NEW ORLEANS – With Essence Fest having returned to New Orleans after a two-year hiatus, the New Orleans Association of Black Journalists (NOABJ) hosted its inaugural welcome reception at the Peacock Room at Hotel Fontenot on Thursday, June 30.
The event, sponsored by My Black is Beautiful, brought together at least 40 dynamic local and national media professionals pushing the culture forward to kick off Essence Fest weekend, including NOABJ board members and members of the Procter & Gamble team.
Notable guests in attendance included the Blairisms founders Blair and Brandon Dottin-Haley; editor and author Danyel Smith; writer, photographer and artist L. Kasimu Harris; New Orleans Saints and Pelicans vice president of production Shaneika Dabney-Henderson; filmmaker Zoey Martinson and journalist and author David Dennis Jr., among others.
The first-ever NOABJ welcome event championed the success of Black media professionals making waves in the industry while providing a space for networking among cocktails and small bites.
“The people in this room have curated so many storytelling ideas,” NOABJ president Charisse Gibson said. “They’ve done things in the community. They have contributed to the Black cultural zeitgeist of 2022.”
The return of Essence Fest also marked My Black is Beautiful’s 15th year at the New Orleans staple event.
“We are so excited and thrilled to be able to be in this moment where this weekend has been stapled as the Black joy, Black excellence moment, and we’re so excited to be able to kick this off with you,” Mel Denson, P&G senior communications manager, said.
Gibson said NOABJ’s partnership with My Black is Beautiful to welcome Black journalists and media professionals to New Orleans was a no-brainer. Both organizations place an emphasis on elevating Black voices in the community.
“I have worked closely with them and seen firsthand the work that they have done in our community when it comes to culture, when it comes to creativity, when it comes to storytellers, supporting Black women in film, supporting Black women and men in our community, period,” Gibson said.
Crystal Harrell, senior director of global equity & inclusion communications at P&G, spoke about the company’s “Widen The Screen” initiative – an expansive content creation, talent development and partnership platform that enables and advocates for increased inclusion of Black creators across the advertising, film and television industries.
“Widen The Screen is about telling more stories of joy, more stories that are beautiful, more stories about resilience, uplifting the vastness of Black experience,” Harrell said. “It matters who’s behind the camera.”
After the success of the inaugural event, NOABJ hopes to make this welcome event a highly-anticipated annual event to kick off Essence Fest with top local and national media professionals.