This year a sea of ebony faces from all over America will converge on the Crescent City for the Essence Music Festival. Since its inception in 1994 this party with a purpose has been one of the premiere events for African-Americans, drawing over a half a million people annually and bringing in a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue impacting the local and state economy.
The festival is one that is ever evolving and this year continues the amazing legacy with four days of music, empowerment, community and entertainment. Data News Weekly caught up with Essence Communications General Manager Joy Profet, who’s responsible for the brand’s financial, planning and administrative functions. As General Manager, Joy also partners with the leadership team to design and execute Essence’s strategic vision across all media platforms and has direct management of the ESSENCE Festival.
Essence Promises a Great Time with Activities for all to Enjoy
“A party with a purpose, the Festival is the largest cultural celebration of experiences to empower the community,” Profet says.” It will be taking place June 29th – July 2nd in New Orleans, and is set to feature 50 performing artists at the Superdome and over 300 speakers across 15 stages at the Convention Center. The daytime ESSENCE Empowerment Experience (EEE) is free of charge and open to the public. This year’s speakers include Iyanla Vanzant, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ava DuVernay, Rev. Al Sharpton, Phaedra Parks and many more. Also, our daytime Entertainment All Access experiences provide attendees with an exclusive look into fan favorites and upcoming shows and films, plus meet & greets with the casts. Headliners for this year’s nightly concerts in the Superdome include Diana Ross, Mary J Blige, Chance the Rapper, Solange, John Legend, Chaka Khan, Master P and more.”
Essence and their Commitment to Empowering the Community
The festival is one that’s constantly evolving since beginning in 1994, when it was planned as a one-time event celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the magazine. But today it is one of the preeminent events catered to African-Americans.
Additionally, the Essence Brand is committed to empowering and celebrating those in the community that are doing great things and committed to service, “We’re doing quite a few new things. This year’s “Woke Wonderland” theme is modeled after our highly-acclaimed May 2017 “Woke 100” issue of ESSENCE Magazine & we’ll be honoring Ava DuVernay and Patrisse Cullors with the first-ever Woke Awards. Woke Wonderland encourages our audience to be outspoken and fearless leaders within their communities.”
“We are inviting everyone to post their fearless resolutions on Essence social platforms for a chance to be featured in our Woke Wonderland Gallery. We are fortunate to have the support of our artists and speakers to advance the purpose behind the Essence Festival. Essence is pleased to partner with Master P’s Team Hope NOLA Foundation for our Annual “Day of Service” on Thursday, June 29th – benefiting the scholarship fund developed by Essence and Team Hope NOLA to benefit New Orleans youth.”
“As a part of this partnership, we’ll kick off our Day of Service with a community beautification initiative at the Guste Homes Senior Residence where we’ll gather hundreds of volunteers for a morning of planting, painting, and senior citizen support.”
“After that we’ll be hosting our first-ever Charity Celebrity Basketball Game at Xavier University. Players will include celebrities Ray J, Trey Songz, Terrence J, Romeo Miller, Mystikal and Curren$y, along with former NBA players Chris Jackson, Robert Pack, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon and more.”
“At the Convention Center, we have our first-ever three-day Path to Power, Business & Entrepreneur Conference, which is being hosted on the second floor. At the Superdome, first time performers Diana Ross and Chance the Rapper are opening and closing the weekend respectively, and we’ll also feature our first-ever “ladies’ night” on Saturday curated by headliner Mary J Blige and inspired by her new album Strength of a Woman.”
“Essence Fest has come to be known as the “Party with A Purpose” speaking of the larger goals and agenda she says, “The Essence Festival reach goes far beyond music, entertainment and celebrity. We are committed to empowering the people of Louisiana – and from all over the world – who come to Essence Festival each year.”
“Our goal is to celebrate our community and provide it with the tools to succeed in all their endeavors, whether it’s through this year’s Path to Power Entrepreneurship Conference or Beauty Carnival-themed Expo. Additionally, the daytime Arts & Culture Marketplace aims to support local businesses, featuring original designs and handcrafted arts from more than 300 vendors, and the Festival’s Annual Day of Service initiative gathers hundreds of volunteers for a day of community service and beautification.”
“Overall, the Festival’s economic impact to the City & State is about $250 million annually. We are creating community through the shared experience of the Festival, and the fact that daytime programming is all free and open to the public is what makes it true to the Essence Brand. The Festival truly is a Party with a Purpose.”
Essence and Its Special Relationship with New Orleans
New Orleans and Essence has a special relationship. The Crescent City has proven time and time again it is the perfect fit for Essence Fest in terms of logistics with the capacity of hosting large events and a culture that has a je na sais quoi that blends the old and new world into another worldly experience that is unique, special and amazing.
Speaking about Essence and its special relationship with New Orleans, Profet says, “This event would not be possible without the unwavering support of the people of NOLA and the City’s administration. New Orleans is the natural home of the Essence Festival. For 21 of our 22-year history, Essence has hosted the Festival in New Orleans and Louisiana, the only exception being the year after Hurricane Katrina. In no other city and state do the roots of music, art, food and culture run so deep.”
“There is also a rich sense of ancestral pride in the City of New Orleans, one that allows our audience to reflect on self, discover new familial ties, and reunite bonds of friendships and community. Apart from the cultural connectivity between New Orleans and Essence, our audience enjoys the convenience of New Orleans. Whether walking, renting a car or taking a streetcar, New Orleans makes it easy to be in the center of the action, any time and all the time.”
The Essence Fest is an amazing event for African-Americans and others who are interested to look inside the window to witness and experience the greatness of the African-American community. It is a celebration, but one that reflects on the aspirations and resilient spirit of a people who have come a long way in their sojourn in America. And New Orleans as many have noted as the most African City in America is the place where every year it is on full display at the Essence Music Festival.