The Essence Festival of Culture is perhaps best known for its musical lineup. This year’s festival included performances from some of the biggest artists of the past several decades: Lauryn Hill, Jermaine Dupri, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Wayne and more.
But Essence — the largest festival in America by per-day attendance, according to Essence Ventures CEO Caroline Wanga — has a lot more to offer.
This year’s festival featured panel appearances from iconic Black women, including media mogul Oprah Winfrey and Vice President Kamala Harris.
But while the Essence Festival is known to celebrate Black women, “Of course right beside her is a strong Black king,” artist and event curator Desmond “Dez The Prez” Walker said.
That’s one of the reasons Essence curated a space for Black men.
The men’s experience was called In His Zone and featured a message board, recording booth, pool table, and a chance to enjoy a relaxing massage.
Walker said his personal favorite men’s zone experience was the recording booth, in which attendees were able to choose their own beat, freestyle and get a copy of their recording.
The Essence Festival of Culture ended with a Family Day Block Party at Louis Armstrong Park on July 3. The event was a celebration of New Orleans culture featuring food, music and New Orleans-based vendors.
“It is so important that Essence included kids in the Kids Zone, because our kids are a part of our family and it’s a family reunion,” said Summer Carter owner of NOLA Creative, a professional face, body and mixed media art company. “So we have to definitely make sure that we have a space for them.”
For many, the Essence Festival of Culture had the feeling of a big family reunion with New Orleans culture at the center of it all.
“Essence does a great job of supporting the culture bearers in the city,” said Big Queen Cinnamon Black of the Black Masking Indians Fi Yi Yi and the Mandingo Warriors. “As a culture bearer ambassador, I would like to thank Essence for doing this.”
Check out the video of some of the best moments from the festival.
Khalil Gillon contributed to this article.
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