Mayors from largest US cities discuss biggest issues facing communities at Essence Festival

Saturday, July 1, 2023
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- The Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans is wrapping up after four days of music, fashion, food, and fun.

The event also gave way for the opportunity for mayors from the nation's largest cities to gather and discuss some of the biggest problems facing our communities right now.

"We have people that are now in charge, that we need to make their charge work for us," said Reverend Al Sharpton with National Action Network.

A meeting of the minds, as five of the nation's mayors gathered for a discussion at the Global Black Economic Forum at Essence Festival.
The leaders addressed some of the biggest problems facing our nation's cities, but they say homelessness and the asylum seeker crisis are threatening to undermine our nation's progress.

"All mayors must come up with a clear urban agenda on how do we ensure that the resources that are coming to the states find their way into the cities. That's so important, this migrant asylum seeker issue, every mayor should lift their voice," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

"I am very worried about us repeating something that happened in the 90s, and that is the criminalization of Black folk. In the 90s, folks were criminalized because of crack, my worry now is that people will be criminalized because they're living on the streets," said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
Economic empowerment and supporting Black businesses were also themes for the day. We met a couple who started their own cookie company and received support from a new ESPN initiative, Champion Black Businesses.

Jeff and Marissa Allen of Cookie Society were spotlighted as Champion Black Businesses. The couple spoke about the impact of this moment.

"Oh my goodness. It was huge," said Marissa Allen. "We were so lucky because our business was still in an early stage and we were able to apply so much of the knowledge we learned in that program."

"I think one of the biggest parts of being a small business owner, especially a black business owner, is financing. Less than 1 percent of black-owned businesses get outside financing in their first year through a bank or private investor. And Disney stepped in and gave us a $10,000 grant," said Jeff Allen.

Meanwhile, thousands once again coming from near and far for what they say has become a beloved fellowship.

It was another successful year for Essence Fest, as the planning begins for next year.

"New Orleans is the party place but when people leave here I hope that they remember all of the work that's still to be done in this community," said Jasmine Simmons-Edmond, a New Orleans resident. "While the locals are pouring into you the way that we do, and you're having a great time...remember reciprocity and remember us when you leave."

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