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The Essence Festival Is Truly the Ultimate Girls' Trip!

by Deborah E. Dennard

The blockbuster movie, Girls' Trip, attempts to capture the spirit of what attending the Essence Festival is all about. This year almost a half million attendees made their yearly pilgrimage to the Big Easy for the Fourth of July weekend to experience music, empowerment, food, and fun. This is the biggest music event in the country. During this weekend every year, there is a sense of black unity and sisterhood in New Orleans with hordes of girlfriends and couples enjoying the festivities.

CeCe Winans and Cissy Houston

What the Essence Festival is truly known for is the music. This year, headliners like Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Chance the Rapper, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan, Master P, Xscape, and many others were responsible for packing out the Mercedes Benz Super Dome for this three-day event.

Chante Moore

On the first night of the event, Rhonda Ross, the eldest daughter of Diana Ross, opened the main stage with her funky, neo soul music. India Arie and John Legend gave crowd pleasing performances, singing soul-stirring ballads. However, the night belonged to the Supreme Diva, Diana Ross, who proved why she is called The Boss. As the main headliner of the Festival, she truly did not disappoint. She entered the arena adorned in an aqua green dress, singing her hit, "I'm Coming Out." She continued to mesmerize the audience as they sang along with her, hits from her Supremes days like "Baby Love," "Where Did Our Love Go," and "Stop in the Name of Love." In her customary style, Ms. Ross changed clothes two more times, each time wearing a wrap or stole which she threw on the floor in her traditional diva fashion. She kept the audience on their feet as they sang along to songs like "The Boss," "It's My House," "Do You Know Where You're Going To," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The night ended with fans leaving the building on a high because of her showmanship.

Diana Ross

Saturday brought more R&B singers like Lalah Hathaway, Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige, Jazmine Sullivan, and Chaka Khan. Mary J. Blige brought the house down with her performance, balancing her fast upbeat hip hop tunes with her passionate ballads of love and loss.

India Arie and Iyanla Vanzant

Sunday night, the Festival ended differently than in the past, ending with a night of Hip Hop artists with headliners like Master P and Chance the Rapper. There were other R&B singers like Solange, Tweet, Leela James, and Daley. The festival had only one snafu during the entire event. Because the R&B group, Xscape who are on a comeback tour, was scheduled to perform in one of the smaller lounges rather than the main stage, many fans were upset because they were unable to get in to see them due to fire code issues. Nonetheless, overall the attendees were very pleased with the entire festival.

Roland Martin and Maxine

While the Essence Festival is well-known for the musical aspect, many do not take advantage of the educational aspect. It is definitely a party with a purpose, including entrepreneurial, political, social, and spiritual experiences from which to learn. The festival is a put on by Essence magazine, and in the same way the magazine uplifts, educates, and exemplifies the beauty of the black woman, the events held during the day epitomize the same. They take place in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center at absolutely no cost. It is during these events that fans actually have opportunities to interact and take selfies with various celebrities who just happen to be walking by.

Jazmine Sullivan and Queen Latifah

There were appearances and interviews with various people like the casts of Girls’ Trip, Queen Sugar, Empire, and The Have and Have Nots. Guests like Congresswoman Maxine Waters stopped by to encourage women to keep the pressure on this presidential administration. She ended her speech by telling the audience to use the hashtag, #Impeach45. Michael Eric Dyson with his powerful speaking encouraged all black women by reminding them of their beauty, strength, and dedication to the black family. There were empowerment sessions that included: "Strength of a Woman" whose panel was comprised of Mary J Blige, Queen Latifah, Tamron Hall, Monica, Neicy Nash, and Jada Pinkett-Smith as well the "Woke Women Social Activism" session whose panel included Luvvie Ajayi, Angela Rye, April Reign, and April Ryan. During these sessions, the women discussed topics of dealing with pain as well as taking care of yourselves while being strong. They discussed what is to be a strong black woman in the workplace and still managing to stay woke.

Jill Scott and Monica

Every year, a gospel singer is celebrated for his or her work in the industry. This year, Cissy Houston was honored. Sunday morning was indeed the place to be for praise and worship because during this tribute, singers like CeCe Winans, Chante Moore, Kim Burrell, JeKalyn Carr, JJ Hairston, and Kelly Price sang, just to name a few.

John Legend and Mary J. Blige

All and all, the Essence Festival is definitely a must do event. It is a time to laugh, to be enlightened, to celebrate, to be celebrated, and most of all to get your party on. Next year's dates for the Essence Fest have already been set. It will take place July 5-July 8, 2018. Tickets will go on sale August 10th. Meet me there!

Veronica Harrington with Fans

Deborah E. Dennard and Maxine Waters


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Deborah E. Dennard