2018 Essence Festival Presented By Coca-Cola - Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - Day 1

Newsmakers and Shakers at Essence Festival 2018

From trailblazing politicians to inspirational speakers.

Yes, the Essence Festival is host to a nightly series of concerts featuring the hottest stars in soul and hip-hop — but during the day, the annual New Orleans event also brings together newsmakers and influencers to greet fans and discuss issues of interest to the African-American community. With the 24th festival now in the books, here's a look at the noteworthy figures who stopped by the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center over the weekend. Pictured: At far left, TV personality Angela Rye, who moderated a panel about passion and purpose featuring Mary J. Blige, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Alencia Johnson of Planned Parenthood, Queen Latifah, and Remy Ma.

STACEY ABRAMS Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence STACEY ABRAMS Following a big win in a Georgia election, she's the first black woman to be a major-party candidate in a gubernatorial race. SYMONE SANDERS AND MAXINE WATERS Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence SYMONE SANDERS AND MAXINE WATERS On the left, the woman who served as national press secretary for Bernie Sanders (no relation) during his 2016 presidential campaign; on the right, the longtime California congresswoman popular for her sharp criticism of the Trump administration and for "reclaiming my time."

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APRIL RYAN Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence APRIL RYAN The White House correspondent known for her fiery exchanges with Trump's press secretaries Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. KOFI SIRIBOE Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence KOFI SIRIBOE Every conference could use a little celebrity sizzle, and the "Queen Sugar" star provided. (He also had a memorable role in last year's "Girls Trip," about a group of girlfriends who go on vacation together to the Essence Festival.) NIECY NASH, RUTH E. CARTER, AND ROBIN THEDE Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence NIECY NASH, RUTH E. CARTER, AND ROBIN THEDE From left: The star of "Claws," the Oscar-nominated costume designer, and the host of her own late-night show on BET talk about navigating Hollywood. THE BLACK WOMEN MAYORS OF AMERICA Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence THE BLACK WOMEN MAYORS OF AMERICA The festival brought together, from left, the mayors of Rochester, New York (Lovely Warren); Charlotte (Vi Lyles); Gary, Indiana (Karen Freeman-Wilson); New Orleans (LaToya Cantrell); Framingham, Massachusetts (Yvonne Spicer); and Atlanta (Keisha Lance Bottoms). IYANLA VANZANT Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence IYANLA VANZANT Always a popular draw at Essence Festival, the star of TV's "Iyanla, Fix My Life" (on Oprah Winfrey's OWN) inspires the crowd. LESTER HOLT, REMY MA, AND MEEK MILL Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence LESTER HOLT, REMY MA, AND MEEK MILL The anchor of "NBC Nightly News" interviews the rappers about prison reform. "People say we need to fix the system, but I think it needs to be broken and rearranged," said Meek Mill, who was recently released on a parole violation that he and many supporters protested as unfair. THE REV. AL SHARPTON Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence THE REV. AL SHARPTON The longtime civil rights activist (pictured with Meek Mill) gave a short address about what's at stake as President Trump is poised to select a Supreme Court nominee. SYBRINA FULTON Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence SYBRINA FULTON The mother of Trayvon Martin spoke about turning her grief into action. DERAY MCKESSON Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence DERAY MCKESSON Wearing his signature blue vest, the activist addresses the audience.



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