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Essence Festival Drops Lawsuit Against Black Business in Step Towards Healing and Unity – The San Diego Voice & Viewpoint


By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Essence Festival of Culture, a highly anticipated event that showcased individuals like Vice President Kamala Harris, Oprah Winfrey, and Megan Thee Stallion, received backlash over a lawsuit it filed against a Black-owned bookstore.
Essence Fest lodged legal action against Baldwin & Co. bookstore, accusing the owner and promoter, Tamika Newhouse, of unauthorized use of the Essence Fest brand name to promote a separate event that aimed to uplift prominent Black authors and celebrities.

The move by Essence Fest sparked outrage and quickly made its way to national headlines and social media discussions.
Following the backlash, Essence withdrew a cease-and-desist order against Baldwin & Co., with the hopes of ending a potentially ugly court battle.

However, according to Axios, the festival’s organizers are still pursuing the lawsuit against Tamika Newhouse and two additional defendants, Delphine Legacy Media Co. and Lit Diaries LLC, alleging that they tried to capitalize on the prestigious Essence brand name.
Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump and Louisiana Politician Gary Chambers were among those who criticized the festival for its lawsuit.
Chambers expressed his disappointment on Twitter, highlighting the negative impact on Black-owned businesses and events.

He emphasized the need to celebrate Black culture without causing harm to the very businesses that embody it.
The repercussions were immediate for Dernell “DJ” Johnson, the owner of Baldwin & Co. bookstore.
After receiving the cease-and-desist letter, Johnson was forced to cancel the events he had planned to showcase Black authors on June 30, 2023.

While relieved with the lawsuit’s dismissal, Johnson and Baldwin & Co. remain steadfast in pursuing changes to the city’s adoption of the controversial “clean zone” ordinance, as stated by Baldwin’s attorney in an interview with WWL-TV.
The bookstore owner is determined to clear his name of any insinuation that he exploited the Essence Fest brand for personal gain.

“We firmly believe that the decision of Essence to include Baldwin & Co. in this lawsuit should never have happened and we consider this dismissal a victory for the entire community of New Orleans,” Johnson stated.
“Our commitment to inspiring growth in individuals and communities through the power of reading remains steadfast. We will continue to host some of the best author events in the country, foster intellectual engagement and encourage a love for literature.”

Johnson added that, in addition to celebrating this victory, “we want to reaffirm our commitment to fighting against the unconstitutional ‘Clean Zone Ordinance’ that suppresses local businesses in favor of big corporations.”
“In an era where book banning has become a disturbing trend, Baldwin & Co. will continue to fight on behalf of all small businesses to protect our constitutional rights,” Johnson continued.

“We will always stand firm against efforts by city government and large corporations to infringe upon our fundamental rights of free speech, expression and association, and those which cause harm to hardworking local business owners of New Orleans.”

Johnson expressed gratitude to prominent figures who stood by his side during these challenging times, including District Attorney Jason Williams, who visited Baldwin & Co. to show their love, support, and encouragement, Crump, and Chambers.
“The festival’s initial intention to celebrate Black culture should align with supporting the Black businesses and events that contribute to its vibrancy,” Chambers stated.

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