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Represents Senate District 5 in Louisiana. Current Chair of Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, Past Chair of the Select Committee on Women and Children, and Counsel at Dentons. Served on House Appropriations, as House Speaker Pro Tempore, and the first female chair of House Insurance. In 2012, elected first female Chair of Louisiana Democratic Party and re-elected for a second term. Appointed Co-Chair of DNC Credentials Committee and elected Vice-President of the Association of Democratic Party Chairs. Member of Delta Sigma Theta and married to Dana Peterson.

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Dr. Julianne Malveaux has long been recognized for her progressive and insightful observations. She is a labor economist, noted author and colorful commentator. Her contributions to the public dialogue on issues such as race, culture, gender and their economic impacts are shaping public opinion in 21st Century America. Dr. Malveaux is the founder and President of Economic Education, a 501GGGc 3 organization focused on personal finance and economic policy education and their connection.

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From Welfare Mother to New York Times best-selling author, from the Brooklyn projects to Emmy Award winner, from broken pieces to peace, NAACP Image Award Winner, Iyanla Vanzant is one of the country's most celebrated writers, thought leaders, and public speakers.  She's among the most influential, socially engaged, and acclaimed spiritual life coaches of our time. Executive Producer and Host of the critically acclaimed breakout hit "Iyanla: Fix My Life" on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Iyanla's focus on faith, empowerment, and loving relationship has inspired millions around the world.

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Faith Renée Evans is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. She’s also a New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, TV executive producer and most importantly—a mother. Through an equally rewarding and trying career, ask how she’s come this far, she’ll simply reply, “FAITH.” Now in the studio, she’s working on “#Faith20,” celebrating her first album’s 20th Anniversary and “The King & I,” a duet album with BIG.

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Cookie Johnson is a devoted philanthropist on the Board of Directors for the Magic Johnson Foundation, and a passionate spokesperson.  She joins her husband, Earvin "Magic" Johnson in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Cookie is founder of 'CJ by Cookie Johnson,' a premium denim line.  The Michigan State University graduate lives with her husband in California; she is mother to their three children, André, Earvin Johnson III (EJ), and Elisa.

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A native of Dallas, "WDSU News This Morning" anchor Charles Divins got his start in television as an actor on the NBC daytime series, "Passions." He went on to host NBC's "LXTV 1st Look",  "YourLA" and was co-host of "The Daily Buzz," a nationally syndicated morning show. Away from work, He is also an entrepreneur, co-founding several projects, including a salon in Austin, TX. 

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Tichina Arnold plays Cassie Calloway on the Starz series "Survivor's Remorse" and is a two-time NAACP Image Award-winning actress. Her first win was for her role as Pam Jones on the hit television series "Martin." Her second was for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for “Everybody Hates Chris,” playing Rochelle Rock. Tichina has also appeared on "Happily Divorced," “Ryan’s Hope,” “All My Children,” “The Cosby Show,” “Law & Order,” and "One on One."

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Cheryl Wills is a television personality and the author of the new children’s book “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills” – which is one of ESSENCE Magazine’s best picks for Black History Month.

 

Cheryl is award-winning anchor for Time Warner Cable’s flagship network, New York 1 News. Cheryl Wills made history as the first journalist invited to speak before the United Nations General Assembly for the International Remembrance of The Transatlantic Slave Trade.

 

She has made cameo appearances in this summer’s blockbuster "Ghostbusters 2," "Law & Order: SVU," "Freedomland," and "The Brave One." www.diefreethebook.com

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Keyondra is an original member of two time Stellar Award nominated group, Zie'l. Keyondra wrote on Kierra Sheard's LED EP on which she co- wrote “Make Me Better." She also wrote “State of Emergency “ on Ziel’s album, Pronounced Zy-El which reached top 15 on Billboard. Keyondra released her first solo project Soul Couture in 2012 and Soul Couture II in 2015. Her EP, “Bring Me To,"  can be purchased on iTunes NOW.

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Phaedra is a celebrated entertainment attorney, mortician, author, mediator, television personality, activist, public speaker and, most importantly mother of two sons. She is the Managing Partner of The Parks Group, P.C., a boutique law firm that caters nationally to entertainers and athletes. Phaedra is a self-proclaimed "Southern Belle" as well as an active member of the community and church, sits on numerous boards, and is involved in multiple charities.  

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Charles Belonge aka Dj "Bam Bam" Belonge definitely rocks the party! This New Orleans native is a legend of the city’s radio and nightlife entertainment scene. For years, he has energized audiences before such names as Alicia Keys, Steve Harvey, Chaka Khan, Kem, Queen Latifah, and many more, and can be found performing at many of the most prominent and upscale weddings, corporate galas, and celebrity and socialite events in New Orleans and the region.

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Sybrina Fulton is dedicating her life to transforming family tragedy into social change. Since the death of her 17 year old son, Trayvon Martin, during the violent confrontation in 2012, Fulton has become an inspiring spokesperson for parents and concerned citizens across the country. The publicity surrounding Trayvon’s death and the ensuing trial catapulted the country into national debate. Despite the intense struggle of losing a child, Fulton has become a role model to many by turning her grief into advocacy. Remaining strong throughout the trial and ensuing months, she lends her voice to speak against violence towards children and the need to build better, safer communities for all. 

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Lester Love serves as the Pastor of The City of Love in New Orleans, Louisiana and Executive Secretary for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. He travels across the country presenting leadership sessions for ministries and corporations. His motivational mantra "ican.iWill.iMUST!" encourages us to maximize our potential. Love’s many talents also include singing. He hosts events for Super Bowl, the All-Star Game and has garnered millions of views for his “Love Songs” YouTube clip.

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Christina is a founding member of 2x Stellar-Nominated Gospel Group Zie’l. As an unparalleled alto voice she presents her music with a soulful-gospel mix. Bell, currently working on her debut project is poised to release her debut single "Believe" late spring/early summer 2016. To-date Christina has shared platforms with various artists including Marvin Sapp, Dave Hollister, The Clark Sisters and Tasha Cobbs; to name a few.

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Multimillion copy and New York Times bestselling author TERRY MCMILLAN fell in love with books as a teenager while working at the local library. She studied journalism at UC Berkeley and screenwriting at Columbia before making her fiction debut with Mama, which won both the Doubleday New Voices in Fiction Award and the American Book Award. She lives in Pasadena, California.

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Church Friends, a group of friends who met through church, is made up of singers and musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana. "We always ended up together, either performing, supporting, or simply as friends. It only made sense to do together, what we do best, make music..." said George Potts Young, the founder. GPY and Church Friends, have collectively shared the stage with Grammy-award winners Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, New Kids On The Block, and Kirk Franklin, just to name a few! They've also appeared in films and TV shows, including "Memphis Beat", "The Campaign," and "When The Game Stands Tall."

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Lezley McSpadden is the mother of Michael Brown, and founder of The Michael O. D. Brown We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation. The organization advocates for justice, improving health, advancing education, and strengthening families. McSpadden also founded its signature program, Rainbow of Mothers, which was established to support mothers who have suffered the devastating loss of a child. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her family. Visit http://michaelodbrown.org/.

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Represents Senate District 5 in Louisiana. Current Chair of Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, Past Chair of the  Select Committee on Women and Children, and Counsel at Dentons. Served on House Appropriations, as House Speaker Pro Tempore, and the first female chair of House Insurance. In 2012, elected first female Chair of Louisiana Democratic Party and re-elected for a second term. Appointed Co-Chair of DNC Credentials Committee and elected Vice-President of the Association of Democratic Party Chairs.  Member of Delta Sigma Theta and married to Dana Peterson.

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Gospel recording artist Latice Crawford, best known for her breakout performances during Season 2 of BET’s "Sunday Best," has become a favorite in the music community. Since the show, the Billboard charting singer released her self-titled debut album and has shared on stages such as The Stellar Awards as well as guest for the tours of Marvin Sapp, Mary Mary, and Kirk Franklin. Latice’s sophomore project, "Diary of a Church Girl," hits stores Spring 2016.

From Welfare Mother to New York Times best-selling author, from the Brooklyn projects to Emmy Award winner, from broken pieces to peace, NAACP Image Award Winner Iyanla Vanzant is one of the country's most celebrated writer, thought leader, public speaker, and she's among the most influential, socially engaged, and acclaimed spiritual life coaches of our time. Executive Producer and Host of the critically acclaimed breakout hit "Iyanla: Fix My Life" on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Iyanla's focus on faith, empowerment, and loving relationship has inspired millions around the world.

Empowerment Stages

Church Friends, a group of friends who met through church, is made up of singers and musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana. "We always ended up together, either performing, supporting, or simply as friends. It only made sense to do together, what we do best, make music..." said George Potts Young, the founder. GPY and Church Friends, have collectively shared the stage with Grammy-award winners Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, New Kids On The Block, and Kirk Franklin, just to name a few! They've also appeared in films and TV shows, including "Memphis Beat", "The Campaign," and "When The Game Stands Tall."

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Lucy McBath is the mother of slain teen Jordan Davis, who was shot and killed at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida in November 2012 during an argument over loud music. The shooter used Florida’s dangerous ‘Stand Your Ground’ law as his defense. Lucy is the Faith and Outreach Leader for Everytown for Gun Safety and the National Spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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Featured in CNN's "Black in America," Perry is the most talked about innovative educator on the scene today. Founder of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in America, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut.

 

Dr. Perry, MSW is also Founder and Head of Capital Preparatory Schools, with two new locations opening in Bridgeport, CT and Harlem, NY, the Education Contributor for CNN and MSNBC, an ESSENCE Magazine columnist, and a best-selling author.

 

 

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Alexis Spight the 2012 first-runner up of Season Five of BET’s Sunday Best released her debut album, "L.O.L.: Living Out Loud" in 2013, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart. Followed by Spight’s highly anticipated sophomore project, Dear Diary on Uncle G Records, in which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart. The album garnered a Stellar Award nomination for Contemporary CD of the Year. Managed by industry veteran Greg ‘Uncle G’ Lyons, Spight has shared the stage with various artists such as Kim Burrell, Kierra Sheard, Fantasia and Tasha Cobbs; to name a few.

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Yolanda Adams triumphantly carries the torch for contemporary gospel and inspirational music. With 13 releases, Yolanda has earned a multitude of accolades including four Grammy Awards.  Not only is Yolanda a phenomenal vocalist, she is also an author ("Points of Power"), designer of a Coffee Line, Simply Yolanda Bath & Body Products, www.YolandaAdamslive.com, mother, and the host on her award winning nationally syndicated radio show “The Yolanda Adams Morning Show."

Empowerment Stages

Church Friends, a group of friends who met through church, is made up of singers and musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana. "We always ended up together, either performing, supporting, or simply as friends. It only made sense to do together, what we do best, make music..." said George Potts Young, the founder. GPY and Church Friends, have collectively shared the stage with Grammy-award winners Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, New Kids On The Block, and Kirk Franklin, just to name a few! They've also appeared in films and TV shows, including "Memphis Beat", "The Campaign," and "When The Game Stands Tall."

Empowerment Stages

Maya Azucena, award-winning recording artist, is known for making music that uplifts the soul. Maya’s work has been featured in O Magazine, Washington Post, Billboard and countless other publications. She’s starred in MTV's "Made" and earned a Grammy Award certificate for her collaboration with Stephen Marley. Within the last year she’s toured to Haiti, South Africa, India and Russia. Maya last joined the ESSENCE FEST lineup in 2013 with Jill Scott, Maxwell & Beyonce.

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Nicole Paultre Bell was the fiancée of Sean Bell. Tireless in the pursuit of justice, she became a nation wide symbol for activism. Nicole is a mother of three founded and “When It’s Real, Its Forever," a justice and youth based NYC organization.

As a leader in countless rallies and marches, she was honored with a ‘City of New York Proclamation’- for distinguished contributions to her community. In 2010, Paultre Bell ran for city council. Today, she continues to be an advocate for empowerment and Justice.

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Dallas native Candy West is a singer, songwriter and speaker. She is an industry vet that has recorded and traveled worldwide with the likes of Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Marvin Sapp, Myron Butler, Mary Mary, Snarky Puppy and Erykah Badu. With over 40 albums with her vocal stamp, she’s now taking the lead on her own musical journey with her first single release “Turnaround” and forthcoming live project due to be released in the Fall.

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Rev. Dr. Al Sharpton is founder and President of the National Action Network (NAN), a not-for-profit civil rights organization formed in 1991 with over 100 chapters nationwide, including a Washington, DC Bureau and regional offices across the US. As one of the nation’s most-renowned civil rights leaders, Rev. Al Sharpton has been praised by President Barack Obama as "the voice of the voiceless and a champion for the downtrodden.” Rev. also Sharpton hosts a daily radio show, a national cable news television show and he is an established author.

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Charles Belonge aka Dj "Bam Bam" Belonge definitely rocks the party! This New Orleans native is a legend of the city’s radio and nightlife entertainment scene. For years, he has energized audiences before such names as Alicia Keys, Steve Harvey, Chaka Khan, Kem, Queen Latifah, and many more, and can be found performing at many of the most prominent and upscale weddings, corporate galas, and celebrity and socialite events in New Orleans and the region.

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YouTube personality Todrick Hall is a multifaceted artist and entertainment powerhouse known for his dynamic choreography and vocals. An MTV docu-series followed the behind-the-scenes fun and madness of the making of his popular videos. He also puts his talents to use for social causes that he is passionate about, including "HIV Beats," a new YouTube campaign from "Greater Than AIDS" and #ENDHIV. This summer he embarks on a world tour, "Straight Outta Oz."

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Mitchell J. Landrieu has served as the 61st Mayor of New Orleans since 2010, elected with a clear mandate to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. He was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2014. Since taking office, Landrieu has implemented transformational changes to build a better, stronger New Orleans as one team, one fight, one voice and one city. Landrieu previously served six years as lieutenant governor and 16 years as a state legislator.

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Tina Knowles-Lawson is a fashion designer and entrepreneur. As a stylist she began with the superstar group Destiny’s Child and designs for Beyoncé’s tours and television performances. She created the successful clothing lines, House of Deréon, Deréon and Miss Tina. Her philanthropic work includes the establishment of The Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth in Houston, Texas. The author of "Destiny’s Styleis" currently working on her second book. With husband, actor Richard Lawson, she is in the process of opening a theater in Los Angeles.

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Kierra Sheard is a GRAMMY® nominated, multiple award-winning recording artist, songwriter, TV star/actress and entrepreneur. Singing since age 9, Kierra is the daughter of Karen Clark Sheard (of the renowned Clark Sisters) and Bishop J. Drew Sheard (Pastor of Greater Emmanuel, Institutional Church Of God In Christ, Detroit, MI). Kierra has BA in English from Wayne State University and owns plus size clothing line Eleven60, www.myeleven60.com. You can find info on her latest digital EP entitled LED at www.iamkierrasheard.com.

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Charles Belonge aka Dj "Bam Bam" Belonge definitely rocks the party! This New Orleans native is a legend of the city’s radio and nightlife entertainment scene. For years, he has energized audiences before such names as Alicia Keys, Steve Harvey, Chaka Khan, Kem, Queen Latifah, and many more, and can be found performing at many of the most prominent and upscale weddings, corporate galas, and celebrity and socialite events in New Orleans and the region.

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Soledad O’Brien is a journalist, speaker, author, philanthropist and CEO of Starfish Media Group. O’Brien appears regularly on HBO “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and PBS "NewsHour." Her successful documentaries for CNN include “Black in America” and “Latino in America.” Her coverage has won her three Emmy awards, the George Foster Peabody Award, and an Alfred I. DuPont Award. She is the author of two books: “The Next Big Story” and “Latino in America.”

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Multi-GRAMMY® Award winning sisters Jacky, Twinkie, Dorinda and Karen are true gospel music legends and noted as pioneers of contemporary gospel since the 1980s.  Daughters of the legendary Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, these dynamic Gospel trailblazers have given us hits such as, “You’ve Brought the Sunshine”, “Endow Me”, and “Is My Living in Vain."  Their music continues to inspire artists such as Faith Evans, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot and many more.  This year, they will be honored at the Essence Festival!

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For Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Travis Greene, destiny announced itself several times. At the age of four, he was pronounced dead after falling four floors out of an apartment window in Germany. As his mother picked up his lifeless body, she called on Jesus until he came back to life. Now the anointed vocalist signed to RCA Inspiration is encouraging the masses with his chart topping single, “Intentional” from his major-label debut album, THE HILL. 

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With a mixture of spoken word, zingy theatrics,  and soul rousing music Tank and the Bangas have no problem going against the grain of what traditional New Orleans music is supposed to sound like.  The Bangas create the perfect compositions for front lady Tank to take you somewhere.  Going from the heart felt sunken words of spoken word to front row at a rock concert you'll be sure to experience what fans can only describe as "The best roller coaster I've ever been on."

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Tyronne G. Foster and the Arc Singers is a community choir from the great city of New Orleans, Louisiana. This choir has been singing God’s praises for 29 years. They have traveled internationally, performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, ESSENCE Festival and did a live recording for the New Orleans Saints. On January 17, 2016 this great choir did their very first live recording at the Beacon Light International Church. One thing is for sure about Tyronne G. Foster and the Arc Singers, they love giving God the praise and they know He is not through with them yet.

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Mayor Tony T. Yarber of Jackson, MS received a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Southern Mississippi, M.S. in Education Administration and Supervision from Jackson State University, and Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Belhaven University. An advocate for his city and through work in the public school systems, city council, and community engagement projects, Mayor Yarber has obtained the skills and knowledge to move Jackson forward.

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Tyra Banks, the Chairman and CEO of The Tyra Banks Company and Founder of Fierce Capital, LLC is an original Victoria’s Secret Angel.  Tyra was the first African-American model to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. For the last decade, she has been the creator and executive producer of "America’s Next Top Model."  Most recently, Tyra created TYRA Beauty, a 100% self-funded company with the goal of providing everyone the opportunity to become the CEO of their own lives. TYRA Beauty is a one of a kind cosmetics experience where beauty and entertainment collide. 

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There’s no slowing down for powerhouse vocalist, Tasha Page-Lockhart.  Since winning the sixth season of BET’s "Sunday Best" and signing with Kirk Franklin’s "Fo' Yo' Soul" Recordings/RCA label, the Detroit native released her major-label debut, HERE RIGHT NOW, and took home the 2015 Stellar Award for Best New Artist of The Year.   Currently, Tasha is a part of Tyler Perry’s touring stage production, “Madea on The Run” and working on new music for her sophomore album.   

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Nominated for two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes, writer/director Ava DuVernay's most recent feature "Selma" was one 2015's most critically-acclaimed films. She is currently writing, directing and producing her first television series "Queen Sugar" for Oprah Winfrey's OWN. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's Best Director Prize for her previous feature "Middle of Nowhere," DuVernay's earlier directorial work includes "I Will Follow," "Venus Vs," "My Mic Sounds Nice" and "This is The Life." In 2010, she founded ARRAY, a distribution collective for filmmakers of color and women. She was born, raised and loves life in Los Angeles, California.

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It’s time to meet Michelle Williams, member of internationally acclaimed female group Destiny’s Child. Hit-making solo singer in her own right (Journey to Freedom, Unexpected, Do you Know, Heart to Yours). Stage actress (“Aida,” “The Color Purple, “Chicago,” “Fela!”), mentor on Oxygen’s “Fix My Choir”, and covering new ground with the launch of  “Believe at Home”, a bedding and home-goods line available on EVINE Live. Now Williams is exuberantly embracing her Journey to Freedom.

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Josh Kagler is a man of many musical talents. As a singer, songwriter, and choir master, the New Orleans native has sung background for several main-stream gospel artists. Notably, his group Harmonistic Praise Chorale were the 2013 winners of The Verizon Wireless "How Sweet the Sound" Southern Regional Choir Competition and features on Oxygen Networks reality show "FIX MY CHOIR" featuring Grammy winning Destiny's Child Michelle Williams and "Preachers of LA" Deitrick Haddon.

 

 

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Groundbreaking ballerina Misty Copeland, was promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in June 2015.  She made history as the first black woman to reach that level in the company’s 75-year history. She had been a soloist at ABT since 2007 and joined the company’s Corps de Ballet in 2001.  Since then, the nationally known dancer has appeared on the cover of ESSENCE Magazine and interviewed President Obama with our amazing staff.

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A multi-talented, platinum-selling recording artist, Keke Wyatt has been wowing audiences around the world with her powerhouse vocals and chart-topping songs since she was a teenager. Known for making dynamic duets with Avant, such as "My First Love," "Nothing in This World" and "You & I," Wyatt continues to soar high as a solo artist. Now, the sassy, sexy vocalist, instrumentalist, songwriter and former star of TV One's smash hit R&B Divas Atlanta has released her fourth studio album, Rated Love. With the the release of the album on her Aratek Entertainment label, Wyatt has the freedom and creative control over her music.The album is all about love, and takes listeners on a journey from start to finish. As can be heard on her recent singles "Sexy Song" and "Love Me," Wyatt describes the album as being "...like eating a pot of gumbo—it has all sorts of flavors, but it's all Keke."

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Melissa Harris-Perry is Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Melissa is Editor-at-Large for ELLE.com. 

 

She hosted the award winning television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” from 2012-2016 on MSNBC.

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Claudia Jordan is a TV and radio host who recently moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles. She is currently working as a co-host on "The Rickey Smiley Morning Show" and the newest cast member of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Claudia is also a frequent contributor on CNN and HLN’s "Dr. Drew On Call."

This Radio Show Personality/Host/ & Reality Star is embarking on many adventures…stay tuned, there is much more to come. 

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In six short years, Brian Courtney Wilson has released three solo albums (Just Love, So Proud and Worth Fighting For) and shared his talents as a member of Fred Hammond’s United Tenors. Throughout those projects, Wilson’s singular tenor and community-minded ministry has won the humble artist a growing host of fans and critical acclaim.  As a Stellar Award and Dove Award winner as well as a 2016 Grammy Award Nominee, the Motown Gospel artist brings the full measure of his singing and songwriting talents to every project and performance.

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Actress Patina Miller currently stars as Daisy Grant on the second season of CBS’ hit political drama series, “Madam Secretary.” Her Broadway credits include "Pippin" (Tony and Outer Critics Circle Award), "Sister Act" (Theatre World Award).  Her Off-Broadway credits include "Ragtime," "Lost in the Starts," "Romantic Poetry" and The Public Theater’s revival of "Hair."  Her Regional credits include "Pippin," "First You Dream," "Sister Act," "Being Alive" and "West End: Sister Act."   Her TV credits include “All My Children,” “American Songbook Gala.” Her film credits include "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay" Part 1 & 2.