All Access: MyBrownBaby Hits NOLA For the 2011 Essence Music Festival


You remember the MyBrownBaby 2011 Bucket List? One of my biggest make it happen promises to myself was to hit up a bunch more live concerts this year. I got off on the good foot when my girl Shameeka Ayers of The Broke Socialite and I went to the Hip Hop Legends concert back in the Spring. But I experienced the ultimate music lover's indulgence when MyBrownBaby was invited to cover The Essence Music Festival in New Orleans this past July 4th weekend. My God, talk about four days of non-stop, minute-by-minute action! From the second I touched down in NOLA ˜til the moment I got back to the ATL, I was surrounded by new friends, awesome programming and, above all else, some of the best musical performances in the world. This is my recap.

Essence magazine Viola Davis cover


Steady Flash Mobbin’

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of attending Essence's opening night reception at Harrah's Casino, where I met the lovely and talented Constance C. R. White, the magazine's new editor-in-chief. It was there that she debuted the new August issue, featuring the chocolate goodness that is Viola Davis, the Oscar-nominated actress who takes a star turn in the upcoming book-to-movie flick, The Help. We were all invited to play Blackjack and Craps totally for fun, no cash involved but, unless it's a loud game of Spades with payoffs restricted to bragging rights, I can't be bothered with the gambling. I had much more fun chatting up Essence books editor Patrik Henry Bass and relationships editor and blogger Demetria Lucas, whose incredible new book, A Belle In Brooklyn, about living and enjoying! the single life, hit stores last month. Later, we posted up all cute at NOLA Mayor Mitchell Lanrieu's welcome party at Gallier Hall, only to find out that we missed the My Black Is Beautiful Flash Mob. No worries, darlings you know I got you covered with the video!



Mary J., Ruby Dee and Tellin’ It Like It Is…

There's nothing like a little Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige and Ruby Dee early in the morning! The three, joined by broadcast pioneer Cathy Hughes, NAACP president Ben Jealous and  Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, were honored at the McDonald's 365Black Awards for their work in our communities. I'm so proud, especially, of Mary J., whom I interviewed way back in the day when she dropped her My Life album. Let's just say she was a little rough around the edges then. But looking at her now, you know for sure she's blessed came through some storms. And now, she's using her powers for good through her FFAWN program, a community-based organization that helps troubled women get educations, jobs and housing. So inspired by her work was McDonald's that it honored her not only with the 365Black Award, but a $40,000 check to further her mission with FFAWN. It was Ms. Ruby who stole the show, though, when she was asked what was her favorite item on the McDonald's menu. While Mary J. asked why she had to pick just one (LOVE Mary for that!), and all the other panelists offered up their personal faves, Ms. Ruby refused to name one and instead said that her daughter, a nutritionist, makes sure she gets more healthy options at home. She did, however, pat McDonald's on the back for being the sole restaurant in our communities that offers up inexpensive meals for families who don't have a lot of cash and a cool place for kids to hang out for as long as they want without anyone making them buy food in order to stay. Ruby Dee = Wisdom Defined.


Roland Martin Can Drop It Like It’s Hot

Later on Friday, we dined on some great New Orleans fare shrimp and steak po' boys, gumbo, and beignets tasted some of McDonald's new frozen drinks (they had me at Mango Pineapple smoothie!) and let Lamman Rucker throw his dimpled mojo in our direction at the Men of McCafe event before heading over to the legendary NOLA restaurant, Dooky Chase, for a private dinner with Proctor & Gamble, the makers of so many of the products I love, including the My Black Is Beautiful movement created to celebrate black women, Crest, CoverGirl Queen Collection, Pantene, Olay and Tide. I was having a pretty interesting and heated conversation about blackness, curvy girls, self-esteem and Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, with MBIB brand ambassador/socialite Bevy Smith when TV One political commentator and journalist Roland Martin swagged all up in between us and triple-dog-dared Bevy to drop it like it's hot. Seeing as she's a lady, she left all the bumping and grinding to Roland, who had no problems getting down or, surprisingly, back up!  All the comedy came to a standstill, though, when restaurateur and chef Leah Chase came into our private dining room and took a bow for her delicious meal of fried chicken and fish, shrimp jambalaya, mac & cheese, greens and peach cobbler. It was truly an honor to meet the woman behind the restaurant, which was created during the Civil Rights era to give black folks an elegant, non-segregated place to have a fine meal. I warned her that she might have to knock me out with some spray to get me away from her original artwork, an incredible study of African American masters like Elizabeth Catlett and John Biggers.



And the Concerts…

I wound down the night back at the festival at the SuperDome, where I caught Stokely and Mint Condition straight showing out in the Superlounge, grooved to the smooth sounds of Miguel (who can really sang, y'all), and rode out on a surprisingly heartfelt Cherelle and Alexander O'Neal concert. Yes, yes, I know darlings: After that BET Awards showing, where we collectively held our breath waiting to see if O'Neal actually had teeth and would make it through the duo's hit song, “Saturday Love,” I thought for sure that their show would be pure comedy. Surprisingly, Alexander managed to push my emotional buttons took Romey back with his hits, Sunshine, and If You Were Here Tonight. Indeed, the first thing I did when I got back home was download Mint's new album, 7, a couple off of Miguel's debut CD, All I Want Is You, and my two favorite Alexander O'Neal songs, which still make me all tingly and whatnot.

Stay tuned: Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about how Jill Scott had me shaking my rolling hills, how Coca-Cola and chef G. Garvin encouraged me to live positively, how Verizon is helping us moms up our kids' academic game, and what Kanye West did to make me walk out on his butt. Plus, I got live footage of Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and a few more of MyBrownBaby’s favorite artists. Uh huh you don't want to miss that!

{So You Know: My travel, hotel and expenses were graciously arranged and sponsored by a really generous entity, but, as usual, my thoughts, experiences and opinions are 100% my own.}

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. It was nice seeing you again at EMF! (We spoke briefly at the press conference). Glad to know you had a great time. I’m still recovering myself!

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing :o)

  3. I was following all the tweets (and weeping inside from missing all the fun). Great post. Can’t wait to read more!

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