somebody.” Ms. Froggatt is known internationally, having appeared in all six seasons of the popular UK-produced period piece known as Downton Abbey. She played lady’s maid, Anna Bates during all six seasons of the PBS-based drama. The show ran from 2010 to 2016.

UMBC Makes History at NCAA Tournament

— What a weekend to remember, thanks to an historical basketball game Friday, March 16, 2018, when the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), achieved an unprecedented feat with their unexpected victory over No. 1 seeded University of Virginia, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Maryland team won with a lopsided score of 74-54 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The victory caused havoc among most folks who opted to predict who would possibly win the annual national collegiate men’s basketball tournament. The win also put a first-time international spotlight on the small college located in Catonsville in Baltimore County.

Although the team would eventually lose in the second round on Sunday (March 18) during a hard-fought battle against No. 9 seeded Kansas State University (50-43), UMBC played proudly and won the hearts of millions who continued to support the “Cinderella” story of the 2018 NCAA Tourney affectionately known as “March Madness.”

While the hoop team garnered first-time fans, it should be known that UMBC has long been a stellar site when it comes to academic prowess and success. The school’s chess team is likewise considered a championship-caliber program within international ranks.

It should also be noted that prior to the hoop team’s recent success, it may be a little known fact outside Maryland that UMBC is led by African-American, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III who has been at the school’s helm since 1992.

Dr. Habrowski is the author of several books and was selected to chair President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence.

As a youth, the Birmingham, Alabama native participated in a major Civil Rights protest at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham in May 1963.

Carroll Little, a 1998 UMBC graduate, says he transferred from Morehouse College in Atlanta to attend UMBC.

“Being at an HBCU was important but I also appreciated Dr. Hrabowski’s positive influence on black males. That was vital,” he said noting Dr. Hrabowski’s role in developing the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which has been at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, engineering and related fields.

Dr. Habrowski was featured on the popular news magazine show “60 Minutes” on CBS in 2013, where he was able to speak about the goals of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program.

Bookstore Marketing Director Erin McGonigle said the unexpected hoop success generated massive online orders for merchandise from throughout the nation. “Our online orders have already outnumbered our [usual] annual totals,” she said.

The Woelper family showed their support for their favorite basketball team by posing with UMBC mascot

Timothy Cox

The Woelper family showed their support for their favorite basketball team by posing with UMBC mascot “True Grit the Retriever.” (Left to right) Brenna Woelper, Colleen Woelper, Brodie Woelper and Jason Woelper. Colleen and Jason are both graduates of UMBC.

The Woelper family of nearby Pasadena, Maryland, made the Sunday drive to visit their former campus and stomping grounds. Jason Woelper along with wife Colleen Woelper, daughter Brenna, 7 and son Brodie, 5, posed at the school’s mascot statue “True Grit the Retriever ” dog.

Both Woelpers are alumnus. He is a mechanical engineer and she is a social studies department chair with Anne Arundel Rundle County Schools. They base their career success on academic foundations learned at UMBC.

“It’s always been a good school— now it’s good the basketball team has put us on the national map,” Mrs. Woelper said.

Time2Grind Boxers Win Silver Gloves Titles

The Time2Grind Boxing Club of Baltimore is at it again. This time the boxing club is sporting the talents of a grade school age boy and a middle school aged girl. Both youngsters recently won National Silver Glove titles after participating in a tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, last month.

BJ Santana Brown, 10, won his second Silver Gloves championship. He also won the same title last year.

Daijah Ruth, 13, is part of the first group of female fighters to compete for the State Silver Gloves title, according to Time2Grind Boxing Club owner and founder Mack Allison. The girls state Silver Gloves tournament was held at Rosecroft Raceway.

Coach Allison credits both boxers for being excellent students and positive role models for their younger peers. Brown fights in the 152-pound category and Ruth fights in the 100-pound girls group.

Brown is the son of Denise Worsley and is a fourth grader at Yorkwood Elementary School. Ruth is the daughter of Denika Glover and Kenneth Glover and is a seventh grader at Loch Raven Technical Academy.

Ray Rodgers, 81, a coordinator for the National Silver Gloves organization in Independence, Missouri says that Ruth’s victory is significant, since females have only been competing in Silver Gloves competitions for the past ten years.

The National Silver Gloves Tournament in Missouri included more than 400 fighters from all across the country. The more popular Golden Gloves competition includes fighters from age 18 to 39, while Silver Gloves boxers are between the ages of eight and 14.

CBS Sportscaster James Brown is also a minister

— Minister James Brown’s Message: “Break the Huddle and Run the Play.”

Mention the name James Brown, and most people think of the legendary now-deceased musician. However, in broadcast media circles, the same name belongs to another hard-working black man with the exact same handle.

Recently, on Sunday morning at Bridgeway Community Center in suburban Baltimore, broadcaster James Brown displayed a moniker many people didn’t realize he owned— a minister’s role. As special guest speaker, Brown provided the Word during a month-long speakers series hosted by Bridgeway’s resident pastor, David Anderson.

During his hour-long sermon, Brown delivered a passionate message reflecting his lifelong commitment to sports and spirituality. Having experienced life as a teenage high school and college basketball star, Brown would later use his court savvy to transition to a career as a network TV football announcer and analyst.

His recent sermon targeted the theme: “Break the Huddle and Run the Play.” The football analogy fit perfectly, considering Brown currently hosts ‘Inside the NFL’ on Showtime, in addition to his regularly scheduled play-by-play football broadcasts that have aired on CBS-TV and FOX-TV in the past 30 years. He also hosts CBS News and contributes to ‘60 Minutes.’

Blessed with a smooth, engaging personality, the announcer/minister easily engaged the congregation, initially with stories about his wife, and four young grandchildren. Following his warm-up, Brown evoked his love for the Lord – and his knowledge of scripture.

During his sermon, he compared football huddles with attending church services, Sunday School and Bible studies – but never taking lessons learned in those forums, and “running the play” or applying what’s learned for good use. He also equated four quarters of football with the Biblical three-scores and 10 lifecycle.

“By age 16, you’ve completed quarter one, at 36, it’s halftime; at 50, it’s third quarter, and anything after 70, well, that’s over-time and ultimately, ‘sudden death,’” he said to applause and chuckles.

After enjoying a star-studded career at DC’s legendary DeMatha Catholic High School, Brown matriculated to Harvard where he earned a degree in American Government, in addition to his continued athletic prowess as Harvard’s premier hoopster. When a tryout with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks proved fruitless, Brown gathered his Harvard degree and entered corporate America with gigs at Xerox and Eastman Kodak.

Brown regularly attends DC’s Rhema Christian Center, and speaks there on occasion. Bridgeway Community Church was founded by senior pastor David Anderson. The church reflects a spirit-filled, multi-culturally diverse congregation.

Dr. Anderson described Brown as “a devout man of God.”

For more information about Bridgeway Community Church, call 410-992-5832 or visit: info@bridgeway.cc. The Columbia campus is located at 9189 Red Branch Road, Columbia, Maryland 20145.

Baltimore Blast, The City’s Only Winning Team

Each time the Baltimore Blast scores a goal, the public address speaker offers a resounding version of “Celebration,” the Kool & The Gang classic hit song released in September 1980.

During a recent game between the Blast and their rivals, Harrisburg Heat, the song was played repeatedly, considering the Baltimore team’s rout of the Pennsylvania capital’s team, 12-5.

First-time visitors to the Blast game included 13-year-old James “JP” Townsend Jr. and his best pal, Ean McChesney, 14, joined nearly 4,000 spectators who filled the stands at the five-year-old SECU Arena on Towson University’s sprawling campus.

The new venue holds 5,200 seats and offers luxury-box amenities for private viewing, similar to major sports arenas such as M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards and Nationals Park.

Until this season, the team played at Royal Farms Arena in downtown Baltimore, but changed locations to the more modern SECU Arena in November, after signing a three-year deal to experience more modern, but smaller facilities. Royal Farms held about 11,000 spectators.

“I really enjoyed it. Very exciting stuff,” said eighth grade, home school student Townsend, who played soccer and learned game rules in elementary school.

Ean McChesney, a freshman at Milford Mill Academy in Gwynn Oak, Md., said he enjoyed watching the fast-paced game action and speed of the players.

According to Joe Moye, a Blast spokesman, the local team is a nine-time champion of the MASL (Major Arena Soccer League), which includes teams from various parts of the country, including: the Florida Tropics, Syracuse Silver Knights, Cedar Rapids Rampage, Kansas City Comets, Milwaukee Wave, St. Louis Ambush, El Paso Coyotes, Monterrey Flash, Rio Grand Valley Barracudas, Sonora Suns, Ontario Fury, San Diego Sockers, Tacoma Stars and the Turlock Express. The Blast are coming off two consecutive titles, 2016 and 2017.

While the team has a winning-athletic presence in the community, Blast team officials proudly boast that their organizational priorities include expressing community support and commitment to education among Baltimore area youths.

“We believe in our motto ‘Education is a Blast,’ said team spokesman Moye. “Our players visit local schools and discuss subjects like anti-bullying, exercise and health tips, and the value of getting good grades.”

Mike Conway, the team’s assistant general manager, mirrored Moye’s thoughts by adding, “We’re always attending local area schools helping to promote education while signing autographs.”

Deborah Phelps, director of Baltimore County Public Schools Education Foundation, is an avid supporter of Baltimore Blast’s community-based efforts.

“I’ve never seen such a cohesive team of young men who are so supportive of our schools. They come and discuss various topics that are helpful to our young people,” she said. “They support our anti-bullying campaign and promote values of staying in school.”

She also applauded team president and GM Kevin Healey for his personal commitment to his players and the community at-large. For the record, Phelps is the mother of noted Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, also of Baltimore.

As of press-time, the Blast continues to enjoy another successful season with a 13-2 record. Their final regular season game is set for Sunday, March 4, 2018, but playoff times have not been scheduled yet, according to the team.

For more information about the Baltimore Blast, game schedules and tickets, call 410-732-5278 or visit: www.baltimoreblast.com.

Lady boxer proud to represent Baltimore

Even though she admittedly grew up in what she describes as one of Baltimore’s roughest parts of town, Destiny Day-Owens remains committed to overcome her early obstacles to become one of America’s premiere women boxers. Meanwhile, she proudly represents her city each time she enters the ring.

At age 22, the former student at the legendary Frederick Douglass High School has overcome a series of setbacks as a youngster and is now ready and prepared to join the nation’s elite pugilists, specifically from her Golden Gloves prize rankings to a become a notable professional fighter.

L-R Twelve-time World Champion Tori Nelson, Mack Allison III,  owner of the Time 2 Grind gym, and up and coming lady boxer Destiny Day-Owens.

Courtesy Photo

L-R Twelve-time World Champion Tori Nelson, Mack Allison III, owner of the Time 2 Grind gym, and up and coming lady boxer Destiny Day-Owens.

Currently, she trains with renowned boxing coach Mack Allison III, owner of the Time 2 Grind gym in Northeast Baltimore. For Day-Owens, she always figured the fight game was in her blood. Having grown up on what she describes as the “rough side” of West Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood, Day-Owens describes herself as a tough girl, who has always managed to find herself in arguments and fights.

“Really, I had anger issues!” she admits.

With the help of her now deceased father William “Mr. Bill” Owens, Day-Owens eventually found herself, and realized she was born to fight.

“My father was very patient with me. They (her parents) said they named me because they realized I would have a destiny to achieve. While her mother, Doris Day, is about 20 years her father’s junior, Day-Owens says she is the youngest of her parents’ children, and now reflects her father’s patience and old-school spirit.

“He was 50 when I was born,” she said. Mr. Owens died three years ago, in his 70s.

These days, in addition to consistent training at Time 2 Grind gym, Day-Owens takes pride in raising her two daughters, Unique, 6 and Destiny II, 4. The youngest girl is following in her mom’s footsteps, with a similar love for the fight game.

According to coach Allison, Day-Owens is a natural-born boxer.

“I’d say her dedication to the game, is what makes her stand out,” said Allison whom Day-Owens now considers her surrogate father.

“He pushes me to be my best, and at times he reminds me of my father,’ she said. “He treats us all like family.”

So, what you may ask would spur a young mother into becoming a boxer?

“It’s in my DNA. The fight game found me when I was just six or seven. I can recall placing a mattress up against the wall and acting like I had a heavy bag. Later, it became natural to me when I would fight my brothers like one of the boys. We didn’t have a lot of money, but my father helped instill the passion in me.”

Day-Owens has already won three Golden Gloves trophies, in just her third year of amateur boxing. She has also won the acclaimed Baltimore 2017 Mayor’s Cup and Queen of the Ring. Now, she is primed to turn it up the notch, and hit the professional ranks.

“I’ve been through a lot, and have made a lot of bad choices coming up, but one day I realized I had one opportunity and one life to do this. After getting my mind right, I realized it was time to start grinding and never look back. The feeling of having them raise your hand and call your name as they put the strap around you and your opponent is a real morale booster. I can’t wait to become professional,” Day-Owens said.

Coach Allison predicts his prized pupil should become pro within the next two years and he is very optimistic she will shine brightly in the professional ranks.

“She’s almost ready,” he said.

Meanwhile, Day-Owens is a proud student of the fight game, and calls Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier two of her favorites. She is also a fan-favorite of fellow Marylander, Sugar Ray Leonard, of Palmer Park, Maryland. On the female end she gives props to Layla Ali for helping to pave the way for lady fighters to earn a respectable prizefight purse.

“Now I’m on a mission to be the best female boxer of all time, and [to] show the young children all over the world that you can truly accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Everyone’s path is different, so follow yours,” she said. “I will never stop grinding until I achieve my goals.”

Inner City Suburban Youth Foundation has positive impact on area youth

The Inner City-Suburban Youth Foundation is at it again. After nearly 20 years of working diligently to positively impact countless Baltimore urban and suburban youth, the Baltimore-based organization is continuing its plight to keep young people involved, while ensuring that many of them are exposed to opportunities they may have never envisioned.

According to the group’s executive director and founder, William Newman, the organization was formed with a purpose of “providing support for the education of underprivileged children” from ages six to 17.

In its mission to keep children enthused and interested in academics and school, Newman says his group has established a successful rewards program tied to major sporting events, educational field trips and mentoring.

“The foundation’s mission is to provide support to a large percentage of inner city and suburban children,” according to the program’s Mission Statement.

Newman says the children are rewarded with scholarships and event tickets based on their ability to earn good grades and maintain proper conduct. Solid attendance in the classroom is another incentive used to ensure students are provided with trips and other perks.

From September 28 through October 1, 2017, Newman’s group took 12 students and their chaperones to Tropicana Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, to see their hometown Baltimore Orioles play the Tampa Bay Rays. The trip to Florida turned out to be a first-time plane trip for most of the participating children.

“They were so very well behaved, Newman said. “They were very impressive.”

To support his group’s objectives, Newman receives financial assistance from various local sponsors, including Southwest Airlines; Baltimore County Savings Bank; Safeway Foods; the Sports Boosters of Maryland; Wegmans groceries; the Macht Foundation; and Sol Levinson & Brothers (funeral home).

While the students really enjoyed this year’s trip to “The Trop” in Tampa/St. Pete, Newman revealed that many past participants have also toured Washington, D.C. sites in addition to trips to Camden Yards, home of the Orioles” he said.

Since the group’s inception, sponsored trips included last year’s visit to Guaranteed Rate Field where the Chicago White Sox honored the youth group during pre-game ceremonies. In years past, the students have been honored by the Baltimore Blast (soccer team). Earlier this year, the Baltimore Orioles presented students with jerseys while

acknowledging the group on the giant jumbo monitors in the outfield.

“This foundation is a refuge to keep students off the streets, out of trouble, and clean of drugs,” said Newman, a Baltimore native who graduated from Baltimore City College and attended Morgan State University. He has a background in broadcast journalism and has worked at WJZ-TV (CBS-Baltimore) Channel 13 back when Oprah Winfree worked there.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these youth productive,” Mr. Newman added.

Inner City Suburban Youth Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization. For more information about the foundation or to find out how you may help, contact William Newman at 443-742-2974.

St. Mark United Methodist Church celebrates 175 years Anniversary

One of Maryland’s oldest black-based congregations will celebrate 175 years of consecutive service during a special gala on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at the BWI Hilton Hotel located at 1739 West Nursery Road in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. The event dubbed “Come Feel The Spirit and Share The Love,” begins at 7 p.m.

Internationally, acclaimed gospel artist Pastor Donnie McClurkin, along with Pastor Beverly Crawford and Maurette Brown-Clark are scheduled to appear. Minister Regi McClurkin, will also perform. Pastor Crawford is a former member of Bobby Jones’ New Life Singers, while Brown-Clark was a member of Richard Smallwood’s Vision group.

The emcee and host for the evening is Ernestine Yvonne Jones, the voice of Gospel Grace Brunch WEAA 88.9-FM at Morgan State University.

Minister Regi McClurkin, Minister of Music at St. Mark United Methodist Church will perform at the 175th  Anniversary Gala.

Courtesy Photo

Minister Regi McClurkin, Minister of Music at St. Mark United Methodist Church will perform at the 175th Anniversary Gala.

In addition to being a first-cousin to Pastor McClurkin, Minister McClurkin is a renowned recording artist and Minister of Music at St. Mark United Methodist Church. Last June, Minister McClurkin released his latest CD project entitled “Music in the Air.” The debut single from CD is “Rejoice.”

St. Mark’s Pastor Herbert W. Watson Jr., noted that the theme for the gala is “Love Matters.” Having served at the church for more than 20 years, Pastor Watson says he is cognizant that today’s church must continue to have a relevant presence not only with its current members but with potential members in the community as well.

While his church’s congregation is of a traditional African-American base, Pastor Watson says it’s a fact that Anne Arundel County demographics confirm that while the black population has not decreased, other ethnicities have grown resulting in an overall decrease in black population percentages.

“In the midst of the church’s historical longevity, it’s pertinent to develop a mission of inclusiveness,” he said. “To remain and sustain. It’s now about what do we need to do to attract some of these people who are near-by. Our neighbors in our community— newcomers who

reside in the many new housing communities near our [church]. Another question is, how do we engage the younger people [and] people with young families?”

With an active membership roll averaging about 300 parishioners, St. Mark United Mwthodist Church hosts two services each Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Church ministries include music, public address, trustees, ushers, property upkeep, security, women’s (retreat), bible study, visitation, youth, Girl Scouts, sick-and-shut-in, dance, outreach and new membership assistance. The church was founded in 1842.

A native of Summerton, S.C., Pastor Watson migrated to Baltimore as a youth with his parents. He is the middle-child of five siblings. After graduating from Baltimore’s Polytechnic High School, Pastor Watson initially had his sights on becoming an engineer. After being “called to the ministry,” he matriculated to Western Maryland College (now

McDaniel College), where he earned his Master’s of Divinity degree. He is also a graduate of Garrett– Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology of The United Methodist Church located in Evanston, Illinois. Pastor Watson, now 65, has 40 years of ministerial experience.

Pastor Watson proudly notes that he is St. Mark’s “longest-serving pastor, at this point, with my 21 years.”

The current temple was constructed 50 years ago in 1967, according to its cornerstone. St. Mark is part of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. Pastor Watson served at Christ United Methodist of East Baltimore prior to coming to St. Mark UMC in July 1996.

Gala tickets are $75. For gala tickets or for more information about the event, call St. Mark UMC at 410-859-5352 or OYEZ Productions at 410-379-9050.

Grammy winning musician brings her unique style to Baltimore area

— Musician Rhiannon Giddens, a Greensboro, N.C., native, achieved international acclaim in 2010 with a Grammy Award yet, she remains somewhat mystified as to why her music has yet to catch-on with more African-Americans.

During a recent visit to the Baltimore bedroom community of Frederick, Maryland, she showcased her unique blend of bluegrass, folk, jazz, blues and soul at the intimate Weinberg Center for the Arts in downtown Frederick.

Backed by a sextet featuring her vocalist-sister and nephew/hip-hop rapper, Giddens entertained a sold-out audience full of some of her largest supporters— a crowd reflecting about 95-percent white people.

Two of the few black people who attended the show were musician Royce Folks and his sweetheart, Kenya Watkins. The twosome drove from their home in Richmond, Virginia, to catch the act, because a recent performance in Richmond had sold-out.

“We realize there’s not a lot of blacks who are into her music. I think it’s just because they’re not familiar with her stuff,” said Folks, the bass player and bandleader with Richmond-based Bushleage (blues) Band. “If they get a chance to hear her, they’d change their minds.”

“It’s all about her vibe,” said Watkins, who manages Folks’ band. “Rhiannon is here to educate people about the roots of American music. She plays the banjo, but she lets people know that the banjo has African roots. It’s just a matter of time— blacks will catch-on. She just needs to keep doing what she does so well.

Along with her original quartet, the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens and that group— a self-described string band— actually formed on the premise of espousing the fact that African-Americans were the original purveyors of indigenous American music styles— bluegrass and folk.

During a recent interview, Giddens revealed that during her live tours, her audiences are typically void of African-Americans. She noted that fact again, following her October 1 performance in Frederick.

“It’s true. My fan base is mostly white. I’ve been doing this for ten years, but I don’t get much love from the black press. I’ve been trying to break in, but it has been very difficult,” she admits.

At the Weinberg Center, formerly the Tivoli Theater, which opened in December 1926, Rhiannon and crew performed flawlessly in an intimate room which seats about 1200. Though recently renovated, the room’s interior shares a close resemblance to the acclaimed Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

To echo Watkins’ earlier statements, I believe that if Giddens stays the course, in time, she will ultimately realize a significant increase in support from black people.

To learn more about Rhiannon Giddens and her music, visit her website: www.rhiannongiddens.com. You will be directed to her performances on YouTube and her music available on iTunes or Facebook/RhiannonGiddensMusic.