ESSENCE and 10-time GRAMMY® winning singer Chaka Khan, in a partnership with Verizon through its HopeLine program, will salute 33 women of the greater New Orleans community and their remarkable life changing achievements in the first graduation ceremony to be held at this year's 18th annual ESSENCE Music Festival taking place July 5-8.
Chaka Khan will deliver the commencement address and will give a special performance to celebrate these women's evolution and passage into their new lives. Joining the ceremony will be ESSENCE Editor-In-Chief Constance White, Dr. Denese Shervington, Founder & President of the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies (IWES) and Marquett Smith, Vice President of Verizon Wireless Corporate Communications. Verizon Wireless is the proud sponsor of this event.
One year ago, Chaka Khan's The Chaka Khan Foundation in conjunction with the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies and ESSENCE partnered on the SuperLife Transformation Program™, an in-depth life and community-altering transformation process for deserving women who wished to accomplish their lifelong goals. To launch the program, these women first gathered at the 17th annual Essence Music Festival and met with Chaka Khan and author/inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant before embarking on an extraordinary journey of personal and community improvement.
With the help of community partners, agencies, and mentors, these selected women ages 18-35 realized their dreams from starting their own business to finishing school to reclaiming their health in a structured one-year program. Now one year later, each of these women will return to where their journey began—on the Essence Empowerment Experience stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center—to be commemorated in a spectacular graduation ceremony Saturday, July 7 in front of an audience of 5000 people.
"The SuperLife Transformation program has been an oasis of optimism as these women whom we celebrate are likely to become the entrepreneurs and leaders that this country needs," says Chaka Khan, 10-time GRAMMY winner and Founder of The Chaka Khan Foundation. "After witnessing their transformations in the past year then to come full circle and commemorate their triumphs in this wonderful and memorable occasion will be one of my fondest days to remember."
"Our collaboration with the Chaka Khan Foundation and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies in this life changing program truly exemplifies Essence's mission of 'empowerment in action,'" says Michelle Ebanks, President of Essence Communications, Inc. "Essence's commitment to improving the lives of mothers and daughters and our work with the Louisiana community remains undiminished. Saluting these extraordinary women who have inspired us to live without limits gives them and the city of New Orleans the moment they deserve."
"These incredibly courageous women embraced the notion that resiliency comes from within, and hence tapped into their own capacity to heal and transform. I applaud their noble resolve!" says Dr. Shervington, Founder & President of the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies.
ESSENCE invites the public to join and extend their heartfelt congratulations to the graduates in this special event to be held from 9:00-10:30am Saturday, July 7 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Attendees are also invited to bring their no-longer-used wireless phones to donate to HopeLine from Verizon, a program that empowers domestic violence victims and survivors. For more information please visit www.essencemusicfestival.com