Running For President? Better Not Skip Essence Fest, Marc Morial Warns

Everyone knows that ESSENCE Festival has been the place to be for the past 25 years. It’s where much of Black America, particularly Black women, come to be themselves and celebrate one another.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, knows that. Former President Barack Obama also knew that long before he ultimately won his 2008 presidential campaign, which Morial sagely pointed out on Friday during the opening panel for the ESSENCE Festival daytime programming at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

(Photo by J.R. Thomason)

Appropriately titled AT&T Presents ESSENCE Talks: The First 25, the conversation heard Morial join ESSENCE General Manager Joy Profet, ESSENCE Magazine co-founder Ed Lewis, Revered Al Sharpton and AT&T Executive Tonya Lombard to discuss the rich history of the Festival—including the unique platform it provides for public figures looking to directly connect with the Black community en masse.

“People may recall that in 2007 (so this is July of 2007 at the Festival), then-Senator Barack Obama—who was early in his campaign and also nowhere near the top of the polls—came to ESSENCE,” Morial reminded the crowd during the AT&T Humanity of Connection panel. “And if you remember, [he] got about 5 to 8 minutes on the main stage to really, in a profound way, introduce himself to Black America and the rest is history.”

“Anybody running for president who skips ESSENCE, I’m not so sure what’s on their mind, I’m not so sure it shows good common sense,” Morial added. “Because the people who come to ESSENCE are also influencers in local communities all across the nation.”

Of course, it seems as if quite a few Democratic presidential candidates have picked up on that, with Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg all slated to address the ESSENCE crowd over the next few days.

“It’s great that the candidates are here,” Morial said. “I think it represents newfound respect for the power of the Black community and Black women.”

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