Thousands of families are expected to attend the city's fourth Black Family Reunion on the Mall this weekend to listen to lectures by experts on such major issues as "the black male in crisis" and "sexual assault and rape in the African American community." There also will be music and dancing, children's activities and refreshments.

The reunion was conceived by Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, as a way to celebrate the durability and vigor of black families.

"Black families have always valued education, self-help and hard work," she said. "Whatever problems we have, we have to deal with them based on our strengths."

The event is sponsored by the council in cooperation with the D.C. government, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service.

Height said about 300,000 people attended last year.

The reunion starts with a prayer breakfast at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Departmental Auditorium, on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 13th streets NW.

On the Mall from noon until dark Saturday and Sunday, there will be fashion shows and demonstrations on flower, jewelry and ice cream making, self-defense and facials. There will be gospel performances, old Negro spirituals, an electric slide dance, a South African music performance, the Metropolitan Police Choir, a string quartet, a magic show and many other performers.

Speakers will lead discussions on teen sexuality, the role of women in religion and spirituality, family nutrition and "becoming a man."

In addition, there will be free concerts at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Sylvan Theater on the Mall.

Saturday will feature R&B performers Jean Carne, Stacy Lattisaw, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and comedian Ted Carpenter. Sunday features gospel performers Witness, the Richard Smallwood Singers and the Black Family Reunion Choir.