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2016 African American Festival rocks Baltimore Independence Day weekend

Singer Joe Thomas performing at 2016 African American Festival. (Photo by Jermaine Gibbs Crew Photos courtesy of African American Festival)

Singer Joe Thomas performing at 2016 African American Festival. (Photo by Jermaine Gibbs; crew photos courtesy of African American Festival)

World-renowned performers, along with up-and-comers, speakers, and of course, great vendors came together in Baltimore this past weekend for two action-packed days of the 40th edition of the free African American Festival.

Artists including Common, Mary Mary, Joe, Estelle, Angie Stone, and nearly a dozen others rocked the stage during the two-day festival at Camden Yards Sport Complex, which is nestled between Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles, and M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens.

Veteran R&B singer Joe closed out the first night of festivities and left the crowd, especially the women, yearning for “more and more.” Joe performed many of his hits, including “Stutter,” “Don’t Wanna Be a Player,” ”More and More,” “Love Scene” and “All the Things (Your Man Won’t Do).” He also performed a cover of the classic Frankie Beverly and Maze hit, “Before I Let Go,” as well as the recent Adele classic “Hello.” The crooner closed out the show with his hit “I Wanna Know” from his most successful album, 2000’s My Name Is Joe.

Sunday, Mary Mary took the audience to church. The always entertaining and inspiring sister duo of Erica and Tina Campbell not only preached and testified to the audience, but they also performed some of their signature hits, including “Heaven,” “Yesterday,” “Something Big,” “Go Get It” and their debut hit, “Shackles.”

Hip-hop artist and actor Common closed out the two-day festival with an energetic performance that included a freestyle dedicated to the late music legend Prince over the instrumental of “Darling Nikki.” He also performed his Academy Award-winning hit from the film Selma, “Glory,” as well as “Kingdom,” “Come Close” and his classic, “The Light.”

In addition to the many performances, there was an Empowerment Pavilion that featured book signings, seminars and conversations regarding important topics to the African American community. Hosted by Kwame Jackson, Maria Willis and Alfred Edmond Jr., the Empowerment Pavilion was graced by Mathew Knowles, Zane and Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant.

It was this writer’s first time attending Baltimore’s African American Festival, but I can almost guarantee that it will not be my last. From the vendors to the performances, the empowering seminars, and best of all, the hundreds of thousands of beautiful African American faces, this is an event I look forward to attending in the future. Visit and sign up to get the latest on the 2017 African American Festival as soon as it’s available.