By: Patricia Trutescu
Actress Tempestt Bledsoe, best known for her role in the long-running hit sitcom, “The Cosby Show”, and singer and “Desperate Housewives” actress, Vanessa Williams are among the many celebrities in the Essence Music Festival taking place in New Orleans all weekend.
The Essence Music Festival, organized every year on Independence Day weekend by Essence Magazine, takes place at the Superdome in New Orleans. The festival’s opening day was yesterday, and it is continuing through Sunday, the 8th. The event, which celebrates black culture and music, is extending its footprint in its 18th year to embrace the next generation of artists while still recognizing veterans in music. The Associate Press delivers more:
Yesterday, Essence focused solely on youth, including rapper Diggy Simmons, the Disney Channel’s Coco Jones, the OMG Girlz and the New Orleans’ own The Roots of Music.
Coco, the 14-year-old who was discovered on the Disney Channel’s “Next Big Thing” and starred in the channel’s original musical movie, “Let it Shine” will debut music from her currently-untitled album due out next year. She says, “I’m excited for everyone to see it. Sometimes just singing alone can be boring, but when you have dancers and B-boys and flipping, it adds so much excitement to the show.”
Coco also claims she is grateful for the new youth-focused day and the opportunity to learn from veterans in an industry that is a lot like a game of Chutes and Ladders. She explains, “You can shoot up to the top in a minute, or have a pitfall and slide right down to the bottom. Many people make one mistake that ends their careers.”
Musical veterans that are expected to appear at the festival on Sunday include, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who will be crowned with the Essence “Power Award” for four decades of hits including “Respect,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think” and “Son of a Preacher Man.”
Today through Sunday, singer Kourtney Heart and rapper Doug E. Fresh are hosting a block party outside the Superdome prior to the nightly concerts. Rapper MC Lyte and Spinderella, the disc jockey of the former Salt-N-Pepa are also expected to appear. Additional big names that are expected to appear include Mary J. Blige; Chaka Khan; Trey Songz and D’ Angelo.
Fresh tells the Associated Press that he hopes the block party can serve as another tool by Essence to bridge the gap between what he calls the “classic generation” and up-and-comers. He says, ‘There’s something Mary J. (Blige) can bring to a new artist. That is the connection Essence is suppose to make. We should come together, grow together and share these experiences.”
Aside from entertainment, Essence, like in past years, will also tackle issues important to African-Americans like education and the upcoming presidential election, says Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his wife, Cheryl will also make presentations. Mitch launched a mentoring project called “Saving Our Sons,” to help curb crime and violence in the city, while Cheryl’s group, “Girl Up NOLA” seek to inspire and motivate young girls.
“Crime is an epidemic in every major city across the nation,” says Ebanks. “The mayor is calling on the entire community to invest in the lives of young men to help prevent violence by putting them on a path to where they’re able to focus more on school and getting an education; so that they’re less likely to get involved in violence.”