New Orleans, La. - Holding pictures of the ones they loved and lost, mothers followed a jazz processional into the Morial Convention Center.
During a weekend full of big voices, Essence Fest organizers hope the ones at this Sunday morning service are heard the loudest.
"I'm here because I lost a son named Joseph Massenburg," says his mother, Sharon Massenburg. "He was here to render a service to New Orleans and I thank God that he had the opportunity to meet some of you all and you had the opportunity to meet him."
Essence Fest began its final day with a prayer vigil for victims of gun violence.
"We must tell our young men that they're not men by the barrel of a gun," says Rev. Al Sharpton. "They're not men by how much they can hurt."
The magazine began its Essence Guns Down initiative earlier this year and acting managing editor Vanessa Bush says it's a topic they couldn't ignore at the festival.
"First, we have to get everybody talking about it, so the point of us doing the Essence Guns Down initiative was to make sure that the conversation gets started and it continues," she says.
Bush says the discussion will go well beyond this weekend. They plan to feature programs around the country that are working in an upcoming issue.
One of the programs that will be highlighted is Nola for Life, Mayor Landrieu's effort to stop the shootings.
"There is a real life story behind each one of these young men that were taken from us," he says.
Nothing tells that story better than the smiling faces in the pictures clutched in trembling fingers, the brother, the graduate, the AmeriCorps volunteer.
"A kid that left us too soon, a tragic reminder that we have to fix this problem," says Andre Massenburg. "A problem that we have no answer to right now but if we continue to do this, the dialogue is great."
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