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AFRAM unveils weeklong mix of live, virtual events for 2021 festival

When the 2021 Baltimore AFRAM festival returns next week, it will feature five in-person and three virtual events, including broadcast performances by rapper Busta Rhymes and the R&B star Chaka Khan.

Though the festival traditionally is a live, two-day event, this year it is being spread over eight days from Aug. 15-22 to reduce the size of crowds and the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

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“We want the residents of Baltimore and beyond to not only recognize, but experience the amount of brainstorming, effort and care that went into the execution of this years’ AFRAM Festival,” Reginald Moore, the department’s executive director said Monday in a news release. “I cannot wait for everyone to see what we have in store.”

The Baltimore AFRAM Festival is one of the largest African American cultural arts festivals on the East Coast. This is the 44th year of the event, which has attracted as many as 75,000 festivalgoers to Druid Hill Park in the past.

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The 2020 festival was canceled due to the pandemic; starting in 2022, AFRAM will be moved up by two months to coincide with Juneteenth Day weekend celebrations.

A large crowd listens to music at the 2019 AFRAM. This year's festival will be a combination of virtual and in-person events.
A large crowd listens to music at the 2019 AFRAM. This year's festival will be a combination of virtual and in-person events. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

“It’s no secret that AFRAM is one of my favorite festivals, and I am so excited to take part this year,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a related news release. “AFRAM is not just about our national performers but is a platform to lift up our local, homegrown talent from right here in our community.”

Scott will start the festival Aug. 15 with a virtual “Sunday Dinner,” in which he and chef Sean Guy of Water for Chocolate will cook up their favorite weekend family meals.

The festival will feature a live “movie night” Aug. 17, in Herring Run Park, and a “bike party” through Druid Hill Park on Aug. 18. New this year is AFRAM Restaurant Week, in which several Black-owned local restaurants will create a specific dish or beverage themed to the festival. More than 20 eateries will take part from Aug. 15-22.

Saturday’s program will feature rap stars Mooski, Wale and Busta Rhymes. Sunday’s lineup includes the gospel singer and pianist Smokie Norful, multiple Grammy winner Chaka Khan and singer-songwriter Marsha Ambrosius.

The concerts can be streamed at charmtvbaltimore.com, at WJZ-TV (baltimore.cbslocal.com) or at aframbaltimore.com, where more details about the festival can be found.

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