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For a number of years now, Essence, as a magazine and a multimedia brand, has staged one of the most successful and well-known events during the music festival season with the Essence Music Festival, these days more commonly known as the Essence Music Festival. In 2013, Essence will once again give people exactly what they want in the form of top tier black music and entertainment, engaging speakers and panel discussions, and valuable information that will be of the greatest benefit to the community at a time when it is needed the most.

The list of performers in 2013 reads like a true who’s who of the biggest names in R&B, classic Hip Hop, alternative soul and up-and-coming artists from across the musical stratosphere. From some of the most popular artists in contemporary urban music, including Keyshia Cole, Janelle Monae, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Trey Songz, Marsha Ambrosious, Chrisette Michele, Brandy and festival headliner Beyonce, to legendary emcees LL Cool J and Big Daddy Kane, to rising stars like Emeli Sande, F. Stokes, Daley and St. Beauty, this years’ Essence Festival is filled to the brim with enormously talented music acts that will surely keep the New Orleans crowds and each and every stage riled up and begging for encore after encore after encore. The full line up of artists is available online at http://www.essence.com/festival/schedule/artist.

But the Essence Music Festival goes far beyond just a music festival and delves deep into the pressing issues facing the African American community today, with a series of speaking engagements and panel discussions that are sure to get attendees thinking, engaging, networking and contemplating new ways to improve their community. Dubbed the Essence Empowerment Experience, the series will feature speakers from many different walks of life, including heralded activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton, life coach and television host Iyanla Vanzant, Congressman John Lewis, gospel music personality and Rev. Donnie McClurkin, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Issa Rae, creator of popular web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”, Hip Hop artist and entrepreneur Master P, former head of the National Urban League Mark Morial, television and radio host Roland Martin, and many, many more.

The 2013 Essence Music Festival, presented by Coca Cola, will surely be an event that will connect people and communities, stir more than a few souls, get folks out of their seats and even open a few minds. And SoSoActive.com will be in attendance to cover all of the proceedings in New Orleans. Be sure to look out for follow up reports and articles straight from the frontlines.

Ron Grant is a freelance journalist and blogger originally from Detroit and currently residing in Orlando. He is a contributor at HipHopDX.com, is the lead writer for Orlando-based indie music label Conscious Mind Records and runs his own independent music blog, The Music Nerdvocate. Follow him on Twitter @RonGreezy.