It’s been dubbed as one of the largest African American festivals on the East Coast. And even its sponsorship packages are named after famous local black pioneers such as Chick Webb and Billie Holliday. However, it appears as if Baltimore City Mayor Bernard ‘Jack’ Young’s administration doesn’t want AFRAM to partner with the area’s #1 black media outlet, Radio One.
Instead, Mayor Young followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Mayor Catherine Pugh, by foregoing a partnership with the radio station owned and operated by a black woman, Cathy Hughes; who happens to have the top hip-hop, gospel and talk show stations (92Q, Spirit and WOLB1010) in Baltimore’s African American community. Instead, the Mayor’s Office has decided to partner with a radio and television station that caters largely to white conservatives, WBAL.
If it wasn’t bad enough that they moved the large two-day festival from its popular location downtown between the Orioles and Raven stadiums to Druid Hill Park, which remains impossible to get to these days due to construction and a recently designed single traffic lane along part of its main corridor to make way for bikers; they added to that disrespect by carving out the one radio station that was single-handedly responsible for making the festival as big as it was over the past ten years.
Once known to generate over 100,000 visitors during the weekend festivities, since it was moved to the park in 2017 – which was the one year it was narrowed down to one day before voter backlash changed it back to two – it has barely been able to cover its costs, bringing in a little over 10,000 attendees. Prior to the move to Druid Hill Park, and the change in media sponsors, AFRAM was once known as the premiere summer music festival, with national artists appearing on both days. However, the past two years was made to be more “local”, foregoing national recording artists for local talent, which has pissed off a lot of residents.
This year, the free festival has once again sought national talent such as hip-hop mogul Rick Ross, as well as the once dominant R&B signing group Dru Hill – who are from the Baltimore area. But it’s still locked into a part of Baltimore that many travelers refuse to venture due to the traffic congestion and headaches of trying to enter and exit the park. It’s also chosen to partner with a media company that does little to nothing for, or within, the African American community, over one that continues to touch the lives of thousands of black Baltimore residents. And now, on top of all that, the Baltimore Brew is reporting on the questionable financial reimbursements being sought by the festival’s organizer, Mayor Young’s senior director of public affairs, Tonya Miller.
If the Mayor was truly seeking to distance himself from the Pugh administration, and get back to what makes Baltimore great in every community, this doesn’t seem to be the way to do it – at least as it relates to the African American communities of Charm City. It’s time this administration makes amends with Ms. Hughes and Radio One, and return AFRAM back to the days of old.