My first foray into this years, annual, 4th of July, Negro-nationalist cookout in New Orleans was shockingly similar to the annual, Negro-nationalist cookout in Atlanta, Georgia.
Georgia’s version of this segmented, mega-marketing tool for small and large brands alike is called the Bronner Brothers Hair Show. A homage to all things black hair, make up, skin care, beauty products, music, fashion, Jesus, comedy and community empowerment.
Both events cater to the specific needs of the African-American women, but the Essence Festival, which was started in 1995 to celebrate the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of their flagship magazine, has kicked it up a notch or two.
The Essence fest was never meant to be an annual tradition but was so successful it returned to NOLA every year except 2006 when the devastation of Hurricane Katrina forced the show to seek temporary refuge in Houston Texas…. but the show went on!!
Similar to Bronner, the convention attracts a plethora of commercially sponsored events and performances but none as shameless as Ford, Walmart, Proctor & Gamble, Creme of Nature, and Coke Cola to name a few, that proudly plaster their trademark’s and logo’s at every turn. A coup for the Essence brand to garner this type of turnout, someone has to pay for all the shiny objects.
My good was the quality of performers, past & present; Diana Ross, ChakaKhan, Mary J. Blige, Solange, Master P, Chance the Rapper, Trombone Shorty, Xscape, etc; the casts of our favorite black Tv shows like Power, Queen Sugar and Greenleaf, Beauty Gurus like Kim Kimble, Razor Chic and Ty Hunter and Journalists, artist, advocates Angela Rye, Ava Duvernay and India Irie.
My bad was the number of extremely long lines throughout the venue for the sole purpose of tote bag giveaways,… do we need lines for that? The food corner was like a carnival of more long lines with no idea of knowing who had what unless you walked down the length of the corridor to read each individual offering… forget it, we dipped and found a restaurant outside of the venue. The lines to take photos or meet & greet guest…. too much. The hall was confusing to navigate and there were a myriad of scheduling conflicts.
Overall the people of New Orleans are GOLD!! Nice, friendly, accommodating…. unusually so coming from Atlanta were attitude abounds at every class level.
I would return to the Essence Fest, not necessarily for the Fest itself, because unless you attended an actual live seminar with panel members like Angela Rye, Tamron Hall or Ava Duverney … and.. oh yes, Iyanla had a powerful testimony, you could catch most of the festivities online. I would show up for the music, the main stage performances are worth the price of admission, with the disclaimer that the Mercedes Benz Superdome needs more staff to handle the transitions to the four superlounges throughout the night. We missed Tweet and Xscapes’ performances due to the million negro pile up in the lane. The barrage of attendees barred entry to the other artists as well and almost got some people punched in the face, at best…. trampled to death, at worst. Fix it!
See you next year