What Are You Doing Here?: Investigating the Men of Essence Festival


Essence magazine is for black women and so is the Essence Music Festival, but the latter attracts both men and women. For years, I’ve wondered what dudes were doing at an event hosting speakers and performers like Iyanla Vanzant, Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss and Mary J. Blige.

This year, armed with my recorder and iPhone, I combed the streets of New Orleans to investigate this mystery, asking the many dudes of Essence Festival: What are you doing here, man?

Myron (pictured above, at right): I’m partaking in the beautiful females and, you know, the ambience of black culture.

Marcus (pictured above, at left): I came for the beautiful women. (Jezebel: Not even to see Kendrick Lamar, who’s performing tonight?) Nah.

Mike (at left): The women. I want to get chose! Since I’m from New Orleans, I just want to meet a nice visitor. We enjoy the music and stuff, but also… the women.

Edward (at right): It’s the festivities, there are a lot of black people coming together and there’s no marching or anything like that. We’re just having a good time.

Darren: I come for the music but a lot of other dudes come for the beautiful black women. Essence is full of beautiful black women. I came to see Kendrick Lamar but it’s easy to meet women here.

Young Baller (at left and yes, this was the name he gave): I’m here to work, I’m a nationwide producer.

Cliff (at right): I do music and films for a living, but we’re relaxing.

Young Baller: It’s vacation slash work. I ain’t coming for the ladies, I get that anywhere I go. I ain’t got to beg for it.

Cliff: Definitely not the ladies.

Andre: Is Essence just for women? I’m enjoying the ambience of the concerts, the good food and the parties. Not the women, I’m too old for that. Been there, done that.

Ejan: I’m just enjoying the entertainment with my black people, I’m just having a good time. Enjoying the festivities, the environment, everybody’s having a good time. My wife has her trip, her and her friends have their thing, and I have my trip, this is mine.

Rob: I’m here for the concerts with my fiancé and another couple. It’s not really weird, I live in Dallas and a lot of concerts there are for women. It’s my buddy’s wife’s birthday so I’m making the best of it. Bourbon Street is pretty cool, you can drink, that’s a good pastime for me. I did try to see a panel with Carla Harris, the Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley, though.

Elliott (full disclosure: my cousin, and the inspiration for this post): Family, food, fun.

Dijon: I met my mother, aunt and uncle here. We’re all from Atlanta but I live in San Francisco now. I’m a storyteller for the Souls of San Francisco and I brought my camera but I’ve only taken it out once. To have the opportunity to aimlessly wander is welcome.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Images by Hillary Crosley Coker.

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