I love my job. I really do.
My Mama always said I was lucky to have found a profession that combines all the things I love—music, photography, art, cooking, reading, writing, art. I suppose I fit more into the creative community than the pure wanna-make-a-buck group, but I also think this love of my work and passion for fulfilling the mission of our media is what keeps me going strong. You have to get sick of hustling at your job to just to make a few dollars.
Everyone that works at OffBeat is devoted to this magazine’s mission. Yes, we all know it’s a business, and we have to make the dough to keep it going so we can pay our printers, our rent, our utilities and our staff. But I think the magazine has shown that it is possible to survive in a creative enterprise that supports creative people.
It’s a privilege and humbling to be able to have created something which (I’ve been told) is rooted in the New Orleans and Louisiana community and that has respect of readers all around the world. I still can’t believe sometimes that the magazine has been around for almost 21 years, survived a pretty rough beginning, lots of competition, a hurricane that came close to destroying a great city, and did wreck the lives of some my relatives and many of my business associates and friends.
But meeting challenges and turning them into opportunities and success is a factor in the “American Dream.” New Orleans, especially our music and creative community, has shown such strength and resolve in getting back on its feet. It’s definitely been inspiring.
The Essence Music Fest is also an inspiring event. Tens of thousands of people come together to enjoy top national entertainment, and come away inspired and enriched by the Empowerment Seminars that are hosted by Essence. We’re happy that the management at Essence and the Rehage organization has reinvigorated the superlounges that feature our nonpareil musicians. I really do hope you take the opportunity to go to Essence and take a little time away from Chris Brown, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Morris Day and the others to go hear a bit of Big Sam’s Funky Nation and DJ Soul Sister (on our cover); the wonderful Terence Blanchard, Rebirth Brass Band, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Kermit Ruffins, the Funky Meters, Nicholas Payton, Irma Thomas, Christian Scott and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as they do their thang next to Peabo Bryson, Gil Scott-Heron, Grandmaster Flash, Ledisi and so many more.
Seeing these guys in a local club is something we can do any day in New Orleans, but I guarantee you that once you see them showcased at the Superdome in the context of Essence, you’ll realize what stars they really are.
But back to business: Since we (must) sell advertising to keep OffBeat out there, we did a push, as usual for our Essence Music Festival issue, as we’ve done since the beginning of EMF in New Orleans. Most business owners tell us that the presence of Essence does little or nothing to help local businesses. When it began, EMF was touted as being an economic opportunity for local businesses (restaurants, bars, retail) in the summer because it brought an affluent market of African-American consumers from all over the country to New Orleans for the “Essence Experience.” Many local business owners have told me that Essence might as well not be around because the Essence audience doesn’t spend money. I heard a really disturbing rumor that some Bourbon Street clubs “close for renovations” during Essence because they just “don’t want the business.” Huh? Is New Orleans really that racist?
Is it possible that people who fly into New Orleans, pay lots of money to buy stylish clothes for the event and stay in nice hotels don’t go out to eat or listen to music or to buy stuff in New Orleans? If that’s true, then the city, the promoter and the Essence organization should stop promoting the “Essence experience” and start promoting more of a “New Orleans experience.” Come on y’all! New Orleans is one of the richest cities in the USA when it comes to history, African-American culture, music and food. Throw some more New Orleans in that mix. And I’d say to business owners: this isn’t a rowdy college crowd here to raise hell for a football game. Essence festers are cultured, affluent people who spend good money to travel to New Orleans to have a good time. Personally, I think there are some walls to be broken down on both sides here.
We’re all from the same country; we all have a lot of the same problems. There are historical problems and bitterness and cultural divides that we have to find a way to heal so that we can all live together harmoniously. Can we work on that together, please?
Speaking of together: right after this issue goes to press, my “longtime companion” Joseph Irrera and I, my beautiful daughter Meredith, and granddaughter Camille will head to Bergen, Norway for a two-week visit to see our daughter and her husband Petter. Anitra and Petter eloped last July 28 while they were visiting us in New Orleans. So romantic! Their dream was to get married in New Orleans, then go to the Napoleon House to enjoy a Pimm’s Cup and a muffaletta. How cool is that?
I’m excited to tell you that Joseph and I are (finally) tying the knot on July 26 in New Orleans after being together for 12 years. So 1) it’s never too late; 2) there’s still romance in the world; and 3) love will truly win in the end.