The final day of ESSENCE Fest kicked off on a somber note with the “Mothers Prayer Vigil: Love, Loss & Life” program at the Empowerment Experience, focusing on mothers who have lost their children to violence. A jazz funeral procession led by New Orleans’ own Stooges Brass Band led the mothers into the Great Hall at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The mothers followed, each holding an image of the child they lost and wearing a purple #ESSENCEGunsDown pin. Though little was said as they slowly walked around the room, the mood at the event was notably subdued.
After each mother reached her seat, New Orleans Deputy Mayor Judy Reese Morse delivered the welcome address followed by remarks from the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. Chanda Burks, a New Orleans mother whose 18-year-old son was shot and killed on their front lawn in 2012, delivered pearls of wisdom to all in attendance, including a mother who lost three of her sons to violence. The mothers each pinned a photo of their fallen children onto a photo wall before the Stooges Brass Band returned to lead the audience in a secondline procession at the session’s conclusion.
Watch the video for highlights from this powerful program.