By Tene Perry, Special to The Black Voice News –
The mid-summer New Orleans heat and humidity - sprinkled with a few showers - engulfs a sea of fresh hairdos, linen suits, halter-top summer dresses and skin exposing garments worn by African- Americans young and old all enjoying the Essence “experience”.
This year marks the 16th Annual Essence Music Festival sponsored by Coca- Cola and it promised three days of an all star line-up on several stages. This year’s Superdome Arena Main-stage donned commanding performances by legendary artists such as L.L. Cool J, Janet Jackson, Charlie Wilson, Gladys Knight and Earth, Wind and Fire. They shared the stage with R&B divas such as Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and (a very pregnant) Alicia Keys.
There were four smaller stages strategically placed on the second level of the Superdome that featured a variety of artists like De La Soul, Mint Condition, Joe, Mary Mary, Ledisi, Estelle and Melanie Fiona. New Orleans own Big Sam’s Funky Nation and The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra were just a few of the featured local artists.
In addition to it being Independence Day weekend, this year also marks the 40th Anniversary of Essence magazine which was even more reason to celebrate. Boasted as the ultimate party weekend the Essence Music Festival has grown in leaps and bounds since its humble beginning in 1995, to providing an unprecedented open forum focused on the African- American woman, family and progressiveness. The New Orleans Convention Center, which was open to the public, provided (in addition to the ice cold air conditioning and exclusive merchandise from vendors far and wide) opportunities for festival goers to attend star-studded forums that addressed relevant topics like Steve Harvey’s Love and Relationships Super Fest addressing keeping the African-American family together and how to make relationships and marriages work.
Nearly five years after Katrina, New Orleans is finally coming back to its original state of America’s party retreat. Hosting an estimated 400,000 attendees from far and wide for one of the most immaculately executed largest music festivals in America, contributions will be made not only towards New Orleans but the state of Louisiana and any efforts to protect the wildlife and commerce that thrives on the Gulf Coast in addition to building up around the city.