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Singer who learned respect in Oliver returns for fair


Ronald Huff travels overseas and around the country singing the gospel and greeting his elders respectfully.

The 42-year-old tenor learned his manners while growing up in East Baltimore's Oliver community, which he fondly recalls as a "close-knit" neighborhood where people treated each other with courtesy and respect.

"I still say 'Yes sir and yes ma'am,' " Mr. Huff said.

On a recent a morning, Mr. Huff sat on the porch of the house where he grew up, in the 1700 block of Spring St., and reminisced. He left the Oliver community about 12 years ago when he got married and now lives in West Baltimore.

"Everybody looked out for each other. This was one big happy family. The good times certainly outweighed the bad times," he said, adding: "Now it's changed, there are drugs, and young people don't show respect."

Tonight, Mr. Huff is scheduled to return to his old neighborhood to help start the 15th Annual Oliver Family Festival Weekend. Accompanied by his group, the Singing Deacons, Mr. Huff will sing gospel music and serve as a role model for the neighborhood's young people.

And on Sunday, the final day of the three-day event, Mr. Huff will be one of 11 people from the community to be honored with citations.

The event, which will be held in front of the Oliver Community Association's headquarters in the 1400 block of Federal St., is expected to attract as many as 3,000 people.

The Oliver neighborhood is bounded by East North Avenue on the north, Ensor Street on the west, Biddle Street on the south and Broadway on the east.

Hilton Bostick, president of the Oliver Community Association, said family unity is the festival's theme.

"This is not just about hamburgers and hot dogs," said Mr. Bostick, 42, who has lived in the Oliver community all of his life.

"By our guests [being] willing to share their time and talent, we'll encourage young people to discipline themselves and set goals so they, too, can succeed," he said.

The honorees include an East Biddle Street couple who will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary in August, a Korean merchant who gives financial support to various programs in the Oliver neighborhood and Webster Lewis, a famed jazz composer who lives in Riverdale, N.Y.

In addition, Mr. Bostick said, the city health department will be on hand to give residents HIV-testing, the Enoch Pratt Book Mobile will sign people up for library cards, and city school representatives will discuss dress codes and the curriculum.

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