"There's a big difference even from just a generation ago. Many feel as though the opportunities, the ability to pursue opportunities for the next generation, will be harder. There's a global economy that our children will have to be competitive in," Ebanks said.
The July issue of Essence magazine features an interview with President Barack Obama, and the festival will expound on issues surrounding the coming election, such as the economy, "being able to pay the bills from day to day, hardships and challenges such as unemployment," as well as the housing market crisis, Ebanks said.
Among the opening-day speakers were New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who launched a mentoring project called "Saving Our Sons," to help curb crime and violence in the city. His wife, Cheryl, also talked about her program, "Girl Up NOLA," which seeks to inspire and motivate young girls.
"Crime is an epidemic in every major city across the nation," Ebanks said. "The mayor is calling on the entire community to invest in the lives of young men to help prevent violence by putting them on a path to where they are able to focus more on school, on getting an education, to be less likely to get involved in violence."
Essence is one of the premiere music festivals celebrating black culture and music. It's been held every Independence Day weekend since its inception in 1995, when it marked the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine.
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