Essence Music Festival (208607)

Don’t call it a comeback because these two Grammy Award-winning recording artists, Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson, are returning to the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans next weekend, July 5 through 8. Blige headlines the Saturday night line-up at the Superdome, and Jackson commands the stage Sunday after performances by Fantasia and Teddy Riley.

Rapper and celebrated actress, Queen Latifah, presents an exciting crew of female rappers in a “Ladies First” performance that includes Missy Elliott, MC Lyte and Remy Ma July 7. The opening concert Friday features rap star Snoop Dogg, Ledisi, Miguel, returning songstresses Jill Scott and Erykah Badu and The Roots.

Yet, there is still more music and free events to enjoy at the Essence Music Festival at the Morial Convention Center beginning Friday, July 6. Panels of noted professionals discuss topics ranging from “The How-tos of Building, Managing and Reinventing Your Brand,” and “Black Women Get Out the Vote” to “Meat Eaters & Vegans with Chef Kenneth Temple.” Film and TV screenings include “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” Friday, the STARZ TV series “Power” and the BET movie “The Bobby Brown Story.” Sunday NY1 news anchor Cheryl Wills hosts a gospel tribute that features award-winning artists Marvin Sapp, Smoky Norful and Regina Belle. Among the speakers and panelists during the conference series at the convention center are Viveca A. Fox, Leela James, Doug E. Fresh, Sybrina Fulton, Symone Sanders and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Thursday, preceding the conference activities at the convention center, is a Day of Service, during which festival goers, young and old, can participate in community center activities and in a restorative art project to paint and to restore a historic mural. As the festival continues at the convention center, there will be dance parties with robust beat stomping DJs, workout sessions, fashions and books on display and the unparalleled delicious cuisine of New Orleans to savor at affordable prices.

Throughout the concert schedule, there is even more music in the superlounges at the dome, with many returning artists to the “party with a purpose” that celebrates Black women. Among them are Damien Escobar, Kelly Price and rappers YoYo and Kool Moe Dee.

The Essence Music Festival offers a packed schedule of music, free events, fun activities, fashion and thought-provoking sessions. It is certainly a unique and exciting weekend in the historic music city of New Orleans that is still going strong. For more information, go to or download the Essence Festival app.