The Magnificent: Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige & New Edition Slay the Essence Music Festival 2011

So if you thought capturing Roland Martin dropping it like it's hot, hobnobbing with Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance C. R. White and socialite Bevy Smith, and nearly fainting during Alexander O'Neal's live rendition of Sunshine during my first two days at the Essence Music Festival 2011 was off the chain, check out what happened during my trip on Saturday and Sunday

Living Positively

I live in Georgia, in the Atlanta area, which means that if you're drinking soda, you're drinking Coca-Cola. Period. I admit that coming from New York, I didn't really have any allegiance to Coke that is until I dared serve the other cola at a party. Yeah. Anyways, I've spent a lot of time at the World of Coca-Cola not just because my kids have field trips there practically every year, but because the good folk at Coca-Cola have extended a few invitations to me to learn both about their products and the good works they're doing, literally, throughout the world. At a Saturday morning breakfast, a few of the company's top executives spread the word about their LivePositively campaign, a venture meant to get folk excited about getting out, being active, and using our national parks. They also announced that the Coca-Cola Foundation awarded five female seniors at Louisana-area HBCUs a total of $125,000 to help them finish up their last year of college. The sisters Coca-Cola helped are the first from their families to attend college, and were having a hard time raising the funds to get to the finish line graduation. So thanks to Coca-Cola, money is no longer an obstacle to them becoming great. Which I think is kinda dope. Equally hype: Chef G. Garvin popped into our breakfast to say, Hey! and chat us up about a few things he's got going with Coke, including a cookbook he hooked up for Black History Month and a few recipes he created with the company's Gold Peak Tea. I'll be running a few of those recipes on MBB soon, and giving away G. Garvin's Coca-Cola cookbook, so stay tuned for that.

Um, so after we finish posing up with G. Garvin and hob-nobbing with the Coca-Cola executives, WHY did we get stuck in the elevator?! About 10 of us, for, like, 20 minutes? Which of course felt like 20 hours?! I promise you, my heart was racing, my legs got all wobbly, I got to sweating all four of those metal walls started closing in on us. Every second that passed felt like an eternity the air was all thick and the elevator was feeling like a coffin. I tweeted for help and prayer, and a few of my tweeple tweeted their support and one made me giggle, talking about she hoped no one let out a silent, but deadly while we were in there. The calm voice of reason was Terrance Gaines, a.k.a. Brotha Tech, the master of all things technology. The entire weekend, he was hipping me to all this cool techie stuff that’ll help me use social media more efficiently, but in that elevator, he was definitely the one who kept me from falling the hell out by explaining what the electrician would have to do to get us out of the elevator. He’s, like, the calmest person on the planet. But when those doors opened? I swear, I've never been more happy for fresh air ever in life, amen! I was pretty spooked for a hot minute, but all was right with the world when our group made it back to our hotel, only to find a full-on brunch/party jam in the lobby. I'm talking fine food, a dee-jay spinning good music, lots of pretty people, and, best of all, cocktails. My choice of poison: the Morning Sunrise a mixture of Hennessy, Moet, tangerine essence, and fresh tangerine and lemon juices. Three cocktails, two Jay-Z and Frankie Beverly & Maze songs, and a few turns in the Boogie Booth later, and I'd forgotten all about that ol' elevator. These are a few of my EMF2011 running buddies, including the adorable Darius Brown of The Griot, who also does some great work for ABC.

Later that night, I made my way to the SuperDome to enjoy an evening's worth of pretty awesome concerts. I kicked it off with Chaka Khan, who sang every last one of my favorites Sweet Thing, Through the Fire, Tell Me Somethin' Good, I Feel For You, all of them. She looked incredible, sounded great made me happy. Then I dipped into the Naughty by Nature set for a little OPP before I made my way back down to the mainstage for my girlcrush, Jill Scott, who straight k.i.l.l.e.d. her microphone and left the stage smoking with old favorites like Long Walk and my new favorites, Shame, and Rolling Hills off her new album, Light of the Sun. Here's a little taste (this video is surprisingly well-shot; be patient the beginning is a little rocky, but it’s totally worth the watch after Jill gets on stage).



Coming off of the consummate artistic performance of Jill Scott, I found it particularly hard to sit through Kanye West's set. I mean, the smoke and lasers were cute and all, but the 40 corny ballerinas, the soul-less band, and his consistent moaning and crying about being misunderstood and getting got by the media made me want to stand up on my stadium seat and yell, Yo! Go work out your issues on somebody's couch somewhere! I came here to hear some music, not all this boo-hooing! When he started lyrically disrespecting women by saying we couldn't offer him nothing but pu$$y, I stomped on out of the concert. I mean, really? You're on the stage of a music festival thrown by the most well-known and respected black women's magazine on the planet, and you're using your mic to spit on us? Really? I can't, Kanye. Grow up, get a therapist and use some of that money to buy yourself a clue. I hope Essence realizes how stupid it was to invite him and never does it again.


Hello, Verizon Droid So Long, NOLA!

I recovered from the hot mess that was Kanye by hanging with the good folk of Verizon, who treated us to Sunday breakfast while they extolled the virtues of their company. One program that really resonated with me was Verizon's, a pretty awesome online resource for parents and teachers looking or supplemental educational material for their kids. Mari and Lila won't see me coming! And neither did the hubs, whose busted cell phone was totally replaced by the brand-spanking new Droid Charge, courtesy of Verizon. Now that's the way to kick off a Sunday morning! Well, that and a How Sweet the Sound gospel concert honoring Cee Cee Winans and Marvin Sapp. I promise you, some of the finest voices at the music festival were up on that stage that morning; by the time we left out of that concert hall, I felt so full so alive with the spirit that the rest of the day had no other choice but to be a great one.




Later that night, we all tagged back to the SuperDome for the closing concerts. I lost my natural born mind when all six of the members of New Edition Ronny, Bobby, Ricky, Mike and Ralph, plus Johnny took the stage. They still could sing! They still had the moves! And there wasn't ONE person in the concert hall who didn't know every word and every dance step New Edition threw down. Honestly? I wish those men would get it together, do the Rodney King, Can't We Just All Get Along? and hit the road with the act they put on at EMF. I mean, they did New Edition with Bobby, New Edition without Bobby, New Edition with Johnny, New Edition with Bobby and Johnny, BellBivDevoe, Ralph's solo album, Bobby's solo album and Johnny's solo album, too. I'd pay GOOD money to see that again. I'd also pay good money to see Mary J. Blige straight slay it again. I mean, that woman has two decades worth of hits and every last one of them tugs at the heart, speaks to our lives, our experiences, our pain, our frustration, our insatiable desire to love hard and strong and with abandon. It was like Mary J. was putting the perfect exclamation point on an awesome weekend.


{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. Great post…I feel like I was there. I went to school in New Orleans and I miss EMF so so bad! I need to plan a reunion with my friends.

  2. Thanks for the shoutout. You pretty much summed up the whole weekend! Glad I was apart of it all.

    …and believe you me, if we were stuck in that elevator for another 40 minutes or so IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A PROBLEM (I aint THAT cool)

  3. Barbara Soloski Albin

    Denene, Thank you so much for sharing the Essence Festival with us. Of course I notice Jill Scott’s name came first in the title of your article, that is where it belongs! Seeing the video was wonderful, felt like I was there, she is so exciting to see perform live. Now if I could just get HBO to bring back the No. 1 Ladies, I would be a “happy lady”. xo Barbara

  4. Sigh. Jill Scott makes me smile. Her smile is so infectious and bright. I just looove that chick! I literally ran to my seat when she got on stage. Left my colleague behind and ran!

  5. I was soooo proud of my boys New Edition!! They came with there “A” game. All I kept sayng was WOW!! They took a sister back to my tweens, teens and twentiies. Mary J told her story as only she can.

  6. Wow! Congrats! That’s quite a trip! I’ll definitely be coming back to check out those recipes. 😉 My hubs is a Coke addict in a big way…lol.

  7. Oh no, getting stuck in an elevator sucks big time. You rock with Hennessy and Moet? Whoa!

    This post is so thorough — love it! And wish I were there. Except for that Kanye performance. I would have walked out of there too.

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