The Essence Festival, which draws thousands to New Orleans during the fourth of July week, is celebrating 25 years of bringing African American women of all ages together for thought-provoking conversation and performances from top musical acts.

Launched to mark the 25th anniversary of Black-owned Essence magazine, the festival has become a yearly celebration to highlight excellence in business, fashion, entertainment, and, of course, music.

It is a destination vacation for African American women, which was showcased in the 2017 hit movie "Girls Trip." The movie —which starred Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish in a breakout role — centered on four longtime friends who reunited at Essence.

The festival is July 5-7 and has two parts: daytime activities and panel discussions mainly held at the convention center and nighttime music and concerts at the Superdome.

The Associated Press spoke to some performers and thought leaders who've made frequent appearances and to a relatively new performer who is moving up to the main stage this year about what they like about the festival and why they return.

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