It was the best ‘Party with a Purpose’ ever

Remember February 2020? It was a different world ago.

That last February, the 4th annual Black History Month Party was one of the neighborhood’s last in-person events.  BHCA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) had been organizing Parties with a Purpose since the first one in January 2016. One purpose is to have fun, but these parties also raise awareness, support, and donations for local non-profits serving the 21217 community. 

A few years ago, the SATF organizers adopted a motto to highlight the spirit of the Black History Month Party – “It’s February. Open your windows.” As the SATF organizers discussed actions for 2021, they realized we all needed to open our windows more than ever. 

Sunday, Feb. 21, was an icy cold mess outside but it was HOT online, with this year’s 5th annual Black History Month Party broadcast live from Memorial Episcopal’s sanctuary, courtesy of its rector, the Rev. Grey Maggiano. 

Moving the party online opened up doors, as well as windows, as the focus changed to local poets reading their own works LIVE, along with neighbors reading selections by black authors. Baltimore’s own Black Chakra, Lady Bryon, and MeccaMorphosis read their works, as did three younger poets from CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth, Kendra Bryant, Amaya Burke, and Madison Mattison. 

Don Palmer one again was MC and DJ for the event (check out his playlist below) while Jess Wyatt and the Rev. Grey managed the tech side.  With non-stop, rapid-fire torrents of words streaming into viewers’ homes, the local crew of Baltimore Poets’ readings commanded center stage as they rocked the house. 

As with all PWAPs, the hat was passed regularly to collect donations, like a rent party, with the money shared between designated organizations. This year’s party supported the poets directly, along with Charm Literary Magazine, and Organizing Black, a grassroots, member-led organization dedicated to fighting for the liberation of all Black people. 

Thanks to the generosity of participants, this SATF Party generated the most donations ever: $2,350 split between the three professional poets and the two organizations. 

If you missed it, or want to hear these great performances again, click here for the full, almost 2-hour video recording of the event. If you want to support the ongoing work of the Social Action Task Force, donate online through the BHCA website here, and select “Social Action Task Force” from the “What would you like your donation to support?” dropdown menu. 

If you think that kids’ voices matter, click here to become a subscriber to Charm’s Literary Magazine. Executive Director and Bolton Hill neighbor Whitney Birenbaum highlighted this as the best way to amplify their work. Volunteers and donations are of course always needed. Donate to Organizing Black here, and support their efforts, particularly abolishing the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), and regaining city control over the Baltimore Police Department. 

Want to get involved with the SATF,  Email them at Volunteers and new energy are always needed. What would you like to see happen in the neighborhood?

-Peter Van Buren

The Program

Click here for the video recording of the whole event. Below is the program with the time stamps, and links to the poems, poets, and organizations.

Don’s music list

  • Bullfrog Blues, William Harris (at the start, not recorded)
  • Canned Heat Blues, Tommy Johnson (at the start, not recorded)
  • When You’re Smiling, Billie Holiday (at the start, not recorded)
  • Now is the Time, Bud Powell (min 38:00)
  • Driva’man, Max Roach (after Now is the Time)
  • Lon, Blick Bassy (min 1:38:20)
  • Sunny Side of the Street, James Brooker (after Lon)