ESSENCE and Music Icon Chaka Khan Join Together for a Special Graduation Ceremony at 2012 Essence Music Festival

ESSENCE, The Chaka Khan Foundation and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies Partners with Verizon to Salute the Triumphs of Post-Katrina Women of New Orleans

33 Remarkable Women to Graduate from the SuperLife Transformation Program

Jun 18, 2012, 13:07 ET from Essence Communications Inc.

NEW YORK, June 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- 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

For the latest news about the ESSENCE Music Festival, accommodations and concert tickets visit ESSENCE Music Festival 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 and will be featured on the Official website, 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, TBS, 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.

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,, 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

An international music icon and an American institution, the ten-time GRAMMY® Award winner has influenced generations of artists. Chaka Khan has the rare ability to sing in seven music genres, including R&B/Blues/hip hop, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music and classical. She is a writer, producer, actor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and activist. Chaka has released 22 albums and racked up ten #1 Billboard magazine charted songs, seven RIAA certified gold singles and ten RIAA certified gold and platinum albums. Chaka's recorded music has produced over 2,000 catalogue song placements. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her extraordinary achievements in music. In June, 2012, she will be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.  In 2011, she was honored for her legendary career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During the same year, Chaka was honored with the United Negro College Fund's An Evening of Stars Tribute. Chaka also received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), the Soul Train Legend Award (2009), the World Music Award Lifetime Achievement Award (2003), and the GRAMMY® Honors Award (2006). In 2004, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA. Chaka's autobiography, Through the Fire, was published by Rodale Books in 2003 and is currently being adapted into a screenplay. In 1999, she established the Chaka Khan Foundation, which assists women and children at risk through empowerment, education and exposure.  Next year, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of Chaka's career in music and entertainment.   

SOURCE Essence Communications Inc.