September 23, 2019 (New York, NY)—Essence Ventures, an independent Black-owned consumer technology company merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of color and the parent company of Essence Communications, Inc., today announced that it has partnered with Full Circle Festival, LLC to create the ESSENCE Full Circle Festival. The ESSENCE Full Circle Festival partnership will focus on a three-part mission: (1) supporting cultural ownership and economic collaboration among Africans on the continent and people of African descent in the Diaspora; (2) connecting Black communities globally for the exchange of ideas and shared objectives that leads to cultural monetization and community reinvestment; and (3) facilitating the learning and discovery of the many facets of Africa’s beauty, excellence and opportunity globally. In addition, the annual ESSENCE Full Circle Festival experience will focus on showcasing African nations increasingly as global destinations by highlighting their critical roles as ancestral, spiritual, cultural and commercial epicenters.
“As someone born and raised in West Africa and who has spent adulthood in the U.S., there is no greater joy than forging partnerships with a purpose rooted in the elevation and the promise of the people of the African continent and the Diaspora,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and chair of Essence Ventures. “My family and I spent three decades building a global beauty business and business model that empower, among others, women Shea butter processors in Northern Ghana – women just like my grandmother. We believe economic inclusion is a human right, and now with ESSENCE Full Circle Festival, our continued goal is to be catalysts and connectors for long-term economic empowerment, growth and cross-sector job creation in Black communities globally through increased engagement, innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment.”
The 2019 ESSENCE Full Circle Festival will take place in Accra in December and complete the Year of Return commemoration – marking 400 years since the first slave ships left Ghanaian coasts for the transatlantic slave trade. This specially-curated, week-long immersion will enable engagement between U.S.-based cultural influencers and business executives with Ghanaian and regional leaders and communities, including explorations of history, cuisine, music, fashion, beaches, nightlife, commerce and more.
“This partnership recognizes Ghana’s role as a beacon for people of African descent in this Year of Return,” said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019, is a conscious effort to cement our pan-African legacy. Throughout the Year, the Tourism Authority has worked with several partner organizations to welcome home our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora. The Essence Full Circle Festival is a welcome addition to the activities and will hopefully become one of the legacies of the year which celebrates African resilience.”
The inaugural Full Circle Festival also included the participation of President Akufo-Addo and took place in Accra in December 2018, led by Full Circle Festival, LLC partners Boris Kodjoe, Patrick Kodjoe, Bozoma Saint John – all of Ghanaian descent – and Nicole Ari Parker. More than 120 invited guests including business executives, influencers, and celebrities from the United States traveled to Ghana for cultural engagement and ancestral reconnection, resulting in nearly 10,000 positive social media posts and half a billion media and social impressions, as well as an estimated economic impact of more than $70 million in tourism revenue.
The 2019 ESSENCE Full Circle Festival will include the first ESSENCE Global Black Economic Forum: Africa, which will convene entrepreneurs, executives, entertainers and government officials to discuss how new opportunities for economic development and cultural exchange can be created. This inaugural international Global Black Economic Forum will explore topics including connectivity within the African diaspora, environment and sustainability, post-colonialism, contemporary racial dynamics, entertainment and fashion industry growth, and other themes via a series of panel discussions, keynotes and interactive sessions. A solution-driven dialogue will be at the core of this event, which will include ESSENCE Full Circle Festival guests as well as local and regional participants.
“In furthering our mission to serve Black women deeply across the globe, ESSENCE is honored to answer the call to ‘Return’ with the creation of the ESSENCE Full Circle Festival, beginning with Ghana and subsequently extending across the continent,” said Michelle Ebanks, CEO of Essence Communications, Inc. “We are grateful to be able to use the power of our platforms and the influence of our networks to positively impact narratives about Africa, as well as positively impact the people of Africa and the Diaspora through cultural and economic exchange. We are thrilled to celebrate the Year of Return and our African ancestry, culture and achievement in the vibrant country of Ghana as we reconnect over our heritage, connect over new experiences and co-create viable opportunities for the future.”
To capture the diversity of images and narratives that truly reflect the country and culture, ESSENCE Full Circle Festival participants are encouraged to share their first-hand experiences via their social and digital platforms. In addition, select events will be livestreamed for broader community participation, engagement and input. Lastly, with the goal to inspire, encourage and assist as many people of African descent to visit the continent as possible, ESSENCE Full Circle travel packages will become available to the public in 2020.
“It’s so important that as people of African descent, we see and feel the beauty of the continent and the majesty of our people for ourselves,” said Full Circle Festival, LLC co-founder Boris Kodjoe. “There isn’t a more transformative and empowering experience than to honor the Year of Return and its 400-year history while in Ghana reconnecting with our cultural heritage, celebrating our ancestry and co-creating our future with our brothers and sisters on the continent. I hope that our ESSENCE Full Circle Festival partnership will ultimately encourage more people to visit nations across Africa, as well as serve as an example of the impact that can be made when we join in the spirit of collective purpose and progress.”
About Essence Ventures
Essence Ventures is an independent Black-owned consumer technology company merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of color. The company began in 2017 and is chaired by its founder – entrepreneur, investor and social impact innovator Richelieu Dennis.
About Essence Communications Inc.
Essence Communications is the number one media company dedicated to Black women and inspires a global audience of almost 25 million through diverse storytelling and immersive original content. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, experiential and online, ESSENCE encompasses its signature magazine; digital, video and social platforms; television specials; books; as well as live events, including Black Women in Music, Black Women in Hollywood, Street Style and the ESSENCE Festival. Essence Communications is owned by Essence Ventures.