By DIANE LARCHE’ (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
If you are a fan of R&B, soul and neo-soul, then you would find music paradise at the Essence Music Fest, presented by The Coca-Cola Company.
The event, which was held last weekend at the Superdome in New Orleans, featured the likes of Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Charlie Wilson, Anthony Hamilton, Chaka Khan, Fantasia and Ledisi.
After 18 years of this mammoth celebration, Essence even added a tease of gospel on the big stage in the form of Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, and just a smidgen of hip-hop/rap with popular rapper-turned-television star, Eve, in one of the Super Lounges.
Last year rapper Kanye West was on the big stage and turned it out. This year comedy made its way there with superstar comedian Kevin Hart giving a full performance while forbidding texting, phone cameras and any device he felt would lend to “bootlegging” his show.
Hart staged a big 33rd birthday party on opening night at a nearby venue attended by a who’s who in the entertainment world.
While nostalgic performances by Aretha Franklin, the Stylistics, Charlie Wilson and Mary J. Blige were well received on the main stage, the more intimate Super Lounge performances were also popular. UK’s Estelle, Carl Thomas and Canada’s Melanie Fiona packed them in, and at times there was a holding area due to fire marshal limits.
Essence Music Fest prides itself not only in its music but also on the empowerment panels and community outreach held during the three-day “Party with a Purpose.”
Thousands of festival-goers poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Orleans economy during the weekend held near the Fourth of July Holiday.
From Bishop T.D. Jakes to Steve Harvey to Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Al Sharpton, people looking to hear an uplifting word hang on to every sentence of those they regard as leaders and academians in an era when easier financial times have gone by the way side.
In addition to the music and panels, Coca-Cola awarded $45,000 in donations to support two New Orleans youth afterschool programs.
The company has been the title sponsor of the event for 17 of the 18 years it has existed.
Partnering with the city and its Fit NOLA initiative, an effort to improve the health of residents there by 2018, Coca-Cola gave $20,000 to Girls on The Run New Orleans and the same to Youth Run New Orleans along with a variety of Coca-Cola beverages — Dasani, Smartwater and Powerade.
“We want to encourage our youth to participate in sports and exercise programs so that they will grow up healthier and with the confidence to pursue their dreams,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president of global community connections for The Coca-Cola Company and chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation.
Coca-Cola has invested more than $500,000 over the 17 years in New Orleans during the Essence Music Festival.
P&G’s My Black is Beautiful (MBIB) was again a major sponsor of the festival. The company kicked off with the launch of the “Imagine a Future” initiative which in collaboration with United Negro College Fund and Black Girls Rock, is designed to positively impact the lives of 1 million Black girls over the next three years by providing tools and resources to foster a greater sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Friday-Sunday, festival-goers showed up in droves daily to achieve the ultimate My Black is Beautiful Experience from MBIB and its supporting brands, CoverGirl, Queen Collection, Pantene Relaxed & Natural, Olay, Oral-B and Crest, Gain, Charmin and Bounty.