The Essence Factor

By Edwin Buggage


The Essence Festival has successfully brought its brand of Female Empowerment to the City of New Orleans year-after-year. In honor of its 25th Year Celebration, what are your reflections on its importance and impact to the community and how has it inspired Black women?

“I grew into womanhood on the Essence Music Fest! I was 20 years old when it first came to the city. Initially, my sole interest was the concerts. The idea of seeing so many of my favorite artists in my city at one time was AMAZING. Later in the timeline, I grew my advocacy and activist chops while working in tobacco control. This was Post-Master Settlement with the tobacco industry and I along with other activists were advocating for Essence to no longer accept money for the festival from Big Tobacco.

“During those years a dose of life hit me. I learned the value of community through the community center at the Convention Center. It was during this time that I learned about the various movements that were taking place around the country. I was introduced to other advocates and issues that aligned with my values.”

Timolynn Sams Sumter – Director of Community Engagement & Impact (InspireNOLA Charter Schools)

“Last year the ESSENCE Festival Concert Series sold out all three nights in the Superdome for the first time ever and engaged over half a million attendees with its unique blend of concerts, conferences and expos and volunteer opportunities. The growth of this Festival, over a 24-year period, has turned the previous summer doldrums in New Orleans into a vibrant summertime draw for visitors, particularly the Black women who comprise the ESSENCE community. New Orleans traditionally had been a difficult time to attract visitors. Thanks to the ESSENCE Festival and its core community, the summer season in New Orleans has become a lucrative time for businesses in the tourism economy.

“The Essence Festival has proven with its tremendous growth and economic impact on the city that its diversity is a perfect match for the diversity for which New Orleans is famous.”

Essence Banks


“For 25 years, Essence Music Festival has uplifted our community, inspiring us to celebrate our Black excellence through education on the most salient issues that affect us. We must continue to celebrate and support the economic impact Essence has brought to the City of New Orleans. The Essence Festival experience is a sophisticated showcase of who we are and what we strive to be.”

Zakenya Perry Neely,

Organizational Management and Special Projects Consultant

The Core Element Consulting Group and Director of Events and Special Projects for the 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans

“The Essence Music Festival is a great time for people to come together and display Black excellence at every level. As a business owner, it is my hope that the people who come into the city support more African American businesses. As an African American woman, I commend the Essence brand for celebrating Black women and bringing the Essence Music Festival to New Orleans.”

Joyce Wilson Co-Owner of Mr. Chill’s Hot Dogs and Sweet Pastries

“The Essence Music Festival is an annual event, which has graced our city for the past 25 years. This “party with a purpose” is a true experience. The festival continues to empower and educate festival goers, particularly the African American woman. The profound impact that Essence offers can be attributed to its holistic approach, which nourishes the mind, body, and spirit. Looking forward to this 25th Essence Fest.”

Dr. Jerrelda Sanders

“I appreciate Essence Festival’s 25th Anniversary because its platform allows people of color to unite for music and education. The workshops are always informative and helpful. Essence Festival has done an amazing job of keeping its prices affordable so couples, friends, and family can continue to support it.

“Essence Festival brings thousands of visitors to the city which boosts the New Orleans area economy because these visitors usually spend a significant amount of money. Essence Festival creates jobs for many New Orleans area residents, and I pray it’s around another 25 years.”

Alexis Sakari

“Congratulations to the Essence Festival, the City of New Orleans, and all those who’ve participated in one way or another over the last two and half decades to make this annual event an ongoing success. The festival is honestly a gathering where folks are saturated with opportunities to be intellectually, culturally, and spiritually nourished by those who are leaders in their respective fields and understand our experiences. The daytime sessions run the gamut and the night concerts are exhaustive with talent. You come away with a sense of fullness having absorbed so much that meaningfully reflects us in all our diversity and complexity. And the fact that Essence and New Orleans have done this together, and that the event has grown and evolved is a testament to visionary leadership on the parts of all those involved in bringing this to fruition with such quality each year.

It is a testament to the stewardship we show ourselves by participating in those sessions meant to help us live better lives. And it also reminds us of our economic power as a community when we support the artists and vendors who setup shop and the tourism and hospitality industry. We need to be mindful of those things year-round. So, I hope that what happens in New Orleans during the Essence Festival doesn’t just stay in New Orleans. That folks take a bit of the experience home with them and encourage others to join them next year!”

Robin G. Vander, Associate Professor of African American & Diaspora Studies

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