Rhythms, refreshments and recreation highlight 13th annual Culture in Black Expo.

When the city of Carson talks about black culture, it means everything from the lilting calypso music and spicy foods of the Caribbean to pulsating rap songs and dances fresh from the streets of Los Angeles.

It's a rich mix that people will be able to sample for free Sunday afternoon as the city presents its annual Culture in Black Expo at Stevenson Park.

"We hope to give people a very enjoyable time and expose them to the different cultures that are here in Los Angeles," said Aundrea Rockhold, acting director at the park, which has been putting on the festival for 13 years.

Rockhold said the park's neighborhood--sandwiched between the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus and the Artesia Freeway--is a perfect reflection of what the celebration is all about. The predominantly black population includes immigrants from Panama, Belize and the Virgin Islands.

The black expo initially began as a rhythm-and-blues concert, but over the years it has evolved into a festival saluting different black cultures. Past events have spotlighted West Africa and black America and this year, the theme is Caribbean. The festival has become an established event, drawing up to 1,500 people.

Besides offering entertainment and food, the 13-acre park will be dotted with arts and crafts booths where African art and jewelry will be sold. There also will be demonstrations of karate and bodybuilding.

Teen-agers will have their own special Teen Scene area, where local singing and dancing groups will entertain. Little children will be able to enjoy pony rides and other carnival-type games priced at five for $1. "We're not making money off of this but providing for the community," said Rockhold.

Everyone who doesn't mind getting messy may join in the watermelon- and pie-eating contests.

But the big attraction is the music. An outdoorstage area will offer seating for 200 as well as an open-air tent for those who want to sit and enjoy the entertainment without getting too much sun.

Whether the music is jazz or rap, Rockhold says the sounds on Sunday will be "mostly up-tempo and fast-moving, party music."

Headliners are the Campbell Brothers jazz group, along with the Sapadilla reggae band and Del and the Sensations, a calypso group whose members are from the Caribbean.

A jazz sextet led by Carson musician John Davis is making its second appearance; a date the group looks forward to. "You get such a wide audience," Davis said. "The hard-core jazz people sit there in front. A lot of people are on blankets under trees. Mothers are watching their babies. You see people all over."

Youthful performers, including two teen-agers who work part time at the park, will provide the rap numbers. "The raps are all positive; say no to drugs and don't join gangs," said Rockhold.

A Carson rapper called Sandman says the messages "come from the streets" and are about getting kids onto the right path. "There is a fight going on for kids," he said. "The bad wants 'em and we try to get 'em to know right from wrong."

Larry Horns, who performs under the name The Messenger, describes rap as "fast language, street language" with a beat that young people respond to. "They love the loud sound, the upbeat music," said Horns, who uses rap to encourage "peace, love and unity for all people."

Says Rockhold of the festival: "People know about it. Families come out, picnic, and enjoy the activity."

What: Culture in Black Expo.

When: Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Where: Stevenson Park, 17400 Lysander Drive, Carson.

Admission: Free.

Information: 631-2252.

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