By Stephanie Harper,
Special to the AFRO
The 46th annual AFRAM Festival that took place in Baltimore over Juneteenth weekend was a great success. The event opened up with the inaugural Baltimore Club Music Day, which took place on June 17, and was followed by a second day of exciting, innovative activities and entertainment.
Over the two days of the festival, activist Jesse Jackson and Governor Wes Moore made appearances, along with celebrity artists like Tamar Braxton and the Isley Brothers. A number of amenities that were not offered last year were also available, including charging stations, water stations and a new option: a shuttle from Mondawmin Mall to the park.
Though many come to the AFRAM Festival for the artists and various performers, the real perk was access to the small businesses and organizations that vend along the winding path to the main stage.
Entrepreneurs were on hand to sell a variety of items including jewelry, holistic items, food, clothes, children’s books and even live turtles. The festival offers something for everyone– as countless free resources were also available. Mental health providers, local colleges and universities, the Baltimore City Fire Department and a host of other agencies and organizations were on hand to interact with residents and visitors.
Vinny Green, owner of Taharkas Brothers, a local organic ice cream company, spoke with the AFRO.
“We’ve been around for 12 years and we’re at AFRAM because of the community,” said Green. “This is our community and we like giving back. Yes, we have several locations throughout the city including Lexington Market and R House as well as 140 wholesale accounts– but we still believe in community.”
Holistic care and accessories were available through several vendors such as Heavenly by Goddess B, a local company specializing in metaphysical healing. Owner and healer Shamera Brooks has been in business for two years now.
“AFRAM is mostly cultural, and I love to network with people. I love to meet new people because you learn stuff from people every day,” said Brooks. “I want to teach people how to heal from a lot of things that we can use as a resource. So, we have crystals, candles, plants, oils, essential oils and sage. It’s all about the cleansing of the mind, the body, and the soul. This is my first time this year and it’s a hot one– but a nice crowd.”
California native and CEO of Lofty Stories, Jamila Romero, traveled from Washington D.C. to take part in the festival.
“I write children’s books and we have three currently. We have our “A – Z Black Girl Affirmations,” as well as “A – Z Black Boy Affirmations” and our most recent one, “A – Z Children Affirmations,” said Romero. “I chose AFRAM because it represents the culture and I definitely wanted to be a part of that
] celebrating Black and Brown
] and ensuring that they can see themselves within books. I am currently an educator and I know that there is a discrepancy when it comes to that.”
AFRAM also hosted organizations such as Black Girls Vote. Sherry Adams, the outreach lead for Black Girls Vote, spoke with the AFRO.
“Even though it’s hot out here, it’s never too hot to educate our African American people from Baltimore and beyond about the educational process and the importance of voting,” said Adams, when asked why she attended the festival. “We see so many different age groups out here and believe it or not, we’re not just registering voters that are younger, but we are also educating and registering folks that are 30,40,50– even 60.”
Aside from the food, the music and the fashions, another important part of the festival that stood out was the beautiful display of Black fatherhood. Generations of men and young boys could be seen laughing and talking with each other on both days of the festival– but the love was at an all-time high on day two of the event, which was Father’s Day.
Matthew Pinkney, resident from Baltimore, told the AFRO what fatherhood meant to him on the special day.
“It means the world to me to be a Black father in Baltimore City because there isn’t a lot of representation,” said Pinkney. “Black men, we have to show out! We have to show that there are good Black men and Black role models in this community.”
The festival closed out with the internationally known Isley Brothers crooning to the crowd. Overall, the festival was a sweet reminder of how community and culture can bring Charm City together.
This year’s AFRAM Festival highlighted the best of Baltimore– without incident– and highlighted the city’s unique offerings of community and culture.
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