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Janet stars in Essence Fest 40th anniversary

JEANETTE TOOMER | 4/12/2011, 5:25 p.m.
Janet Jackson

For the first time in Essence Fest history, the singular focus of the Saturday sessions is education. Dr. Bill Cosby returns as a keynote speaker. An exemplary panel of experts will discuss "The State of Education." With new initiatives like charter schools, federal Race to the Top funds and changing teacher evaluation and performance standards, Black parents need to stay informed about their options for improving their children's education. Among the panelists are Dr. Steve Perry, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Bishop T.D. Jakes, NEA Secretary Rebecca Pringle, Dr. Andre Perry, actress and mother Jada Pinkett Smith and National Urban League President Marc Morial.

Sunday's program brings high praise and worship to the convention center through the concert performances of Marvin Sapp, Karen Clark Sheard, Pastor Shirley Caesar and Tye Tribett, among others. Add to this incredible three-day offering a convention hall filled with booths, activities, contests and free gifts from corporate sponsors that include Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Ford. An artist's bazaar provides a rich collection of original paintings, sculptures, Afrocentric fashions, and jewelry available for purchase.

From July 2-4, the Essence Music Festival brings good news to New Orleans, which now faces more challenges resulting from the Gulf oil spill. Newly elected Mayor Mitch Landrieu has new, post-Katrina struggles ahead, but for a few days in July, the women are coming to party, lift up and celebrate the music and the city that shows resilience time and again.

And don't forget those Super Bowl champions! You may spot one in the crowd.

For tickets and hotel information, visit www.essencemusicfestival.com.