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“There’s something Mary J. (Blige) can bring to a new artist. That connection is what Essence is supposed to do. We’re supposed to come together, grow together and share these experiences,” he said.

As in years past, Essence will also tackle hot issues important to African-Americans like education and the upcoming presidential election, Ebanks said.

There will also be presentations from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his wife, Cheryl. Mitch Landrieu launched a mentoring project called “Saving Our Sons,” to help curb crime and violence in the city while Cheryl Landrieu’s “Girl Up NOLA” seeks to inspire and motivate young girls.

“Crime is an epidemic in every major city across the nation,” Ebanks said. “The mayor is calling on the entire community to invest in the lives of young men to help prevent violence by putting them on a path to where they are able to focus more on school, on getting an education, to be less likely to get involved in violence.”