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Each year, the festival kicks off with what Ebanks described as a “youth empowerment experience” that’s free and open to all youth in the community.

“It’s a full day of programs geared toward empowering youth in areas such as health and education. We bring in top speakers who have devoted their energies and money to helping our youth get better and we will continue to do that. We will work closely with the City of New Orleans and the mayor and his wife to underscore their `Saving Our Sons’ initiative.’

Mayor Mitch Landrieu last year launched the anti-crime initiative in an effort to find solutions to the city’s crime problems. Last year, the murder rate jumped by 14 percent in New Orleans with 199 homicides.

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Associated Press Writer Stacey Plaisance contributed to this report.