5 Must Visit Black Spaces to Get Right for Essence Fest (w/two bonuses!)

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Photos by Mwende Katwiwa and Denisio Truitt

It’s that time of the year again! Essence Festival is right around the corner and your two friendly neighborhood Africans are here with a short list of some of our favorite black-owned and black-centered spots to get our minds, bodies, and souls right for this very special weekend.

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I. Community Book Center  |  2523 Bayou Road

There’s a reason we host so many of our pop-ups and meet-ups in this space. Its tagline is “more than a bookstore” and this rings true. For many, including us, it feels like a second home. The Community Book Center has been a hub for cultural happenings on historic Bayou Road (the oldest road in the city) for 30+ years. There will be a few featured clothing designers during Essence Weekend so be sure to roll through and support!

**Pro Tip: Come for the excellent selection of African-Centered Books, stay for the curated selection of local handmade goods, such as soaps, body butters, and apparel.**

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II. Ego’s Gentleman Spa  |  2509 Bayou Road

The first spa in New Orleans to cater to menfolk is also on Bayou Road and is black-owned! Ego offers haircuts, facials, beard hydration services (ashy beards aren’t cute, doods) acupuncture, massage, and much more! Be sure to check their social media for special events going on during Essence Weekend.

**Pro Tip: Men and masculine folk are the focus here, but they take care of women too :-)**

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III. Nola Organic Spa  |  213 South Broad Street

Trying to maintain that glow-up through Essence Fest? Be sure to squeeze in down time as Nola Organic Spa, a zen Oasis located on Broad Street, a short 7 minute drive from the Superdome.  The spa focuses on holistic and organic treatments, and provides services such as Manicures and Pedicures enhanced with their in-house made scrubs and massage oils, Couples massage packages complete with handcrafted cocktails, Eyelash extensions, and waxing services.

**Pro Tip: Book Online as soon as possible, they are filling up quickly for Essence Weekend!**

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IV. Sweet Soulfood Vegan Restaurant  |  1016 North Broad Street

This new spot is an easy sell for Denisio, but it even has resident carnivore Mwende SHOOK! The food here is ridiculously delicious and fresh (made daily) and the prices are fantastic. Stop here to get a comfort food fix, a vegan ice cream treat to cool off, or try one of their amazing juices (the green is our personal fave). Vegan or not,  Sweet Soulfood should definitely be on your restaurant list.

** Pro Tip: Leave room on your tray for the bread pudding and rum sauce. Seriously. One of the best in the city and it happens to be vegan. **

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V. Ayo Scott’s Mural “These are the Times”  |  Homer Plessy Way (fka Press Street) between Dauphine and Royal Streets

If this wall looks slightly familiar, it was the site of one of our posts in 2016 entitled “Fight the Power” where we visited black historical markers with exchange doctorate student Aline Maia. This is the site where Homer Plessy, a Creole man was arrested for sitting in a whites only area of a railway car, leading to the monumental court case Plessy v. Ferguson which sanctioned racial segregation and the concept of “separate but equal”. Earlier this year notable New Orleans artist Ayo Scott began this equally monumental mural on the wall stretching behind the Plessy Historical Marker, entitled “These are the Times”.  It was also recently announced that the portion of Press Street which this historical marker sits on would be renamed Homer Plessy Way . This mural is incredibly moving and a gift to the city. Be sure to use whatever downtime you have Essence Weekend to check it out!

**Pro Tip: Bring a bagged lunch (or a daquiri to go, we don’t judge) take a seat at one of the benches nearby and take it all in. Be sure to credit the artist on all social media posts!**

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Bonus Round!!!!!

Five felt like a nice round number but there’s two other places we didnt have a chance to shoot last week but that we  think you should absolutely visit During Essence Fest:

Material Life  |  2521 Bayou Road

Photo Sourced from Material Life’s Facebook Page

This is black collectors heaven. Come here for some truly unique gifts for friends or for yourself! This lovely shop on Bayou Road features  “fine and decorative arts, books, apparel, vintage items, and other objects by black artists and designers, as well as select artists whose work highlights black subjects and culture.”

**Pro Tip: Check out the BWAFGU little Free Library and Garden in the backyard created by Stevona Rogers and dedicated to Black Women Writers which includes Mwende’s book Becoming//Black**

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Dopeciety  | 3116 Saint Claude Avenue (located inside ArtSpace)

Yup thats right!!! Shameless ass plug! As many of you know we (Mwende and Denisio) both have our own clothing companies and a month ago, Denisio opened up a showroom on Saint Claude Avenue. Dopeciety is now available for appointments and is open occasionally on the weekends. There will be in-store hours (and free champagne) during Essence Weekend so be sure to follow them on Instagram for updates! This is also the same location of our Blog Anniversary Afrobeat Party (be sure to get your tickets ASAP)!

**Pro Tip: In addition to t-shirts and contemporary apparel, Denisio keeps a nice collection of thrifted and vintage items on deck! The rack is updated weekly so there is always something new in the showroom. **

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Noirlinians is a love story by two wandering Daughters of the African diaspora 

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The Author

Noirlinians is an AfroFashion blog exploring the complex relationship between culture, clothing & identity in the diaspora. Featuring Liberian artist and designer Denisio Truitt of DOPEciety and poet and organizer Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa, the idea for the blog emerged after a fast friendship developed between the two based on their African heritage and artistic interests.

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