Summer is fast approaching, and festivals, concerts and plays abound. There's no need to hop on Interstate 95 and head out of town, you can stay right here in Baltimore.
There are many activities that speak to Baltimore's charm - whether you're into charity, education, the arts or just like getting your dance on to a smooth summer groove. So, between family reunions, barbecues and trips to theme parks this summer, take time out to participate in African-American culture, B-more style:
1. Ray's Summer Days. June 16-19.
All-Pro Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is hosting his inaugural four-day, fun-filled Ray's Summer Days to benefit the Ray Lewis Foundation, which assists disadvantaged youth. So, come out and party for a cause.
The event starts with a highly exclusive, invite-only VIP Kickoff Dinner on June 16. (Even the location is top secret.) On Friday, Ray and friends will tee up at 9 a.m. for a Golf Classic at Mountain Branch. Tickets are $500.
The fun continues at 7 p.m. with the "Bacardi main event," a casino night, cocktail reception and auction at the Marriott Waterfront, 700 Aliceanna St. The cost is $150.
On June 18, from noon to 5 p.m., enjoy a free block party sponsored by the Baltimore Ravens at the Can Company, 2400 Boston St. This family-friendly event includes local radio personalities, the Baltimore Ravens Kids Zone and a Health Village.
Later, get your laugh on at Ray's Mega Comedy Jam at 7:30 p.m. at 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St. Among the comedians whose appearance has been confirmed are Alex Thomas, who has appeared on Comedy Central's Premium Blend and BET's Comic View, and Marvin Dixon, a Miami entertainer.
Ray's Summer Days concludes June 19 with a gospel brunch at Rams Head Live!, 20 Market Place, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Several gospel acts are scheduled to perform.
For more information on Ray's Summer Days, call 305-255-3500 or visit rayssummerdays.com. Tickets, which vary in price, may be purchased through the Web site.
2. Kem with special guest Fantasia. June 19.
While jazz-soul artist Kem is the main act, Fantasia (the artist formerly known as American Idol Fantasia Barrino) just might steal the show. The two are scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. at Pier 6 Cavalier Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave. Tickets range from $38-$53. For ticket information, call 410-659-9540.
3. UniverSoul Circus. June 14-19.
Hip-hop under the big top is the main attraction when the UniverSoul Circus is in town. On this visit, the circus will set up at Security Square Mall, 6901 Security Blvd.
The one-ring affair has been dubbed "The Coolest Show on Earth" by Newsweek. The circus features 17 acts from 11 countries and is led by ringmasters Shuckey Duckey and Patrice Lovely, better known as Maybelle. Showtimes are June 14, 7:30 p.m.; June 15-17, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; June 18, noon, 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; June 19, 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $10-$29 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets. For more information, call 800-316-7439.
4. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. June 25.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum officially opens it doors at noon. Fun-filled activities and educational programs are slated for the celebration.
The museum, at 19 E. Fayette St., will highlight more than "350 years of history and accomplishments of Maryland's African-American community," according to its Web site.
The inaugural exhibit will focus on three major areas: Family and Community, Labor That Built a Nation, and Art and Enlightenment. A special exhibition focusing on the faces and voices of the African Diaspora also will be featured. In honor of the grand opening, the museum is sponsoring a black-tie event featuring Johnny Mathis at the Joseph S. Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Friday, June 24. Tickets range from $36-$85 and can be purchased at the Meyerhoff box office, 1212 Cathedral St., or by calling 410-783-8000.
For more information about the museum, call 443-263-1800.
5. African-American Heritage Festival. June 24-26.
Neo-soul singer India.Arie is scheduled to perform on opening night at the African-American Heritage Festival at Camden Yards. The names of other performing artists have not been released. But no matter who takes center stage at the festival, the show will rock on.
This all-out celebration of African-American heritage with a touch of Baltimore flavor includes exhibits, food, rides and live entertainment that ranges from old school to neo-soul to hip-hop.
There is no admission fee for the Baltimore City-sponsored event, but stock up on cash because there will be lots of crafts and artwork on sale.
For more information, call 410-318-8286.
6. Angie Stone with Urban Mystic. June 25.
This is for the grown folk. Angie Stone with Urban Mystic will bless the Rams Head Live! stage with neo-soul rhythms with a touch of R&B.;
Urban Mystic might only be 19, but he has been described as an up-and-coming singer who is "redefining R&B.;" At least that's what his Web site says. His first album, Ghetto Revelations, drops in stores Nov. 30. But you can get a glimpse of this rising star when he opens for Stone at 8 p.m.
Stone is scheduled to perform at 9 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 the day of the show. For more information, call 410-244-1131.
7. Baltimore Caribbean Carnival and Festival. July 15-17.
Can't afford a vacation to the islands this summer? No sweat, mon. The islands will come to you.
A taste of paradise awaits you at the Baltimore Caribbean Carnival and Festival at Druid Hill Park. Witness the beauty of the colorful Mardi Gras-like regalia during the King & Queen Costume Competition at 6 p.m. July 15 at the park.
Then, get your flags out and get ready to represent at the Carnival Street Parade on July 16. The parade kicks off at noon in the 5400 block of Park Heights Ave. and ends at Druid Hill Park.
After the parade, stay around to enjoy the fare and fellowship. There will be enough jerk chicken, oxtails and meat pies to satisfy every palate.
The party blows up on July 17 with the Carnival Explosion. Come prepared to jam from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to the sounds of steel drums, reggae bands and other entertainment at this nonstop Caribbean party.
Have kids? Bring them to the Kiddie Carnival at 4 p.m. at 5204 Park Heights Ave.
For more information on the Baltimore Caribbean Carnival and Festival, visit www.bcacarnival.com or call 410-230-2969. Admission is $5, free for children under 12.
More than 27,000 people attended the event last year.
8. Frederick Douglass "Path to Freedom" Walking Tour. Runs through Nov. 5.
Grab the entire family and follow in the footsteps of abolitionist Frederick Douglass along the waterfront of Fells Point.
Stops include places where Douglass lived, worked and went to church. The new Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum are additions to the tour. Louis C. Fields, executive director of the Baltimore African American Tourism Council, which sponsors the events, leads the tour.
Reservations are necessary. To make a reservation, call 410-783-5469 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The walk, which departs from Broadway and Thames Street, usually lasts about an hour. So, wear comfortable shoes. Tour fees are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $10 for children 12 and younger. There is a $3 discount for groups of four or more.
9. Artscape. July 22-24.
It's all about the art at Artscape, which is known as the granddaddy of cultural extravaganzas in Baltimore. From literary art to dance to theater to film to music to visual arts, Artscape has got you covered. Expect a mix of national, regional and local performing artists who'll bring flavors of everything from Louisiana zydeco to reggae to salsa.
This year's acts include the Afro-Latin group Ozomatli, the salsa dance band Spanish Harlem Orchestra and hip-hop legend Biz Markie. Artscape, which takes over the Bolton Hill community annually, is known for bringing great national acts to the stage. And the best part is, the shows are free!
This year's festival promises to be bigger and more exciting than any other. The premier celebration of the arts will expand its offerings by showcasing fashion for the first time in its 24-year history. Come to Gordon Plaza, which will be located at Mount Royal and Maryland avenues, and watch regional and local fashion designers show their stuff on the catwalk. Inaugural participants include the Baltimore businesses Gimmickwear, bored?, 6"2 and seventy.nine clothing.
Another change this year is that the Mayor's Billie Holiday Vocal Competition joins the slate. In past years, the contest was held at Center Stage, and the winner performed at Artscape. Tickets were given out to the free event. But long lines left many out in the heat. Not this year. The event is scheduled to take place July 23 in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. It's still free. The contest will also add an American Idol-like component by including audience participation and awarding a People's Choice Award. The winner receives cash prizes and a chance to perform July 24.
For more information about Artscape, visit artscape.org or call 877-BALTIMORE.
10. The Lion King. Through Sept. 4.
The Disney classic The Lion King comes to life with a touring Broadway production at the Hippodrome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St. The stage version brings beautiful African wildlife to life in a Hakuna Matata production. Tickets range from $22.50-$76.50 and can be purchased at the Hippodrome box office and all Ticketmaster locations. For more information, call, 410-752-7444.