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2016 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - Day 4

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty

The pandemic is changing the way we experience life in 2020, but at least one tradition is carrying on.

The 2020 ESSENCE Festival of Culture: Unstoppable Virtual Experience Presented by Coca-Cola kicked off on Thursday. This first-ever virtual celebration spans across two weekends–June 25-28 and July 2-5 (Thursdays-Sundays)–and will feature virtual performances, summits, panels and more that will both entertain and inspire. It all streams on! Headliners include: Bruno Mars, Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington, John Legend, Common, Ayesha & Stephen Curry, Lena Waithe, Rev. Al Sharpton, Naomi Campbell, Patti LaBelle, Sarah Jessica Parker, Swizz Beatz, Iman Shumpert & Teyana Taylor, Tarana Burke, Tamika Mallory and many more from around the world.

All this is possible thanks to the continued support of festival sponsors like Ford, who is returning as the exclusive automotive sponsor for the 12th consecutive year. Ford’s theme for the 2020 ESSENCE Festival is: UPLIFTED: Healing Now. Empowered Future. By creating safe spaces of affirmation and self-care – a virtual support system – that helps ease the pressure of everything going on now, Ford will support and celebrate Black women. Ford is committed to uplift attendees at ESSENCE Festival through a series 4 powerful panel discussions on Black women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship, mental health, and wellness allowing Ford to create safe spaces for affirmation and self-care.

Ford Essence Festival UPLIFTED branding

Source: Courtesy FORD / Courtesy FORD

o Wellness House

• Thurs, June 25 from 5:54 – 6:09 pm ET

• Breast Cancer Awareness: Tips During a Pandemic Powered by Ford Warriors in Pink brings together a panel of doctors and survivors to discuss health and wellness during COVID-19 with tips for breast cancer survivors and those currently going through treatment.

• Thurs, July 2 from 7:32 – 7:47 pm ET

• Overcoming Overwhelm: Black Women at Work will open the discussion on mental, social, and occupational wellness and shine a light on the holistic mental health practices Black women can use to fuel their wellness journey. Award-winning actress and founder of The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, Taraji P. Henson, is a featured panelist.

o Wealth & Power

• Saturday, June 27 from 3:28 – 3:43 pm ET

• To celebrate women making great strides in traditionally male-dominated fields, Ford spotlights three female trailblazers during Power Suits panel discussion moderated by Emmy award-winning journalist and television host Shaun Robinson. Find out how they suit up every day and pave the way for a brighter future.

• Saturday, July 4 from 3:44 – 3:59 pm ET

• During The Current State of Black Women Entrepreneurs: Still I Rise Ford provides the opportunity to have an honest conversation on how Black women entrepreneurs are overcoming the challenges of these times.

Ford at Essence Festival 2016

Source: Essence Festival / Essence Festival

Ford will also debut the brand’s first event virtual experience at the 2020 ESSENCE Festival of Culture. Beginning Thursday, June 25 go to to join for 2 weekends of Ford festival magic. At the Ford virtual booth, participants will be able to complete virtual walkarounds of the new 2021 Mach-E, 2020 Explorer, 2020 Escape and the 2020 F-150, engage in a photo booth activation, make their mark with and adult coloring wall and enjoy live DJ sets from Femme It Forward, the music and entertainment platform featuring female visionaries, and Girls Make Beats, a music production mentorship program Ford worked with earlier this year during the 2020 Escape “Built Phenomenally” campaign.

Virtual walkarounds will allow attendees with the ability to rotate around each vehicle in a complete 360 view and see inside plus Ford highlights key features of each vehicle. The Ford stage will include simulcasts of all 4 panels, SiriusXM radio broadcasts and DJ sets.

o Thursdays – Wellness House simulcasts

• Thurs, July 2 from 7:32 – 7:47 pm ET | Overcoming Overwhelm: Black Women at Work

o Fridays – SiriusXM Radio’s Heart & Soul

• Friday, June 26 and Friday, July 3 from 2:00 -3:00 pm ET

• SiriusXM Radio’s Heart & Soul will broadcast video interviews with today’s biggest R&B music stars and entertainment celebrities.

o Saturdays – DJ sets + Wealth & Power panel discussion simulcasts

• Saturday, June 27 from 4:00 – 5: 00 pm ET

• The young ladies of Girls Make Beats, the music production mentorship program Ford worked with during the “Built Phenomenally” campaign earlier this year will show their skills on the ones and twos.

• Saturday, July 3 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm ET

• Femme It Forward, the music and entertainment platform featuring the most creative female visionaries through various experience, will take over for an hour-long set.

• Saturday, June 27 from 3:28 – 3:43 pm ET | Power Suits

• Saturday, July 4 from 3:44 – 3:59 pm ET | The Current State of Black Women Entrepreneurs: Still I Rise

o Sundays – Kirk Franklin’s Praise from SiriusXM Radio

• Kirk Franklin’s Praise will broadcast video interviews with Gospel music artists.

Loni Love attends Essence Black Women In Hollywood

Source: Nigel Degraff / Nigel Degraff

Maintaining Ford’s tradition of giving a vehicle away at ESSENCE Festival, comedian and talk show host Loni Love will help Ford on Saturday, July 4 to provide one lucky winner with a 2020 Ford vehicle of their choice.

o The winner will choose from a 2020 Explorer, Escape, F-150 or Mustang.

o Go to from now until July 4 and register for Ford’s Choose Your Way Forward Essence Festival Sweepstakes.

• Ford owners will get a special treat in the Ford Owner’s Lounge on Saturday, July 4 with a meet and greet with Grammy award-winning music artist Ledisi!

• Available from June 25 – July 5 (while supplies last), Ford’s Official 2020 ESSENCE Festival Bag will be available to offer all participants who register when the enter the Ford Experience at

Over the course of the 2 weekends of ESSENCE Festival, Ford will donate $700,000 to support Black women in 6 cities hit hardest by COVID-19 – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and New Orleans – through National Urban League (NUL) and 5 organizations that support Black women by creating safe spaces of affirmation and self-care through entrepreneurship, empowerment, mental health and wellness.

$500,000 will be donated to the National Urban League to support their efforts in 5 cities impacted by COVID-19 – New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and New Orleans. The Ford Fund will contribute an additional $100,000 to support NUL’s efforts in Los Angeles and extends Ford reach. Total donation to National Urban League is $600,000 to support Black communities impacted by COVID-19.

o To inspire, educate and support Black female entrepreneurs, Ford will donate $25,000 to Black Girl Ventures to support entrepreneur education.

o In support of Black women’s mental health, Ford will donate $25,000 to The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the African American community

o To empower the next generation of Black female leaders, Ford will donate $25,000 to support the S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls Films Fund for a documentary on unconscious biases placed on Black girls, which impact their future decisions through their work with Girl Up!

o And on behalf of Ford Warriors in Pink, Ford will support The Pink Fund and Susan G. Komen and their fight against breast with a total donation of $25,000

Here are some links to check out the festival events, plus hit the flip for a breakdown of the discussions.

WEEK 1 (6/25-6/28):






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