Party With A Purpose: New Orleans Essence Festival Heads To Durban

Party With A Purpose: New Orleans Essence Festival Heads To Durban

The Essence Music Festival, which started as a one-time U.S. event celebrating African-American culture, has proven that its message has global appeal — it’s headed to Durban, South Africa.

Known in the U.S. as Essence Fest, the event has been held every year since 1995 in New Orleans, Louisiana, except in 2006 when Hurricane Katrina forced it to move to Houston, Texas.

Producers will still continue to host the annual Fourth of July concert-and-seminar weekend in New Orleans, at least through 2019, the Times-Picayune reported. They’re just adding a festival location — in Africa. The date of the Durban festival has not been announced.

The multi-day entertainment, empowerment and cultural festival features artists performing simultaneously on a main stage and four standing-room-only super-lounge stages.

Past New Orleans concerts have included high-profile acts like Beyoncé, Prince and a curated selection of up-and-comers.

Today at Durban City Hall, Essence President Michelle Ebanks and eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo announced a partnership to bring the Essence Festival to Durban in 2016 and 2017.

The Essence Festival Durban will follow the format of the annual New Orleans event, presenting international performers and speakers to entertain and inspire, along with local artists and experts, organizers said.

The event will also showplace ideas to equip small businesses through empowerment seminars including career guidance workshops and empowerment initiatives aimed at the youth.

“We are delighted to partner with the vibrant city of Durban to launch the Essence Festival globally in South Africa,” Ebanks said in a prepared statement. “Hosting our first international Essence Festival in Durban purposefully extends our mission to convene the diaspora around shared aspirations.”

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The Essence partnership will focus on the development of women and youth in business, Mayor Nxumalo said. Durban had hosted several high-profile international events in the last few years. The Essence Festival further cements Durban as an international destination, he said.

Female-owned businesses will be chosen to trade at the Essence Fest Durban.

“This partnership will have a host of benefits for residents starting with the Durban Business Fair program which strives to connect local businesses globally,” Nxumalo said.

New Orleans Mitch Landrieu said, “For more than 20 years, the Essence Festival has brought thousands of people together in New Orleans from near and far to celebrate a world-class event.

“I am thrilled that this festival is now expanding internationally to Durban, South Africa. The people of New Orleans know firsthand that the Essence Festival has not only enhanced our cultural economy, but it has also made a meaningful impact across the community through service and personal empowerment.”

Each year in New Orleans, Essence attracts more than 450,000 people from all over the world for multi-day entertainment, empowerment and culture. The economic impact is estimated to be more than $200 million for the local economy, Essence reports.

Essence is a monthly magazine for African-American women age 18 to 49. The magazine covers fashion, lifestyle and beauty, with a girlfriend-to-girlfriend tone. Its slogan, “Fierce, Fun, and Fabulous” embodies the magazine’s goal of empowering African-American women. Topics in the magazine range from fashion and celebrities to opinion pieces addressing current issues in the African-American community.

Essence magazine had an average U.S. monthly circulation of 1.083 million in the first six months of 2014, according to the U.S.-based Pew Research Center for media and Journalism. That makes it the second-highest circulated monthly geared toward African Americans for which there is audited circulation data. Others include Ebony and Black Enterprise.

Essence Fest celebrated its 21st year in New Orleans in 2015.