Black Music Month Special #4: Essence Music Festival

Janet Jackson headlines the Main Stage concerts at Essence Fest 2018.

Essence magazine annually presents this major cultural event near or over the 4th of July weekend in New Orleans, and this year it will be celebrating its 24th edition. Essence Music Festival has essentially become the grand finale event of Black Music Month. This year’s event actually does not kick off during Black Music Month, but runs the weekend after the Fourth of July, starting on Friday, July 6, and running through Sunday, July 8. The Festival is offering a dynamic weekend of content and experiences. Their conference tracks offer conversations that educate and motivate you to live your life to the fullest. Expos bring these conversations to life with workshops, consultations, sampling opportunities and more. Select your interests to unlock a rewarding Festival weekend.

Dubbed ‘The Party With A Purpose,’ the Essence Festival brings together up to half a million people, mostly African American women, for an extended holiday weekend filled with music, art, speakers, fellowship, and fun. The Essence Festival started as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence, a magazine aimed primarily towards African-American women and has become the largest event celebrating African-American culture and music in the United States. Locally referred to as Essence Fest, it has been held in New Orleans, Louisiana each year except for 2006, when it was held in Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans; and it was also held in Durban, South Africa in 2016. It features artists simultaneously performing on the main stage as well as four standing-room-only super lounge stages. Here’s some of what to expect in The Big Easy.

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is your daytime destination during festival weekend each day from 9:30 am – 6 pm. Enjoy the nation’s highest attended and most diverse beauty fan expo. The best of what culture has to offer, where you will find an array of local and national artists exhibiting their crafts. Enjoy a day of shopping for fine art paintings, quilts, clay / ceramic sculpting, jewelry and other forms of wearable art clothing and accessories. Indulge in amazing food, socialize with festival-goers and watch live demonstrations by celebrity and New Orleans’ chefs of their specialty dishes.

Here are just a few examples of the daytime programming and how you might spend the first day of the 2018 Essence Festival: Friday at 11:45 am, you could check out the Keynote Conversation with Vivica A. Fox in the Entrepreneurship & Career events. Then at 2:15 pm, you could check out the Interview with Doug E. Fresh in Entertainment. Follow that at 2:35 pm, by checking out Igniting The Power Within: How To Be An Unstoppable Woman with MC Lyte in Beauty & Style. At 4:15 pm, you could catch a Live performance by Bobby DeBarge in Entertainment. And at 4:50 pm, you could check out Tales from Hip Hop Style Icons Kool Mo Dee & Yo Yo in Beauty & Style. And that’s just Day One, of Three! Start Day Two out with a Keynote Address from Michael Eric Dyson as part of the Community & Culture events, followed by a Keynote Address from Reverend Al Sharpton. Catch a Keynote Address from Iyanla Vanzant in Wellness & Spirituality before checking out the concerts that evening.

Each evening, the New Orleans Superdome will be host to a huge concert with several major acts on the Main Stage, with other artists performing in the Superlounges throughout the Dome Friday through Sunday.

Friday, at 6:00 pm Roy Wood Jr. takes the Main Stage to introduce a lineup with Doug E. Fresh with Special Guest Mia X; Ledisi; Miguel; Snoop Dogg; and Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and More in a Special Curation by The Roots. Saturday’s lineup begins with Doug E. Fresh with Special Guest V. Bozeman on the Main Stage, with XSCAPE, followed by Queen Latifah Presents “Ladies First” with Special Guests Missy Elliott, Remy Ma, MC Lyte, Nikki D and More and ending with Mary J. Blige on the Main Stage. Meanwhile, you could catch a 9:00 pm d.j. set with Idris Elba in the Superlounges. Sunday night at 6:00 pm, Roy Wood Jr. opens the Main Stage, followed at 7:00 pm Doug E. Fresh with Special Guest Ashanti leads off, followed by Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing Curation feat SWV, Blackstreet, Guy and more before a set by Fantasia. Janet Jackson closes the show and the 2018 Essence Fest Sunday night on the Main Stage.

Black Music Month began in 1979 when Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea to set aside a month dedicated to celebrating the impact of black music. Since 1979, Black Music Month has grown from a small commemoration to national proportions with events held annually across the country. In 2009, President Barack Obama further defined June as African American Music Appreciation Month declaring the start of summer as a celebration for all the black “musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters [who] have made enormous contributions to our culture.”