The moment that I stepped foot in New Orleans there was a unexplainable sense of magic in the air. But the moment that I popped into Essence Festival, it was a wrap. I've heard about Essence Fest my whole life, but didn't feel like I was grown enough to go until now. It's a mashup of all things community, music, entertainment and blackness. How could I not want to be apart of it? I won't miss another Essence Fest, ever again.
1. Blackness is inspiring
I can truly say that just from walking through the convention center, I could feel the pride of our people. Everywhere I turned I was met by fros, luxurious beards and outfits that were so damn cute. I was inspired by all the smiling faces I saw, how people were just complimenting one other and how easy it was to spark up conversation with your neighbor. It was all love, all weekend.
2. Celebrity & Influencer favs
Of course people go to Essence for the epic concert at the Superdome, but you get even more of an up close and personal encounter with your favorite celebrities and influencers at the convention center. During the day, there are panels with actors like Hakeem from Empire. I also got to hear Niecy Nash and Karrueche Tran dish about their new TNT show 'Claws' (If you haven't seen it, you are missing out. It's so good.)
I have definitely been living under a rock forever because I didn't know that the shows, panels and activations during Essence Festival were FREE. That's right, free.99 y'all. You get so much good content and interactions with brands all for free. I can't even tell you how many natural hair product samples I came home with.
3. Supporting black business owners
While in New Orleans and at Essence Festival we are supporting so many black business owners. Sure, there are big companies there like McDonald's and Coco-Cola, but it's especially heartwarming to be supporting jewelry makers, fashion designers and other small business owners. You leave the festival feeling good and knowing that you just spent your money in the best way possible, with other black folks.
4. Contributing to the New Orleans economy
After Hurricane Katrina, Essence still found a way to keep the festival where it began, in New Orleans. They could've easily left the city behind for somewhere else (sidebar: Essence Fest was held in Houston in 2006 following Katrina), but buy remaining in NOLA Essence has been contributing to the New Orleans economy since 1995. It's amazing to be in the city and know that our money is building the city back up.
Essence always has a day of service before the festival weekend where people come together to help the community in someway. This year everyone helped beautify the homes of seniors in New Orleans followed by a celebrity basketball game that raised money for youth in New Orleans.
5. For us By Us
Essence is truly a party with a purpose. Sure that's looks of pretty outfits and popping natural hair, but at it's core Essence Festival is a celebration of blackness, an ode to black culture and something beautiful that was made for us. As Solange (who killed her performance), would say "This shit is for us" and that feels good.
There's so many festivals each summer that are fun, but don't really serve us as a people or better the our communities in any way. Having fun is always cool, but I'm all about the empowerment, education and progression of Black people and that's why I'll never miss Essence Festival again and you shouldn't either.
P.S. If you haven't seen 'Girls Trip' the movie yet please do it. It will make you feel like you're in New Orleans. I even cried lol. It was SO GOOD.