Ahead of the 25th anniversary of its annual festival, ESSENCE, along with AT&T, celebrated the remarkable achievements in the Black community with a special premiere of the documentary, AT&T Humanity of Connection Celebrates Essence: 25 Years of the Culture.
Co-created by New Orleans-native and Head of Multicultural Engagement and Strategic Alliances for AT&T, Tanya Lombard, who is also the executive producer, the documentary follows and connects the amazing work of African- and Hispanic-Americans and features those who have left their mark on ESSENCE.
“ESSENCE is everything to me,” Lombard said Monday night on the red carpet. “Growing up in New Orleans, being there for the first festival, it was the first time you saw so many women coming together. [It] was such a positive perspective. ESSENCE embodies strength—just women operating on an uber level.”
Doing the film, there were two things I was really excited about: having the opportunity to show the 25 years [of the festival] and [having] New Orleans tell the story with [Essence Communications CEO] Michelle [Ebanks] and [Founder and Chair of ESSENCE Ventures] Rich [Dennis]. It was very exciting.
The premiere, hosted by TV personality Mara Schiavocampo, also honored world-renowned fashion figure Dapper Dan, Kennedy Center Award-winning dancer and actor Carmen de Lavallade, Odyssey Media CEO Linda Spradley Dunn, and entrepreneur Fawn Weaver.
On Monday night, inside the New York Historical Society, it was a true celebration of Black excellence and proof that ESSENCE’s legacy continues to have an impact.
“I think ESSENCE endures because it is and it has been for a half-century a real essential part of where Black people are, particularly Black women, which is the core of our community,” Rev. Al Sharpton said. “And unlike others, they did not go with the trend, they set the trend. And they never compromised who we were, they showed us at our best. And we are not only an inspirational people, we are an aspirational people—ESSENCE gives us both inspiration and aspiration. Inspiration to keep going and aspiration to our children what Black excellence really is.”