BALTIMORE (WJZ) — R&B superstar Ne-Yo lit up Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park on Saturday night as the headliner for AFRAM Festival 2022.

The two-day festival celebrating African-American culture coincides with Juneteenth, the commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans in 1865 that officially became a federal holiday last year.

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Anchor Rick Ritter caught up with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Ne-Yo in the WJZ tent, just as he was about to perform. The artist said he felt the energy from the festival before he even arrived.

“Before we got here we heard the energy driving up, so I already know that it’s electric out there right now, and I’m looking forward to getting out there,” Ne-Yo said. “And the energy exchange that happens between artists and fans – it’s a beautiful thing.”

The mayor said he was excited to see Ne-Yo because “he doesn’t just sing to put on a show, he performs.” Mayor Scott also noted the importance of the weekend, and the significance of AFRAM returning in-person.

“So we want to put on, because it’s our first time having AFRAM back after two and a half years and we moved it to Juneteenth weekend, it’s also Father’s weekend. Everybody’s excited to see this brother get on the stage, and I can’t wait.”

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Ne-Yo has priorities and doesn’t say yes to everything, but this weekend is particularly important to him.

“Juneteenth is important period,” he said. “I feel like it’s important to my kids I got — I’m raising three boys and two girls — and I feel like it’s important for them to know it came from, know the real truth behind when slavery ended, and just the celebration that it should be, so I had to say yes to this. I had to.”

Asked how Baltimore could top this next year, the mayor said “we got to do it bigger and better. It’s gonna be hard to do, but we’re gonna do it.”

Ne-Yo has sold a cumulative 20+ million albums worldwide, has won three Grammy awards and has garnered 14 Grammy nominations, according to record label Motown Records.

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WJZ is the proud TV partner of AFRAM Festival.

CBS Baltimore Staff