By Sarah York*
This past Fourth of July weekend, Essence Magazine  held their 17th annual Essence Music Festival  in New Orleans. The three day weekend delivered amazing performances and welcomed more than 422,000 people who came to celebrate black history, culture and beauty. The festival did not only offer a lineup of performances by over 40 of today’s A-list artists; such as, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Usher, but a great lineup of empowerment speakers. Over 60 speakers discussed “issues impacting people of color, their families, and communities” to about 12,000 people per day.
The panel State of Black Women focused on the “gains, challenges, and opportunities” black women have “as a community.” Dr. C. Nicole Mason  was on the panel joined by Lisa Nichols , Sophia Nelson , Monique Greenwood , and Senator Karen Carter Peterson . They discussed the challenges women face in the work place, pursuing education, and prominent health issues.
Michelle Ebanks , President of Essence Communications Inc. said, "Our audience has the rare opportunity to have their voices heard – by engaging with some of our most influential thinkers and leaders, who are shaping conversations around the issues that matter most to our community." Online, thousands of attendees are gushing over the fun they had, the knowledge they gained, and the appreciation they have of African American culture.
* Sarah York is an NCRW Communications Intern majoring in Marketing at Suffolk University in Boston.