If social media’s reaction was any indication, the annual ESSENCE Festival was an overwhelming success this past weekend. The #EssenceFest hashtag was trending for the past three days with tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts replete with status updates and photos of Black splendor live and direct from New Orleans.
But amid the revelry were a handful of serious moments that spoke directly to the past, present and future of Black people in America.
1. Al Sharpton
Rev. Al Sharpton’s keynote address at ESSENCE Fest implored attendees to realize the dire consequences of both America’s immigration policies, the president choosing a new Supreme Court justice as the importance of voting.
“People suffered to give us the right to vote,” Sharpton reminded the audience on Saturday. “And some of you are sitting there, no voting.”
2. The new Trayvon Martin documentary
The parents of Trayvon Martin discussed the value of Black lives in America following a screening of an upcoming documentary about their son, “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.”
“There’s not a blueprint on how to deal with adversity,” Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, said, according to Bossip. “This film should be an educational film on how we can rectify the problem of justice in our community.”
3. Maxine Waters
Political commentator Angela Rye made sure ESSENCE Fest attendees knew how important California Congresswoman Maxine Waters was, is and will continue to be for Black America, no matter how hard the president works to discredit her achievements.
Waters responded in kind by offering some words of wisdom for how to keep moving forward as the powers that be try to make us take steps backward.
4. Prison reform discussion
Rappers Meek Mill and Remy Ma had an intimate talk with NBC News’ Lester Holt about prison reform, one of the most important existential issues facing Black people. Having become all but the face of the prison reform movement as of late, Meek Mill offered his thoughts on how to effect change.
“People say we need to fix the system but, I think it needs to be broken and rearranged,” he said.
5. The music, of course.
At the end of the day, ESSENCE Fest is known to many folks for its star power from top musicians performing there over the decades, and this year was no different.
Janet Jackson closed out the weekend with her performance Sunday night, but the days leading up to it included live sets from other heavy-hitting A-listers like Mary J Blige, Snoop Dogg, Queen Latifah, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, Kirk Franklin, Miguel, Salt-N-Pepa and others.