New Orleans is an oasis of black history and culture. Visitors can trace information from the African diaspora through the artwork, religious practices, and music. There is a strong mixture of African and French influence that has created a new culture-Creole. Creole culture represents a perfect example of how a mixture of two groups can coexist together. New Orleans through my eye is a breathtaking city that brings out the joy in its people. I believe true southern hospitality can be found in New Orleans.
I have been to New Orleans 3 times, but in 2017 was my first time going to the Essence festival. I hold New Orleans near my heart because it was my first ever real solo trip as an adult, and it gave me the push to know I could travel. My advice is to venture out of the tourist areas (Bourdon Street, French Quarters and Canal Street) and go see the authentic side of New Orleans.
Let’s talk Essence Festival because it is right around the corner. My advice to anybody wanting to attend the festival is to start EARLY! Things get booked fast and prices will skyrocket. I try to book my hotels at least 2 weeks after the festival for the next year. However, if you decided at the last minute about attending you can still pull it off. Check out Airbnb for accommodations. After the success of the movie “Girls Trip,” everyone is running to Essence Festival! However, looking at the price of the concert tickets, you may be hesitating about attending, no worries all day events in the convention center is completely FREE! You just need to download the Essence festival app and get it scanned before you enter the events. The app provides the daily itinerary, so you don’t have to keep track of everything that you want to do. The day events have a wide selection of activities for all ages so of the activities include fashion shows, to shopping, fitness classes, and celebrities meet and greet and my personal, favorite private screenings.
Last year I attended the Claws premier and got to meet Karrueche Tran and Niecy Nash! I almost scream but I held it down. Also, I got to meet Kenya Moore (Real Housewives of Atlanta) and Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar & Girls Trip; side note he is SOO cute in person!) If you are interested in attending any of the concerts, they have tickets that fits everyone’s budget so do not worry. Also, you can purchase single day tickets vs. the whole weekend package ranging from $80-$150. I suggest making the best of your experience and planning an itinerary based on your interest. I personally skipped the concerts last year because I was not interested in the performers and I would rather spend my evenings exploring the city life.
In 2017, Essence Festival brought in over $200 million in revenue to the city of New Orleans, but many small and/or black owned businesses hardly see any of that money. That can be contributed to several different influences, but the main barrier I have noticed is the lack of knowledge from the festival goers. Most tourist do not venture out of the Essence festival hub and many small businesses are located outside of the tourist trap. I have created a list of a few small or black owned businesses that I suggest stopping by on your NOLA journey:
Studio Be, a black owned art gallery. The artist Brandon "BMike" Odums took an abandoned warehouse and made it his own. The gallery is off the beaten path but is worth a walk through. My girlfriends and I was lucky enough to go explore; visitors can see the passion associated with his work. BMike is usually there on site and willing to discuss all his bodies of work with patrons. The different art exhibits spark messages on social justice & political issues but adding a few pop culture’s feels.
Admission: $10 but if you buy something in the store admission is free.
Image from sharemyspace.com
La Musee de f.p.c.- I have not visited this museum personally, but I hear great things about it. The beautiful Victorian style home was turned into a museum dedicated to the free people of color in New Orleans. It provides personal stories of the culture of the people and provides a different insight on black folks.
Frankie and Johnny's Restaurant- located in Uptown. The restaurant gives off the vibes of a very down-home country restaurants. The menu offers delectable seafood and creole dishes. The food is seasoned to perfection and it adds a little Cajun kick. However, menu does not offer a huge selection but mostly the main New Orleans staple foods.
Little Dizzy Cafe- specializes in Louisiana soul food that serves breakfast, brunch and lunch. Little Dizzy Cafe offers buffet style and regular service options. The owner is usually on-site helping customers and staff along the way. I suggest calling ahead because the wait can be long for a bigger group, but I believe it is worth a visit
Café Dauphine- located in the Lower 9th Ward. I have not personally been here, but all the locals gave us the recommendation. They specialize in traditional New Orleans cuisines.
Munch Factory- This is hands down the best creole inspired restaurant in New Orleans. The restaurants offer’s classic dishes like gumbo and shrimp & grits and I few creative dishes inspired by New Orleans. Please for me and your taste buds try the Bayou Fries and NOLA cakes.
Cafe Du Monde- Okay, Okay, I know this place is neither small and/or black owned business, but honestly you cannot seriously go to New Orleans as a tourist without eating beignets. I suggest pairing it with a hot coffee or chocolate for a relaxing evening snack. It is located right in front of Jackson Square just look for the line wrapped around the corner and green sign; you cannot miss it.
. If you are in the area anytime please try and visit these small and/or black owned establishments. If you only skimmed this article here are the highlights and important tips:
1. When you plan your trip to New Orleans, it will be hot and humid! Ladies’ protective styles!
2. Bourbon Street and Canal Street are not made for heels bring cute flats and keep it moving YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
3. Essence Festival Day events ae free and open to the public so go and celebrate.
4. This link can take you to a list of black owned business and organization. https://shoppeblack.us/2016/11/black-owned-new-orleans/
Go have fun, you are in NOLA! The city has a spirit and vibe you will not find anywhere else.
Have you ever been to New Orleans?