There's something particularly profound about Mary J. Blige holding her Strength of a Woman festival in the heart of Black culture's mecca. This year, the queen of hip-hop soul returned to Atlanta from May 11-14 for her second annual "by us for us" event — an uplifting, fulfilling, and fun-filled experience that catered to every woman in attendance. And boy, did they have a time.
The best way to describe the Strength of a Woman festival is like a warm hug from your family matriarch, welcoming you with open arms for the most captivating weekend of your life. While there have been some comparisons from onlookers who see the festival as a mini Essence Fest, Blige's second iteration of her brainchild — in partnership with Pepsi and Live Nation Urban — is building its own unique identity. In addition to your traditional concert series, festivalgoers were also treated to an assortment of events throughout the weekend — from thrilling R&B and hip-hop concerts to a thought-provoking summit and viral ball. The Strength of a Woman festival, quite literally, had something the entire community could enjoy.
"It's really inspiring to see Mary J. Blige have such a huge voice for the community, for the people, and use this voice of hers to put other people on."
The four-day event started out with an intimate pair of shows headlined by Grammy-winning artist Robert Glasper at City Winery Atlanta on Thursday, during which he treated attendees to a range of soulful renditions (Blige's "Be Happy," Common's "The Light," and Sade's "Cherish the Day") and a special surprise performance (more on that later). For hip-hop fanatics, Friday's 50th-anniversary concert was the gift that kept on giving, with performances from Blige, Jodeci, Busta Rhymes, Jeezy, Method Man, and Jadakiss, plus a DJ Drama "& Friends" set. The exciting festival continued with R&B night on Saturday, featuring performances from Coco Jones, Muni Long, Lucky Daye, Summer Walker, and the legendary Lauryn Hill. Finally, the whirlwind weekend concluded with a jam-packed Sunday itinerary including a Mother's Day gospel brunch, house ball, and comedy show headlined by Mike Epps.
It's not often you find a festival that intentionally appeals to all crowds, both old and young — especially one executed by an all-Black, women team. Even performers could feel the power behind Blige's vision. "This festival, to me, is just an amazing way to highlight Black women and all of the plights that we push through," Jones told POPSUGAR after she got off stage on Saturday. "It's really inspiring to see Mary J. Blige have such a huge voice for the community, for the people, and use this voice of hers to put other people on."
If you're looking for the answer to your big question, yes, Blige's Strength of a Woman festival is more than worth the investment. If not for the riveting entertainment, at least for the camaraderie and enduring fellowship you're bound to find. Keep reading for a recap of all the biggest, most explosive moments from Blige's annual event.