Bobby Brown Declares Love for Whitney on Stage Hours After Her Death

2/12/2012 10:38 AM PST

Bobby Brown said it was difficult for him to take the stage with New Edition last night, but just hours after learning of the death of his ex-wife Whitney Houston ... he did it for his loyal fans. 

As TMZ previously reported, Brown was having "crying fits" upon learning of Whitney's passing. But Brown and the rest of the group performed in Mississippi last night, with Brown pointing to the sky and saying, "I love you, Whitney."  

New Edition released a statement yesterday supporting Brown, which said in part, "We are absolutely shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely death of our dear sister Whitney. As a group, we are extremely close; when one of us hurts, we all hurt."