Fun in name of love, peace, soul

If those attending Baltimore's Stone Soul Picnic yesterday couldn't find something to do, it wasn't for lack of opportunity.

Held at Druid Hill Park and sponsored by Radio One, the annual free event featured food, games, live entertainment, contests, vendor and numerous educational booths.


Nationally syndicated disc jockey Tom Joyner, whose morning radio show raises money for historically black colleges and universities, was on hand to liven up the crowd.

Stone Soul Picnics have been going on across the country for years as a way to promote family fun. For some at Druid Hill Park yesterday, it was their first taste of the event.


Others like Phyllis and Samuel Cole of Rosedale are veterans.

"We've been all 12 years and have loved every bit of it," said Phyllis Cole, 41, a cashier at Towson State University. "I like the groups they bring out, the free stuff at the booths and the information booths."

Tony McCoy, 30, of East Baltimore and Kevin Jenkins, 28, of West Baltimore spent several hours taking in the scenery from a picnic bench in the shade.

With sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s, the friends were glad to find that spot.

Jenkins said he enjoys seeing familiar faces.

With an estimated 200,000 people on hand, it's easy to spot someone you know.

Reginald and Tiffany Parker and their daughter, Ciara, spread out on blankets near the front of the stage.

"It's a blessing for the city because we do have a lot of terrible things happening, but this shows there is good stuff in the city," said Tiffany Parker, 32. "The Stone Soul Picnic gets better every year."


Jammal Akene, 17, who goes to Overlea High School in Rosedale, attended for the first time with his mother, Betty Akene, 45, and brother Habib, 8.

"It's a black-on-black thing, and you feel at home and it's peaceful," Jammal said after winning a water bottle and a cap for making three consecutive shots in a basketball shooting contest. "It's a fun family event with no violence whatsoever. I think if they had more of these, the crime rate would go down."

Crime didn't seem to be on people's minds yesterday, especially children who had fun getting their faces painted, and eating ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs and snow balls.

Brothers Martaz Boone, 6, and Maynard Brown, 10, and their cousin Tyrese Prue, 4, attended with their grandfather, Joseph Brown, 50. Martaz had a fish and a star painted on his face; Tyrese had balloons painted on his.

Of course, it would be hard to have an event with so many people this close to an election without some campaigning. Signs and fliers of candidates for mayor and City Council president were all over the place. Yet, the politicking seemed lost among all the food, music and fun.

The Sandtown Children of Praise, a group of kids from West Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester community, got the crowd rocking early. Later, jazz sensation Roy Ayers delighted the audience. And Parliament/Funkadelic was also scheduled to perform.


Not everyone was into the music.

La'Tisha Mack, 13, sat on a blanket on a hill overlooking the stage and busied herself reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, a book by Mildred D. Taylor about a black girl's coming of age in the South in the 1930s. La'Tisha, who will be a freshman at Baltimore School for the Arts this fall, attended the event with her friend, Krystal Monroe, also 13, and Krystal's mother, Linda Monroe, 42.

"I just get into it," La'Tisha said of her book reading. "I don't let anything distract me."