A member of 'the press' couldn't seem to resist taking a picture with actor/comedian Kevin Hart at the 'Meet & Greet

A press member couldn’t resist taking a picture with actor/comedian Kevin Hart at the ‘Meet & Greet” inside the Morial Convention Center


IMG_0539On July 2-5, 2015, the Essence Music Festival was held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Empowerment Experience began with opening ceremonies, Thursday July 2, and ended Sunday, July 5, 2015.

In Essence tradition, the days begin with a series of workshops, and covered a range of issues affecting the lives of Black women, and their families.

Located at the Morial Convention Center next to the Mississippi Waterfront, a multitude of events began at 9:00 am with “DJ Bambam”Belonger, kicking the weekend off followed by the Hour of Power, and official ESSENCE Welcome by Editor-in-Chief, Vanessa De Luca. Mayor Mitch Landrieu had warm words for visitors in his City of New Orleans Welcome.

Highlights included the Power of Love, & Family: Ending AIDS in Black America; Where Do We Go From Here? Black Lives Matter featured Van Jones, Nicole Pautre Bell, and Dr. Steve Perry, and others spoke to a capacity filled audience. The racial disparities in the inner city, the criminal justice system, and police brutality still affect us.

Friday’s Day of Purpose’s highlight included A Mother Daughter Journey, moderated by Crystal McCrary and included guests Lynn Whitfield, Grace Gibson, Cynthia Bailey, and Noelle Robinson.

Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later moderated by Donna Brazile, reminded attendees of our need to be prepared, and focus on efforts to get those who want to return home-a way, and means to do so.

Moms on A Mission: Mother’s Turning Tragedy Into Triumphant Change, featured Sabrina Fulton, a remarkable survivor, whose inspired many, and this reporter to write, Reluctant Warrior for CNN’s iReporter about her courage in the face of something no parent wants to experience–the passing of your child before you.

She gave a heartfelt message in her Sunday testimony.

Many participants flocked to the workshops on love, and relationships including Saturday’s crowd at The Steve Harvey Dating Show.

Many aspiring artists took the opportunity to attend, So You Wannna Sing, with Kelly Price, and (The Songversation Continues), with India.Arie, both first class performers who offered tips, and invaluable advice to newbies interested in the music business.

In the press room we listened to, and took up-close shots of Kem, comedian Sommore, and many other talent coming through for a closer look.

We caught Kevin Hart posing back at the convention center (see photo) and this year’s guests’ offering was a gumbo mix demonstrating the diversity within the Black American culture/community as well as the love.

In the evening, the renamed Mercedes-Benz Convention Center had three nights of incredible lineups.

July 3, 2012–Friday’s artists—Kem, India.Arie, Charlie Wilson, and MAZE featuring Frankie Beverly tore it up. July 4th, Saturday featured Common, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, and Usher. Need I say more? The atmosphere was electric!

July 5, 2015 Sunday wrapped up with FLOETRY, TRONBONE SHORTY & NEW ORLEANS AVENUE, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar.

This year’s SUPERLOUNGE lineup included Slick Rick/Doug E. Fresh, Adrian Marcel, Nice & Vinz, and Kool Moe Dee.

Saturday’s musical treats were Mystikal,  the under exposed jazz musician, Ms. Esperanza Spalding, gifted comedian Sommore, the soulful stirrings of Raheem Devaugh, and Bilal provided a range of many talented performers.

The Essence Festival is unique. Now, more than 20 years later the consistent themes of love, empowerment, and uplifting participants not solely with entertainment, but also examining social issues has become a tradition.

We are still seeking justice for the murders of our children, and others innocently killed in the streets.

In this new century we’ve witnessed, and twice elected, the first Afro-American president. So, we refuse to go back to the days of Jim Crow. We’ve witnessed an unprecedented backlash over our president’s race, and being in power.

We are still seeing injustice in the courts, knowing this inequality struggle isn’t over. Tamir Rice, AND Trayvon Martin’s deaths cry out for JUSTICE/RESOLUTION, and the names on this list keeps growing, unfortunately.

Yet there’s hope every year, and especially this year in the birthplace of  jazz ESSENCE has enabled New Orleans to WELCOME  back visitors with three days of great music, and events to better you!

The food, music, and flavor of New Orleans, combined with the activities, vendors at the ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL makes this a family event.  It’s like Mardi Gras in July.
Overall, the 2015 ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL/CONVENTION resulted from months of organization, and planning. Kudos to Ms. Gina Montana of Montana Productions., and Jahia Montana.

This was a fabulous event.

Thanks also to Essence magazine, and all the beautiful people traveling from cities across the nation, and the world to New Orleans who made this experience unforgettable, an event not to be missed in 2016!

©2015 Text, and All Photos

by Patricia A. Kelly



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