Danielle Brewer, an energetic Northeast girl with ambitions that reach to the sky, got a taste of her future yesterday while attending the second annual Black Family Reunion Celebration on the Mall.

Three generations of her family ventured out under rain-threatening skies to enjoy musical performances and view exhibits at the event promoted by the National Council of Negro Women, a coalition of sisterhood organizations founded by Mary McLeod Bethune in 1935.

Danielle, 5, a student at Amidon Elementary School in Southwest, said she wants to be a doctor but, congruent with the self-help and education themes of the festival, did not want to limit herself.

"I'm gonna dance and I'm gonna help other people take shots," she said after stepping out of the audience to take part in a performance by the ventriloquy duo Willie Tyler and Lester in the celebration's children's pavilion.

Clara Brewer, Danielle's mother, said, "I want her to do whatever makes her happy," as Danielle ran off to give her grandmother a big smile and hug after her performance.

This year, as last, entertainment was abundant but practical information that could be used to strengthen black families was emphasized. Those attending were offered the latest information about fitness and disease and were encouraged to participate in activities at some of the exhibits.

Panels, discussion groups and workshops -- such as a surrogate parenting lecture for young adults, sessions on black family values, and a look at widening job opportunities for black women -- equally helped achieve the council's goals. "We're not saying self-help with no help from anyone else. We're saying we'll come together and use the maximum of our own resources," council President Dorothy I. Height said.

Height said the celebration got its start "in the face of so many negative projections of the black family and so much emphasis on the weakness. We thought time had come to reaffirm our historic values and traditional strengths.

"Education and self-help are the focus . . . getting parents involved with the education of black children. Black people are survivors and we want to do more than survive."

The success of last year's reunion spurred the council, which comprises 225 community sections and 31 affiliated organizations nationwide, to expand the idea to regional reunions.

Daylong celebrations in Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles this summer drew between 70,000 and 100,000 people each, according to Vanessa J. Weaver, executive director of the reunions.

She said 200,000 people attended the two-day event on the Mall last year. Even with rainless but darkening skies yesterday morning, Weaver said she hoped the Washington festival, which continues today, would draw an equal number.

Weaver, a psychologist with Procter & Gamble, came up with the concept for putting on the first festival after sharing "with my company the desire to give something back to the community."

On leave from her post, Weaver has been instrumental in making the reunions grow, enlisting support from Procter & Gamble, the main sponsor, and from Coca-Cola, Kodak and other corporations.

Height said she "sometimes has questions" about the involvement of large business organizations in an event geared toward the black community but said that "one of the reasons we sought corporate sponsorship is to make it free so that there is no one who could say . . . they could not afford it. We've done everything we can to make it as open as possible."

The District government, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Park Service also are supporters of the event.

After the Los Angeles festival, Height said, participants told the organizers that "you learn {at the reunion} but don't get the feeling of being in school. We're trying to hit people in ways that are acceptable to them."

At the opening ceremonies yesterday, some participants -- including National Council of Negro Women sections from the Bronx in New York City, national black sorority Delta Sigma Theta and uniformed cheerleaders from the University of the District of Columbia -- nationally prominent singer Melba Moore and Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) welcomed the crowd with vibrato-tinged renditions of songs that expressed the feelings of the day.

James F. McClain, 71, stood at the edge of a stage listening to the blues-jazz musings of local guitarist Bill Harris. He said he missed last year's reunion but was not going to repeat his mistake.

"I'm really disappointed there aren't more people here," said McClain, a First Street NE resident. "I'm going home tonight and spend three hours calling friends I know I won't see and tell them what they're missing. It's very educational, for young and old alike."

"People staying at home don't know what they're missing," he said.

Roger and Jackie Stinson came from Springfield because, Roger said: "Black people coming together to do something positive, you know. It's exciting."

While picking up pamphlets in the work ethics area, he said the couple was "trying to see how we can benefit" by the resources available. "We were over at the adoption booth. We've considered that," Roger said.

He said he also spent some time at a booth learning about Big Brothers programs and is considering becoming a big brother because "more black youth need positive role models." The Stinsons, who like most at the festival were content soaking up as much information as possible, also gathered some fliers on starting their own business.

At the young adults pavilion, the emphasis was on improving young people's attitudes about themselves and avoiding drug addiction and crime that can suffocate a young life.

During a talk by Jayne Kennedy, a D.C. native who is a national television personality, a 30-year-old man, who said later he "just came down here to see what was going on," asked to join her on stage.

In a testimonial of choice and change, the man recounted how he began drinking at age 10 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where he grew up and had been a cocaine and heroin user by the time he was 18.

Later, while incarcerated in 1984, he said he realized that he could change his life. He said he left his job with a nonprofit group recently to study pyschology at UDC. "The only thing I have going for me now is example. Choice," he said. "That's the bottom line."