Essence Entertainment Director Cori Murray says the first order of business after the 2018 Essence Festival wraps up on July 8, will be to sit down with Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city officials to work out the details for a three-year deal to ensure that the Festival remains in New Orleans at least through 2021.
“We love being here and have every intention of coming back,” Murray said Thursday (May 31) to a small group of local and regional journalists at the Essence media luncheon held at the NOPSI hotel. “This year is already on track to be the biggest ever.”
Describing New Orleans as a “walkable” city with an airport that is a relatively short commute form the city center compared to other major cities, Murray adds that New Orleans has a “vibe” that can’t be duplicated.
City and business leaders were also on hand to share their excitement and hopes surrounding the annual music and culture festival that has become a part of summer in New Orleans as sno-balls.
“This is such a great time for the city of New Orleans. On July 5 -8, we will welcome the biggest, baddest sister-girl conference in the world,” said Essence Harris Banks, president of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network. “For the city of New Orleans, we couldn’t be happier. Last year, Essence Festival had an 18.7 billion impact on the city and state. We want to thank Essence Fest for coming here and being committed to our city.”
Speaking on behalf of his boss Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Brice Miller, Ph.D., the city’s director of cultural economy said, “We’re privileged that Essence has chosen to make New Orleans its home, and we hope to continue for many years.”
Others used the event as an opportunity to send a reminder that New Orleans’ city and business leaders have work to do to ensure that economic wealth created by Essence and by the city’s tourism industry in general is enjoyed by all of the citizens of New Orleans
Referencing the city’s tens of thousands hospitality workers, many of whom earn at or near minimum wage, City Councilman-at-large Jason Williams said, “Culture has been the driving force behind the city’s economic engine; and in New Orleans, culture bubbles of from the street. But, the people who are the backbone of the (tourism) industry make the least. Our goal for the next 300 years is to share” the economic growth and development created by tourism.
Murray also shared some updates about Essence and the Festival’s new features, including a curated daytime experience that aligns festival goers interests with specific events, seminars and activities taking place at the Earnest N. Morial Convention Center. Attendees ages 18 and older are encouraged to register to get a personalized recommendation “to make the most out of their experience.”
While touting the fact the Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah have been added to the night-time concert line-up, she also reminded that local stars DJ Jubilee and Big Freedia are slated to perform as well, adding that it is a renewed commitment to highlighting local talent.
“How can we come to New Orleans and not have more New Orleans performers in the line-up,” she said. “The other big news is that we are Black-owned again. It’s been about 15 years. It’s something we are very proud of.”