(ThyBlackMan.com) I could begin speaking on the issues surrounding Essence Festival by talking about Essence, why its important to the culture, and what it means to New Orleans. However, I don’t think that will drive home the problem Essence is facing in dealing with New Orleans. Essence is making the same mistake the transplants make, other cultures tend to make…and yes white people that are not of the city make. New Orleans, regardless of its issues as all places have them, is one of the places in this country that is a hub for black culture. Most of what people love about New Orleans is a culture that doesn’t exist without Black people…our music, food, spirituality, and simply who we are as a collective. There is no place in the country like New Orleans, and the citizens can say the same. Because of this, everything that comes to the city is affected by this authentic energy. New Orleans has over 130 festivals a year, for a reason. The festivals don’t just give to the city…they come first for what the city will infuse into said event. This is something I feel Essence has been forgetting, and this year their forgetfulness was ugly and on full display.
Essence Festival is supposed to be a celebration of Black music & culture led by the spirit of the magazine. Well, they came to the right place as Essence Festival (with exception to 2006 due to Katrina and 2020 due to the pandemic) has been in New Orleans since 1995. The event became synonymous with the New Orleans as the city’s vibe was able to feed the purpose of the festival…and of course it brings revenue to the city. What I believe Essence has forgotten is its purpose and seeing that their ownership no longer looks like us…there is no surprise there. However, I would have thought in the best interest of the continued success of the event, which is a financial plus for all involved, they would not forget why people come to Essence and why Essence Fest and New Orleans are in a marriage of culture. How does Essence Fest think it can function without the local community? What did the Black citizens and business owners of New Orleans do to earn such disrespect?
To have local black businesses treated subpar is terrible, and to think to host a celebration of Hip Hop turning 50 and initially have no local acts when local Hip Hop artists has greatly contributed to said culture…in a city that is a part of the foundation of Black music in America is a culture slap in the face. What were they thinking? More importantly did they think we would take this laying down? If our city could get upset enough to turn off our televisions to the Super Bowl because we felt slighted…and we cut up enough for the nation to know Who Dat Nation doesn’t have offense lightly [ this is just a really good example], what made Essence Fest think the locals would not put them on blast? And we did.
Due to public outcry and shaming Essence added local New Orleans artists such as Juvenile and Mia X to their Hip Hop celebration line up and created adequate [ for last minute] spaces for local businesses. Of course, they released statements letting us know they value New Orleans and its local Black businesses…they had to do that if for no other reason, damage control. You see, when our artists were left out, they blasted it all over social media, and began to publicize a local festival. Had not big names like Essence learned anything from football…New Orleans will defend itself, and let you know we’re unhappy with the subpar treatment. No one is going silently into the night. There is much our city needs to work on, but our citizens know what they bring to the culture, and they have dignity. No one has the right to step on that and make profit off of us while insulting us in our house to our place. What Essence is not going to do is place in our face. They tried it, and let’s hope it’s the last time.
Finish story here; Black Community: Essence Festival Should Remember Why It’s In New Orleans.