Chaka Khan, who is one of our most anticipated main stage performers (got tickets?) has a few different reasons to be excited about this year's festival. In addition to taking the stage, she is eager to visit Crescent City because of the charitable work she's doing with the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES). Her partnership with IWES will allow the songstress to work directly with 50 women from New Orleans who are still working to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina.
Chaka spoke exclusively to ESSENCE.com about why her trip to New Orleans is dear to her heart.
ESSENCE.com: What inspired you to develop a partnership with IWES?
CHAKA KHAN: I've performed at the ESSENCE Music Festival several times. I would usually just come into town, do the gig, stay a few days, hear some good music and eat some good food. But when I was asked to come and do it this year, I felt differently about it. I felt compelled to go there and be of service in some way to Hurricane Katrina survivors.
ESSENCE.com: When you decided that you wanted to work with a charity in New Orleans, what was the next step for you?
KHAN: We found out about IWES and how they had been doing work in the community there helping women and children in crisis since Katrina. I said to myself, this is perfect. This is a beautiful marriage. I was looking for something to do to heal this city from that catastrophe. IWES has chosen 50 women who really want to do something with their lives.
ESSENCE.com: What do you hope to give these women?
KHAN: Empowerment. The ability to say 'no' and 'yes, I will' and 'this is how it's gonna go.' It’s hard to say no. It was a process for me to learn that there are a lot of things you've got to say no to. It becomes a sacrifice that women need to make when we are working towards improving ourselves and our children.
ESSENCE.com: What do you hope the women in IWES will gain from this program?
KHAN: I want them to learn that you may have to work twice as hard to attain your dream but it's attainable. You can really do and be anything you want to be if you focus on it. That's what I want to teach them. They are supremely powerful.
It's going to be an exciting weekend for Chaka! Head over to the ESSENCE Music Festival website for more on what's going down here in NOLA!