US Delegation highly impressed with ESSENCE Festival Durban

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US Delegation highly impressed with ESSENCE Festival Durban

The Essence Festival Durban was officially opened at a media briefing held today, 10 November at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre by eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede and City officials as well as the Essence delegation which included American TV host and comedian Steve Harvey.

The Essence Festival started on Tuesday, 8 November and ends on Sunday, 13 November.

Speaking at the launch, Gumede said this was an exciting moment for the City.

“The Essence Festival is about empowering black women and I proudly stand before you today as a woman who is leading eThekwini Municipality. This event is unique and promotes social cohesion in the City and with our sister city of New Orleans.”

She said women needed to stand together to empower each other.

“No one will emancipate us; we need to do it ourselves. We can do this by supporting small businesses owned by women,” Gumede said.

Editor of Essence Magazine Vanessa De Luca said she is elated and honoured to be in Durban.

She said together eThekwini and Essence would be making history.

“Hosting this event will promote Durban on the world stage and cement its status as an international destination.  This Festival celebrates black women and is being hosted in a one-of-a-kind City.”

Michelle Ebanks, President of Essence said they brought warm wishes from the over 20 million African-American women they represented.

She said Durban and New Orleans, in the United States where the Festival is held annually, were sister cities and shared many similarities.

“We share the same culture and we hope through this Festival to bring empowerment to women and families.”

She praised Gumede for her efforts to ensure the Festival became a reality. “You are an Essence woman and embodied the will and commitment to move this Festival forward. We are honoured to have the inaugural Festival under your leadership,” she said.

Bringing his unique sense of humour to the occasion, Steve Harvey said it was wonderful being “home”.

“This is the motherland and we love it here. This is where we are from originally. Being in Durban is like coming home to a place I have never been before. It is an amazing feeling. We are connected, we are the same. You are us and we are you,” he said to rousing applause.

Harvey, who has been associated with the Essence Festival for 16 years, is one of a number of impressive speakers lined up to speak tomorrow.

Earlier today a Women Empowerment Breakfast was held at the ICC where a number of businesswomen attended.

The theme of the breakfast was ’Enhancing the Economic Empowerment of Women’. Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu delivered the keynote address and urged women to exceed in business by using the opportunities available to them.

She also urged women to support those who were placed in strategic decision making positions.

“Give them the support they need, don’t leave them abandoned. I understand there are challenges facing small businesses in the country but I want women to make the most of opportunities available to them,” Zulu said.

Her speech was followed by a panel discussion on challenges facing women in male dominated areas.

Simultaneously a healthy lifestyle and wellness seminar was held where speakers spoke on the importance of staying healthy and taking care of your body.

First lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma spoke on health and diabetes.

“This seminar is taking place at the right time as November is Diabetes Awareness Month. I encourage people to exercise and be mobile.”

Chairperson of the Community Services Councillor Zama Sokhabase said South Africa is the leading country in sub-Saharan region in obesity. She encouraged the group to regularly exercise and do aerobics.

Others speakers included Professor Tim Noakes, Phindi Gule and Dr Victor Ramathesele.

Tomorrow will be the beginning of the three-day programme empowering the creative industry through the ARTiculate art and book fair. In addition the Durban Business Fair exhibition will kick off  at the Durban Exhibition Centre and will include the empowerment stage where Harvey will be addressing the audience.  The public is welcome to attend at no cost.


Issued by the eThekwini Municipality Head of Communications Unit, Tozi Mthethwa.

For more information contact Gugu Sisilana on 031 311 4855 or email: or Princess Nkabane on 031 311 4818 or email

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