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Powerhouse Comedian and Actor Kevin Hart Will Unleash His Firebrand of Comedy on the Main Stage of the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival

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NEW YORK, April 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Fireworks of the funny kind will descend on New Orleans during July 4th weekend when comedian and actor Kevin Hart takes the main stage to perform a set of his comedic pyrotechnics at the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival.  Hot on the heels of his starring role in the film "Think Like a Man" and a feature on the split cover of the May issue of ESSENCE magazine with his cast mates Taraji P. Henson and Michael Ealy (on newsstands now), Hart will debut his critically acclaimed performance in the Big Easy with his sold out "Let Me Explain" national concert tour. The 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival will be held in New Orleans July 6, 7, and 8 at the Louisiana Superdome.

"With my birthday coming up, I was thinking about making plans for my big day that week when I got the invite to come down to the ESSENCE Music Festival," said Hart. "There's no place I'd rather be than in New Orleans celebrating with over 400,000 Black people. New Orleans will not be the same again."

"We are thrilled to have Kevin Hart join us at the ESSENCE Music Festival as he is one of the hottest comedians and most talented actors out there today," said Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence Communications Inc. "Our audience deserves the best in entertainment and Kevin Hart continues that tradition of bringing smiles to our attendees' faces with his unique blend of comedy and commentary."

Hart will be joining the previously announced line-up, which includes super talents Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Charlie Wilson, Ledisi, Fantasia, Stephanie Mills, Keyshia Cole, Eve, Robert Glasper, Gary Clark Jr. and Alex Boyd and more. More talent additions will be announced in the near future.

In addition to the colossal music line-up, the audience can look forward to the annual ESSENCE Empowerment Experience, which is free and open to the public at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Festival-goers will experience three full days of socio-political dialogue, health and wellness discussions and spiritual inspiration led by dynamic motivational speakers. The rousing All-star Gospel tribute honoring gospel mega-stars Fred Hammond and Mary Mary with Yolanda Adams, Maurette Brown Clark, Kim Burrell, Byron Cage, Tyronne Foster & The Arc Singers, Tramaine Hawkins, Israel Houghton, Bishop Lester Love and Pastor Marvin Winans will round out the 3 day experience with an initial roster of leading authors, speakers and leaders including Steve Harvey, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Maxine Waters, Dr. Steve Perry and more.

Now in its 18th year, the ultimate destination for entertainment and inspiration hosted over 422,000 attendees last year. What began in 1995 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ESSENCE magazine has now grown into one of the country's "Top 10 Leading Brand Events" by Advertising Age.  The ESSENCE Music Festival is the nation's largest annual gathering of African-American music and culture.  Throughout its history, the Festival has featured an array of performers including Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Al Green, Beyonce, Chaka Khan, Destiny's Child, Earth, Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight, LL Cool J, Jamie Foxx, John Legend, The Isley Brothers, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, Maxwell, The O'Jays, Prince, Rihanna, Stevie Wonder, Toni Braxton, Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams, among others.

For information about ticket sales, accommodations and the latest news about the ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL, visit ESSENCE Music Festival www.essencemusicfestival.com Join the Festival community: follow us on Twitter @essencemusic #EssenceFest and become a fan of 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival on Facebook.

The 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival, in partnership with QuintEvents, has created "ESSENCE VIP Events" to offer fans the ultimate in "insider access," with exclusive VIP ticket, travel and hospitality party venue packages. The Official packages are available now at www.QuintEvents.com and will be featured on the Official website, www.ESSENCEVIPEVENTS.com in early 2012.

The presenting sponsor for the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival is Coca-Cola.  Major sponsors include Coors Light, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Ford, My Black is Beautiful, U.S. Army and Verizon. Official Sponsors are CNN, State Farm, TV-One and Visa Pre-Paid.

The 2012 ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL is executive produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications Inc. (ECI).  GeChar is the executive producer of the 2012 ESSENCE Empowerment Experience.

ABOUT ESSENCE COMMUNICATIONS INC.:

Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) is the number one media company dedicated to African-American women, with a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events, and online.  The company's flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the Essence Music Festival, ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood and Black Women in Music, Window on Our Women and Smart Beauty consumer insights series, the Essence Book Club, Essence.com, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 42 years, ESSENCE, which has a brand reach of over 8 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information and specific solutions relating to every area of African-American women's lives.  Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at www.essence.com.

SOURCE Essence Communications Inc.



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