New Orleans—The 25th year of the Essence Music Festival arrives again in NOLA during the July 4 weekend with former first lady and author Michelle Obama as the headliner in a “conversation” at the Superdome Saturday afternoon. Her autobiographical best-seller, “Becoming,” is breaking records worldwide.

Obama is only one of the top attractions at this special anniversary because this festival features an exciting lineup of superstar musical talent in nightly concerts. From Friday, July 5, through Sunday, July 7, Grammy winning artists Mary J. Blige, H.E.R., Ledisi, Brandy, Teddy Riley and rappers Missy Elliot, MC Lyte, Nas command the stage. Sunday night’s performers pay tribute to Frankie Beverly of Maze, the popular band and anchor in the long legacy of the Essence Festival. Among them are Anthony Hamilton, Timbaland, Pharrell and Teyana Taylor.

The leadership workshops, panel presentations and family events, including the debut of a Girls’ United youth initiative, kicks off before the concerts begin and continues every day of the weekend at the Morial Convention Center in downtown New Orleans. The Gospel Sunday performances at the Center includes top artists Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary and Donnie Clurkin. All sessions at this location are free and open to the public.

A new addition to the standing-room only Superlounges musical artists is a Jam Africa stage with Amanda Black, Celeste Nutuli, Saudi Sol and Davido performing among others throughout the weekend. More r&b and popular hip-hop recording artists, Ginuwine, Mase, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane rock the mike in the Superlounges all under one roof. It looks like a multigenerational party for all at the Dome. And now for the first time there is an “After Dark” slate of late night performances, comedy shows and jam sessions scheduled at local clubs and venues.

The Essence Festival has proven to be the largest African-American concert event and conference in this nation. Last year over 500,000 patrons flocked to the Crescent City to enjoy the music, celebrity appearances, education, politics and business sessions as well as film screenings. It is the largest event of its kind that celebrates Black women.

To see a complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit essence.com.