By Brandi Randolph, Special to the AFRO
The AFRAM Festival smells of second chances, first performances and summer every year. With performances by Dru Hill, Ella Mai and more, this year’s festival is expected to be big. AFRAM is Baltimore’s African American cultural heritage festival. It celebrates Black businesses, health, music, job opportunities and more. This year’s event will take place August 11 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and August 12 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will be located at the historic Druid Hill Park (3001 East Drive Baltimore, MD 21217).
The AFRO sat down with iconic R&B Baltimore natives, Dru Hill, who are headlining this year’s festival. When asked about how they felt when they were called to perform, Mark “Sisqó” Andrews said, “Being asked to do an AFRAM performance, [I] was ecstatic,” because, “Baltimore doesn’t just give anyone a key to the city and the AFRAM is like that key.”
Which is true — we do not ask just anyone to come and rock out with our city over the AFRAM days. We ask people like Hadiya-Ayodele & Blacknotes, Jacquees, and Ella Mai to dazzle us. We bring Baltimore natives like Dru Hill and Davon Fleming to come and make us feel something with their music and entertainment.
At 12 p.m. on Aug 11, Hadiya, who is a Baltimore based artist that performs an infusion of neo-soul, hip-hop, gospel, will start off the performances for the festival. Jacquees, a rising R&B/hip hop artist, performs at 4:30 p.m.. Ella Mai, the newest upcoming singer/songwriter of the summer climbing the charts with her single, “Boo’d Up,” starts at 7 p.m. Davon Fleming, a semifinalist from The Voice, is a soulful singer who goes on at 1:30 p.m. on Aug 12.
Dru Hill is set to close the festival at 5 p.m. Even though, Dru Hill are Baltimore natives, performing here feels “good, [especially being] back [in] Baltimore receiving [the same amount of love that we have for our city],” said Tamir “Nokio” Ruffin.
The AFRAM festival also shines spotlights on local small businesses. One business to check out is Jasmin Manning Art and Design. The AFRO got a chance to talk to Manning, who said her business, “is a combination of art and design which includes paintings, logos, drawings and marketing materials.” Another vendor to make sure to find at the festival is the Donald Gladden Works Studio. He makes acrylic paintings that he then imprints on objects such as leather products, homer décor, stationary, beach accessories and more. Lastly, when the heat hits the AFRAM (temperatures are expected to be in the mid-80s with scattered thunderstorms) it is essential to visit Sweet Kam’s Snowballs and Concessions. It is “a youth owned and operated business where nachos, snowballs, hotdogs, and kressles (a non-fried waffle cake filled with strawberries and apples and topped with chocolate or caramel) are sold,” Kamryn Keys told the AFRO.