Since moving back to Baltimore last year, one of my biggest pleasures has been attending the seemingly endless calendar of festivals in the city. With music, food, games, and, often, kid-friendly attractions, they're a goldmine for parents looking for weekend activities that are fun for everybody. Among many others, we've hit the Fells Point Festival, Baltimore Book Festival, the Transmodern Festival, HonFest, Artscape, and, just this past weekend, the Baltimore International Festival.
One thing we've noticed is that, like too many things in Baltimore, the festivals seems to be heavily segregated by race. The phenomenon has been especially pronounced at two of the most recent fests. We had a ball at HonFest, watching the bands and gawking at all the Hons, but couldn't help noticing that the crowd was overwhelmingly white. And then, this past weekend, we watched soccer matches and music and ate amazing Jamaican food at the Baltimore International Festival, but I only saw three other white people in attendence. I must say, Artscape, where my son Jack played percussion with some new friends (above), seemed to attract a refreshingly diverse crowd, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
It may be that my wife and I notice the segregation because we spent years living in Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey, where public festivals tend to draw much more diverse crowds. An African festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn tended to draw people from a broad spectrum of ethnic backgrounds, anxious to hear the incredible music, just as an Indian festival in Jersey City drew people from miles away to taste the incredible food.
So, why not here? Are people in Baltimore less adventurous? More accustomed to sticking to their own? With people of such a broad range of ethnic backgrounds populating the Baltimore metro area, it should be the setting for glorious cultural exchange. So why isn't it?