During a quick sit down with ESSENCE Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. DeLuca in Time Inc’s Luce Auditorium, Symone shared words of praise for the ESSENCE Festival and took a brief stroll down memory lane to revisit some of the most unforgettable moments of her career thus far.
“ESSENCE Festival provides the perfect space for entertainment and media movers of the culture to collide,” Symone said.
Among the handful of other topics that came up during the discussion was the infamous CNN news segment this past August, which saw former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tell Symone to “shut up” live on air. Cuccinelli’s comment was made as the two engaged in a heated debate over GOP apologists stopping short of condemning the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
Symone remembered struggling to tame her response to the classless, inappropriate outburst from Cuccinelli and keep in mind that she was still on national television.
“I had to react for women across the globe who have been given the proverbial, ‘Shut Up,’ she told the NYC audience.
Despite attempts from various men in power attempting to silence Symone and other fearless women like her, the 27-year-old leader looks forward to inspiring other young girls who follow in her footsteps to be all that she is and more.
“I hope somewhere there’s a little girl watching and saying, ‘I can say that better than her,’ she concluded. “And I hope she gets her chance.”
I'm so excited for the opportunity to be a part of the empowerment experience. And I'm so so honored to be here this afternoon to sit with three amazing Mayors who are dedicated to the betterment of their cities and are doing real work. So before we begin our big panel discussion with everybody I would like to invite the 61st mayor of this fine and fabulous city, who really needs no introduction. So please give a warm, warm round of applause and join me in welcoming Mayor Mitchell Landrieu to the stage. [APPLAUSE] The people's mayor, y'all. [MUSIC] Shout out to the peoples, Mayor, grab your mic. Thank you, ma'am. How you doing? I'm good. How are you? I'm doing great. Welcome to New Orleans. Thank you, thank you. You know how to say it? New Orleans, Nawlins, my mama lived in New Orleans for a little bit, okay? Your mama and them. My mama and them, and them, with an apostrophe at the end. Your mama So I'm sure this is like a bitter sweet time for you, yeah? No. This is your Essence as Mayor. I'm all sweet. [LAUGH] No. I'm talking about giving you a second term as mayor in New Orleans. Honey I know, but we gonna finish wrong. It is, look the people of New Orleans, to everybody out there, how many people out there from New Orleans? Anybody out there? [APPLAUSE] So look [APPLAUSE] I love everybody from all around the world but the best people in the world are from New Orleans. I know you're from Nebraska and we got somebody back here from somewhere else. I'm from Nebraska but I do love the people from New Orleans. But the people in New Orleans are so open and so loving and so caring and so unconditional. It's hard to know that you're time is coming to an end. because have been so wonderful to me and I just really appreciate it. So what are you most proud of in your tenure? i know you've done a lot, but if you can pick your top two, I'll give you two, if you can pick your top two things, what are you most proud of? You know I actually I don't think about it like that. What I'm most proud of is that the people of New Orleans after having suffered so tremendously From so many things, Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, the National Recession, the BP oil spill, the recent tornado. That's a lot. Yeah, like when the locusts coming, I got that. But, the thing I'm most proud of is the people of New Orleans, if you can believe this, put down their differences, And tried to figure out a way to walk together in a direction to make this city really, really good and to correct all the mistakes that were made in the past, understanding that our future's better than our past. And, so our 300th anniversary is coming up, it's next year, and we have together completely saved the city from falling off a cliff, coming back And actually, I think, showed the rest of the country what it looks like when different people come together, think about different things and then find a pathway forward based on common ground. And that is just a new, I call that the new New Orleans way and that's the thing that's allowed us to produce new schools, new health clinics, all the stuff that we have. I think that could be a blueprint for the country, actually. We're going through some things, if you haven't noticed. [APPLAUSE] Y'all can clap for that. Having a moment. The blueprint. I think New Orleans could be the blueprint. So, you got a new job. You're still the mayor. But you're also the what, the 75th president now of the US Conference of Mayors? Yes ma'am. So how is that going? Can you tell us what you're looking forward to? I will but let me be clear. I only have one job. [LAUGH] My job is to be the mayor of the city of New Orleans for the next 319 days, 8 hours and 22 minutes. But nobody's counting. That's my job. But nobody's counting. I'm clear about who I work for just all you New Orleanians out there. But I have been and it's a testament to the city because our little bitty city. Punches way above its weight. I'm actually the 5th man from New Orleans to be able to lead Wow. all of the mayors across America. Sams Wamsley in 1932 was the first. And then they had my dad then Mayor Morial and then another Mayor Morial. And then I've got this. So New Orleanians this was all for you guys. But as you guys One of the things that the Mayors of America are really focused on is getting our job done, and not being confused by tweets, not being confused by the lack of action in Washington, but just kind of getting it done. Because everybody out here knows, the garbage needs to get picked up, the trains need to run on time, folks need to be able to get to work, there need to be good jobs Streets need to be safe, we need to save our children, and so mayors across America are just kinda getting it done. You're gonna have two mayors that come out here in a minute that could just show you that at the end of the day, and here's the big difference, mayors govern in real time, and we govern in reality. Mm. And so we don't have time. Unlike the current President of the United States. No, well I think that's true. I��m just saying. I��m just saying. [LAUGH] So, speaking of getting it done, you recently gave a very, what people are saying is the best speech ever on the topic about the removal of Confederate monuments and statues of the Confederacy. [APPLAUSE] In New Orleans, but I also think it spoke to people across the country. So, tell us why was that so important to you? Well, as we take this march towards freedom, which as everybody reminds us, never seems to end, With that old Haitian proverb, that every time you get over a mountain there's another mountain. Mm-hmm. And we walk towards a more perfect union. It's really important that in the country we see each other as human beings. And we dignify each other and lift each other up rather than push them down. And what we've found in the city was these Confederate monuments were really a historical lie. You remember the civil war only lasted for a couple years, four years and yet that adorned most of the public areas in the city and there was public space that the people of the city of New Orleans owned. So if you think about the city of New Orleans today the 67% African American. Having to drive by everyday [UNKNOWN] monument that were put up for a specific purpose of reminding everybody who was still in charge, even though the [UNKNOWN] lost the war it just seems absurd and it seems as though they want inviting, they want open. And if you just think about it for a moment having a [UNKNOWN] monuments stand less than 300 yards from where the [INAUDIBLE] Come on, come on, come on.>> That [INAUDIBLE] the position seems like it just doesn't work. And so the people New Orleans wanted to think about their future and more importantly they want to remember all of their past and all of our past would makes us special You heard Gumbo. You heard Jazz. All of those art forms, either in music or in food, were put together by having different cultures across time all merge in to produce something different. Which kind of sounds familiar to us. The founding fathers actually gave us a term. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many we are one and when we are together we are stronger. So those monuments did not reflect who we were and it did not reflect the best of America so we thought it would be better if we use that space a better way. Y'all give it up for Mayor Landrieu. Thank you Mayor for taking a few minutes- Thank you. To talk. Now I think it's time to welcome the rest of our panel. So first up we have a public servant for over two decades. Miss Sharon Westonbroom is the first female mayor president of east Baton Rouge parish. [APPLAUSE] She is a native of Chicago shout out to the midwest and a very long time Louisiana resident. She has served as both a Louisiana state representative And a senator. She continues to lead. Now she is calling for what she's talking about building a new Baton Rogue. So ladies and gentleman, please give a warm welcome to Mayor Sharon Weston. Broome. Mayor Broome where are you? [MUSIC] [APPLAUSE] And we're gonna keep that applause going because our next panelist is the 50th mayor of Baltimore. Ladies and gentlemen during her 15 years of serving in office she has offered an innovative voice at the intersection of business, urban development, politics, culture, pop culture, political culture. She's the co founder and chair woman of Baltimore Design School, and the Baltimore Marathon. And she also serves as the 11th president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures. So please give a warm welcome, warmer round of applause to Mayor Catherine Pugh. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] We gonna hug it over here. [LAUGH] Perfect. You all give this man a good round of applause. So Mayor Pugh, Mayor Broome, thank you for joining us to share your thoughts about how to strengthen our cities. I believe that the mayors are on the frontline of what I like to call the resistance across the country. Because it's the mayors, as Mayor Landrieu, you said that get things done. So I'd like to begin by asking both of you about the issues that you believe require the most attention in our communities as a whole. And in your individual cities in particular. I'll start, certainly in Baton Rouge we had a very challenging year last year. And some of it went under the radar in that we had the great flood of 2016. A thousand year flood. And over 36,000 of our citizens and residents in East Baton Rouge Parish were impacted. And including myself and I'm still pressing my way to get back in my home. And so we have right now over 2000 people who are still in FEMA trailers. So for me, it's very important that I make sure that people get back into their homes and that they are restored. So we do have a program that we've initiated with $11 million of Hard funding and we're calling it [UNKNOWN] repealed, and the focus is for landlords to get their [UNKNOWN] property back up in the commerce to help many low income residents get back into their homes. So we're flood recoveries have Issue for us economic development especially in under served communities, and we've implemented our equity and business program around that. And certainly for me, closing the gap between police and the citizens of our community. We can clap for that. And some. Is a priority, and one of the first things I did when I came in office was to bring together a group of citizens from throughout our community, as well as faith-based leaders and law enforcement to come up with some best practices surrounding use of force policies, and those are now implemented. In our police policies in Baton Rouge Police Department. Mayor Pew? Well, I walked into office and about two days after being in office I was told that I needed to sign a consent decree, well, there wasn't a consent decree on my desk, and so I did in 60 days which most cities took 13 to 14 months to do, and that was to get a consent decree done because I believe that improving police and community relations means having a police department that understands this relationship with the community and the community with the police department, so we did get that done. And then immediately following that, I learned that my school system had a $130,000,000 structural deficit. And that I needed to come to the aid and we did that as well. But what I'm focused on is really looking at how do we create economic opportunity and neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades. And so what we've begun to do It's focused economics on corridors of the city that have been neglected. And then focus on how do we employ the 76,000 people who are unemployed. So we've created mobile units to go out to neighborhoods, into communities, because so many people have given up hope. And to give them hope and to inspire them and to get them employed. And we realize that drug addiction, mental health issues are major problems. In most of our cities. But how we focus together, and I think that's part of what I love about being a part of the US Conference of Mayors is that you get a chance to interact with mayors from around the country and focus on best practices. And for that I'm grateful. Get that. So speaking of these mayors and these best practices, Like how do you, have each of you worked and also how do you work through the US conference of mayors. To ensure full engage to make sure people are engage in their communities and so it's one thing for the mayor's to quote on quote be working because I do believe mayor's be working. But it's another thing to engage your residence in the community so how do you start? Well the first thing you have to make yourself available. So for every yield and I'm sure these mayors do this as well. But when we put our budget together every year before we do it we actually for the last seven years have gone out into the community had community meetings. This may be a little strange for people in Washington to hear but we kind of consider our budgets to be moral documents. And to try to reflect what the communities desires and needs are. And you have to hear from them. Which means that in some way, through technology, or being there in person you engage them so that you can hear them. And then subsequently make sure that you have community engagement that you build into your government. So in New Orleans we have something called the Neighborhood Engagement Office. Where we have an individual that's responsible for making sure that certain citizens in certain neighborhoods are engaged. We have 73 neighborhoods in the city and we have a neighborhood engagement office and an individual is responsible and then on a regular basis, we make sure that we hear from them. And then, of course, through your city council meetings they need to open, they need to be transparent, folks have the opportunity. And then, of course, we have We have to listen, because they'll let us know if they don't listen. So we do that across a whole bunch of different platforms, and then as the mayor said, and this is one thing that's going on. Now mayors, it's not that we are for Washington or against Washington. We would like the federal government to do it's job, to be where it's supposed to be, and be thoughtful But what the mayors are saying is that Washington is not gonna act. The mayors are gonna act. We're not gonna wait. Can't wait. Because we can't wait. Mm-hm. Again, as we said in real time, when something happens on the streets of the city, the mayor hears about it immediately. And when the mayor acts, something else goes back to the ground immediately, so it's a real Time dynamic, that requires you to be ever present and ever thoughtful and ever in tune or you're gonna get run over. So one of the things that I did was, I realize that you really have to have people engage and instead of just having town hall meetings, we did what we call, call to action. and then we called upon people to ask themselves how do you get engaged in the action? Are you going to mentor a child? Are you going to provide a job for them? Are you going to work with the police department? Are you going to mentor a young person? Because at the end of the day, it's what we do for our young people that will change the trajectory of your city. And so the other thing that we start doing is looking at young people. And I'm sure many cities across the country will say this, those children stand on the corner with...we call them the squeegees kids. We decided we were going to work with them because I see them as future entrepeneurs. So we created what we call the squeegee corp. And this summer we are doing pop up car washes all around the city employing those young people. Giving them the opportunity to grow and interact with government, and at the same time, be mentored through the process. Yes. That's great. That's great. And so I realized that if we're going to make a difference in our communities as leaders, as mayors, that we have to have our citizens engaged. I took office in January. And the first thing I did was gather a transition team of over 300 volunteers from throughout the community, from all walks of life and then we setup committees representing not only the internal workings of City Parish Government but the exterior concerns around issues, Issues like race relations, law enforcement, economic development, [UNKNOWN] you name it and we had people who took part of that and so these individuals came up with a document which I consider my blue print that I'm looking at to move our city and parish forward and these individual including mellionois who had. The millennial agenda. Shout out to the millennials. Yes. I'm a millennial. Are now part of a conversation and not only part of a consistent conversation that I have with these groups, but they're also part of changing the dynamics of our city and parish. Because their ideas Are now being implemented in the process. So I hear you all saying that not only are you making yourselves available, holding town halls, but you're also giving people tangible ways to be engaged. Absolutely. And tangible ways to be engaged is one way to move the needle in this area. You touched on millennials and I'm partial to the millennial conversation. I'm a millenium, 27 years old. And I'm sure as you all might realize in this last election that we had millennials were not necessarily engaged and galvanized in the last presidential election. So what are you, what is the solution to move some young folks like myself who care about the issues but just don't see. What they care about necessarily reflected in some of the elected officials that they see. How can you bring us to the table? Well, that's exactly what we have to do is deliberately and intentionally bring Millennials to the table. One of the things that I did when I came in office is I hired Millennials. Come on now give us a job! You know. Hire Millennials! There was a young man who actually ran for mayor and he was 20-something. And after the campaign was over I invited him to come and work in my administration. Next week we will soon be launching Our fellows program, which will certainly incorporate millennials from throughout the Baton Rouge community to be a part of our revitalization in this recovery process. So you really have to be intentional, you have to be deliberate, and invite millennials to come to the table. And that's one step I've taken. I think that's really important. And we did the same thing, hired young people, millennials, in our office. We've also hired young people. This summer we will hire 9,600 young people to work in city government, and in the private sector. We raised over $14 million. But, this is what I've said to companies and corporations, I don't need you to just give me money so those young people can work, I need you to take them into your companies, into your corporations. And then creating transparency with city government and communicating how they communicate, using social media, creating transparency so that they get to see every day what you're doing so they can believe that what you say you're gonna do you're gonna do. And I think one of the things in the conversation with Mayor Landrieu, he said, we have a bully pulpit in a sense. That we get to direct our city. And so that means bringing everybody together. Not just the millenniums, but the resources as well. We get to say to the private sector, to the philanthropic community, if you're with me, allow me to leave. If you're with me, go with me into those communities, into those neighborhoods, help me galvanize those young people. So that they see a reason to be a part of government. To be a part of the solution and that's what our call of action is doing. Can I say something about this? Yes. Now I know I don't look this old but I have two daughters older than you. You're not a day over 30 I don't know what what you're talking about. But I adopt everything that they said but can I say something to you millenials, you don't need to wait to be invited. That's like at somebody else's party, and you getting invited to it, it's your party already. I'm just telling you, it's your party already. And you have got to, this is what I believe, if you don't show up, somebody else is gonna show up. And by the way- Well, I got a question, though, I got a question. Well, hang on, let me finish. But if you don't show up, somebody's gonna take your stuff. That's just how it works. You have to get included, and don't support anyone who doesn't include you or doesn't have your view or doesn't understand because you have a lot to teach us about what needs to be. There is a generational gap that just normally happens from people who are trying to pay attention. Like learning how to use my iPhone. That selfie, you know that forward facing camera. Exactly. So, I fully believe, so I fully believe that we have told young people for far too long you just put your head down, do the work, and somebody will recognize you. And for our young people, particularly our young black folks, sometimes they wont. You could be the best in the room and they'll still look over you. But I fully believe we need to bring our own seats to the table. Sometimes we've got to jump through the back window, if the door locked. Pull up our own table, a chair, and say I'm sorry you missed me. But at some point, should we not have to continue to jump through the window? Should our seasoned leadership, people that say they care, people that say they want millennials at the table, shouldn't they just open the front door and say, come on? I think we did that. I think that's what we're saying. The door is open. And so for some folks they are waiting for an invitation. But just like Mayor Landrew has said and so has my colleague here said, you know, the door, we've opened the door. We want you to come in. And every opportunity we get to bring you in, we want you in. And you don't even have to just come in, you can provide the information, share it, and prop up your own opportunities. And we ought to be able to pave the way because it's not necessarily doing it the way that I do it. I want you to be able to do it in such a way that it's effective, that it brings about change and if you've got solutions. We're open.>> I love it.>> Look,->> Hop in.>> You're going to talk about how to rebuild leadership in America. When there's an opening in for a school board, all you have to do is be 18. You don't have to wait until you're 30 to run. Same thing is true for the state legislature, same thing is true for the city council. And your instance, same thing is true. For mayor, and there are examples around this country, where young people- Are doing. have decided to step up to the plate and capture the imagination. Who thought, you were for Bernie Sanders, right? Who thought an old white guy like that could run- From Vermont. for President of the United States from Vermont and actually win the millennial vote. A long time ago you would have said no that would have had to be a young person. What it means is ideas Can cross ages. And it can go up, and it can do that down. And I think people just need to step forward. Be who they're gonna be. Step into their strength. Lean forward. And then take responsibility for their future. And when that is met with open offices. That's right And lifting people up and giving them experience all of a sudden, you're gonna rock their world And I have to come in. The millennials in Baton Rouge and East Rouge Parish, I have to give them a shout out. Shout out to the East Baton Rouge millennials! Yeah, because they reach out to me on a very, very consistent basis. They come to my office, they call me, they talk to me, they bring me ideas. And so I'm glad to have such a rich group of millennials And I can't help but think of what India Arie sings in her song. When young people talk to old people, and old people talk to young people, it makes us better people. And so that's what I'm aiming at as a- [INAUDIBLE] I love India Arie. [LAUGH] We're gonna bridge the gaps out here, well I think this was an engaging panel, watch out that? [APPLAUSE] So before we go I want you all to leave me with one thing that you would like to focus here at ESSENCE for us to know about what you're doin' in your communities if you could just give them give one thing, one nugget, what would you give them? Mayor. [BLANK_AUDIO] The one nugget that I would give is that mayors are certainly part of the catalyst to change our communities. But we all have to feel, from every age group, from every demographic, we all have to realize that we have a moral obligation as individuals, as citizens. To uplift in advance our community and when everyone gets in the game and gets off the bench, we can see a big change in our neighborhoods and in our communities and in our cities. Absolutely. Mephew? Inclusiveness and diversity is like a great suit, the more in the mix, the better the taste. So, the more inclusive we are, the more diverse we are Of everyone that lives in our cities and our communities, the greater our cities can become. Come on now inclusion, we just not talking about diversity, we talking about inclusion. All right, Mayor Landrew, what you gonna leave the nugget with the people, even though you'll be back? [LAUGH] We're in a moment in this country. You need to recognize, which is what the theme of this whole thing is about, you need to stay woke. Because people will take your stuff if you don't show up and essentially what the mass ed diversity is a strength, it's not a weakness, and when you're together you can not be beat. So stay together, stay focused, stay real, and stay present. >I love it. You all give this panel a round of applause. Mayor Landslow, Mayor Brunn, Mayor Pewe, we're going to stay woke and working. These are some of the mayors. America that are doing the work. Folks, thank you so much. We've had a great time with y'all today. Thank y'all. Bye! Thank you!