River to River Festival

New York City
June 19-July 16
Admission: Free

Lower Manhattan's largest free arts festival is back, celebrating its 10th anniversary. There's something here for everyone — from the Bang on the Can Marathon to Cuban Roots Cuban Soul performances.

Captions by Abdul Ali

Run & Shoot Film Festival


Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Aug. 9-13
Admission: Varies; you can purchase tickets for screening blocks, a day pass or a festival pass

In its ninth year, Run & Shoot has established itself as an important force in the black indie-film sector. Get to networking at its exclusive director's brunch, hobnob with some of the bigwigs at HBO and check out the numerous screenings. Witness the next generation of black filmmakers in the making. Eat. Press play. Fall in love with the beach.

World Children's Festival


Washington, D.C.
June 17-19
Admission: Free

Did you know that 27 percent of the world's population is under the age of 15? If for that reason alone, come celebrate the world's youth in a weekend-long blend of international festivities thematically organized around "environment and health, creativity and imagination, peace and leadership." Among its many events are 10 Japanese youths narrating their tsunami experience, a Ugandan troupe of dancers, youth authors, speakers and lots more.

Black Arts Movement Festival


Austin, Texas
June 3-18
Admission: Tickets and passes

Austin's two-week arts festival is probably the most ambitious in its offerings, which feature something different each evening, including art exhibitions, performances by a local black dance company, a poetry event featuring the Last Poets, a fashion show and comedy. And if that isn't enough, there will also be a culinary show with a professional chef.

National Black Theatre Festival


Winston-Salem, N.C.
Aug. 1-6
Admission: Tickets ($10-$45)

The organizers call it Theater Holy Ground. Whether you're a religious theatergoer, a theater professional or a novice, you'll find something at this weeklong theater festival, whose offerings include play readings, workshops and seminars, a poetry slam, a film festival and a youth talent show.

National Black Arts Festival


July 7-17
Admission: Tickets

It's remarkable how the organizers jam so much into 11 days. This year the festival maintains its commitment to visual art with an art salon, a lecture on Romare Bearden, a photo exhibit on hip-hop icons called "True Hip Hop," a documentary screenings, a special performance by music's legendary O'Jays and much more.



July 15-17
Admission: Free

Baltimore has earned bragging rights for its annual Artscape, now in its 30th year, which features classical music, popular music acts, street theater and family activities.

African Diaspora International Film Festival


Chicago and Washington, D.C.
June 17-23; July 22-24
Admission: $10-plus

Calling all indie-film junkies! Collecting and screening films about known and lesser-known figures from the Diaspora is the focus of this multicity traveling film festival.

Newport Jazz Festival


Rhode Island
Aug. 5-7
Admission: $40-plus

Run away to a New England weekend filled with great music, food and cool breezes. This year the festival snagged A-listers Wynton Marsalis, Regina Carter and Esperanza Spalding.

Monterey Jazz Festival


Sept. 16-18
Admission: $40-plus

With more than 500 artists performing in close quarters, it's little wonder that this festival has been around for more than 50 years. Headlining this year are Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and India.Arie, to name a few. There will be a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie and a jazz-tap tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.

Essence Music Festival


New Orleans
July 1-3
Admission: $50-$500

Bring in the Fourth properly at the Essence Music Festival. The lineup is remarkable, making it worth every penny. Headliners include Usher, Kanye West and Mary J. Blige. Lovers of old school are in for a treat: Stephanie Mills, Chaka Khan and Boyz II Men are also on the program. In addition, there will be an empowerment series featuring Steve Harvey and Soledad O'Brien.