Essence Fest returns to New Orleans celebrating Black music and culture

Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 Essence Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Sunday,...
Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 Essence Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Sunday, July 8, 2018, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)(Amy Harris | Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 3:44 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (NOLA WEEKEND) - Essence Fest returns to New Orleans celebrating Black music and culture for the first in-person festival in two years from June 30 to July 3.

The 2022 Essence Festival of Culture brings back its star-studded lineup of nightly concerts at Caesars Superdome, empowerment programming at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and other entertaining and inspirational activations in venues across New Orleans. Organizers say the 2022 event will celebrate the culture and resilience of the Black community with the theme “It’s the Black Joy for Me!”

Essence has added several new festival acts since its previous headliners announcement for the four-night concert series, including Wizkid, TEMS, Beenie Man, Mickey Guyton, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface, Patti Labelle, Stephanie Mills and the City Girls.

Comedy superstar and award-winning actor Kevin Hart kicks off the weekend with his “Reality Check” comedy show at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday, June 30.

Mainstage evening concerts take place starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.

Rapper Nicki Minaj headlines the Friday night lineup, along with Beenie Man, Machel Montano, Kes and Mickey Guyton. Other Super Lounge acts scheduled for Friday include Ambre, Justine Skye, DreamDoll, Coco Jones and Baby Tate.

Music icon Janet Jackson headlines the Saturday night mainstage. Essence also added a special tribute to R&B legend Patti LaBelle. Other acts performing Saturday include Jazmine Sullivan, Summer Walker, Lucky Daye and D-Nice and Friends featuring Carl Thomas and Stephanie Mills.

Sevyn Streeter, Ro James and Mereba are among the artists gracing Super Lounge stages on Saturday.

R&B group New Edition headlines the Sunday night concert lineup, along with the Isley Brothers, City Girls, TEMS and The Roots and Friends featuring Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon the Chef.

FILE - In this July 5, 2019 file photo, Dapper Dan, left, appears at the 2019 Essence Festival...
FILE - In this July 5, 2019 file photo, Dapper Dan, left, appears at the 2019 Essence Festival in New Orleans. The organizers of Essence Festival said Wednesday, April 15, that they would move their festival to next year after the New Orleans mayor suggested that major spring and summer festivals that had been postponed to later this year should not be held at all in 2020. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)(Amy Harris | Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

“As the nation’s largest festival by per day attendance, the ESSENCE Festival of Culture is a staple that celebrates community and empowers equity. We are excited to welcome the family back live to New Orleans and thrilled to connect with more of our diasporic family through new digital experiences,” Essence CEO Caroline Wanga said in a release. “Our almost three-decade relationship with the City of New Orleans has been critical to the fiber of the Festival and we fully recognize and appreciate the City and its citizens for all they do to create memorable experiences for all attendees,” Wanga said.

In addition to the concerts, the festival offers tons of other programming, including new daytime experiences: ESSENCE Tech Summit, ESSENCE Eats Sip & Savor Fest, ESSENCE Studios Screening Room & Film Festival, Men’s Experience, ESSENCE Black Women In Sports and more.

The first-ever Essence Eats Sip & Savor Fest expands daytime programming to The Sugar Mill and Mississippi River Heritage Park. The event features celebrity chef appearances, demos, panels, food trucks, vendors and more.

Returning daytime experiences include ESSENCE Wellness House, the Wealth & Power Experience, ESSENCE Beauty Carnival, E-Suite, The Global Black Economic Forum, ESSENCE Day of Service presented by Girls United and the Health Hub.

Essence After Dark curates three nights of comedy performances at the Joy Theatre, featuring acts like Affion Crockett, Earthquake, Chris Spencer, Guy Torry, Cocoa Brown, Ryan Davis and others.

In 2020, Essence Fest went virtual for the first time in the festival’s 26-year history, due to the pandemic and again in 2021 with filmed performances throughout New Orleans.

Launched in 1995 as an event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Essence Magazine, Essence Fest has since evolved into a staple event of the New Orleans summer festival season. The annual event is also known as a signature celebration of Black women, culture and communities.