Photo: Emma McIntyre (GETTY IMAGES)

As a people, we’ve been known to make it out on top in some of the most unfortunate circumstances. With all that we have been through, we still manage to find a way to celebrate the beauty that comes with being black. Even when you trod us down into the dirt, still we rise and celebrate our black excellence.

Essence Festival is a shining example of that celebration. Every single day of the festival paid homage to our rich history and had a little bit of something for everybody. Whatever your tribe was, you were sure to find them at the festival and when you did, it became a family reunion.

One event that always brings us together in celebration is brunch. Brunch is the most important meal of the day. It’s a staple. While in New Orleans, there was a bevy of brunches. The festival weekend handed out brunches like Oprah dished out cars. This is warranted because New Orleans is known for its rich food, fried and dipped in hopes and prosperity. One of the brunches that I attended was the Black Excellence Brunch honoring Tina Knowles-Lawson.

The brunch, created by communications professional Trell Thomas, falls right in line with the festival’s theme of celebration. Guests of the event were draped in their Sunday’s best as we all gathered for an afternoon of fellowship over a bowl of shrimp and grits and various other food options. Modeled after the traditional “Sunday dinner,” that many of us are used to growing up, Thomas brought together a group of black professionals to help build and strengthen our various communities.

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Welcoming over 100 guests, the brunch was held at the Treme Market Branch. “Historically this is where black people gathered and congregated, back in the day slaves were able to gather with free people of color in this area,” said owners and sisters Teresa and Rashelle Thomas. The owners try to keep the culture going and try their best to work with other black businesses to keep the money in the black community, hence the brunch.

“Growing up I never had events like this,” says honoree Tina Knowles-Lawson. Knowles-Lawson, who is a seasoned designer and the mother of two of the most successful women in the music industry, shared that she was often told to shrink herself to make others stand out. She shared how she was told that her designs were “too extra,” and how she didn’t let that stop her from celebrating her excellence.

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“I knew that we were always dope people,” exclaimed Knowles-Lawson. She told not one lie. If anything in culture happens, it is usually because of the influence of someone black. She touched on an important factor that reminds us to never dim our light to make another shine. You cannot let the insecurities of another make you stray from your calling and purpose.

During an interview with The Root, Knowles-Lawson shared how she found the strength to celebrate her excellence in her weak moments. “I’m not afraid to cry,” she stated, continuing, “I know that as a woman we are expected to always be strong and that’s hard for one person to always do.” She then touched on the black community and how that has always been a rock in her life. Many of us can attest to the fact that a strong support system has been the one factor that has rescued us from some of our darkest moments.

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As relates to our current political climate, we asked the grand matriarch what her views were on the current administration and how one finds the ability to celebrate black excellence during such tumultuous times. “I look at this current administration and laugh,” she exclaimed. In all manner of seriousness, she stated how we as a people have always used laughter to get through our darkest moments and this time is no different. With laughter, she also urges us as a community to get out and vote. “I’m not going to just vote for a candidate just because they’re black, I am going to do my research,” she added. Sage words of advice from Mama Tina.

“We need to celebrate our culture because a lot of people have sacrificed a lot for us to be here today,” finished Knowles-Lawson, and she’s absolutely right. We have overcome so much and indeed there is still work to be done, but in the meantime, we should celebrate our excellence and progress because it is that spark of greatness that sets us apart from all others.