Kirk Franklin gives acceptance speech

*Church fans, devotion, an overflow room, spirit-lifting preaching and an all star gospel music line up: It’s Sunday Morning worship a la Essence Magazine’s 16th Annual Essence Music Festival All Star Gospel Salute (EMF) .  

Gospel music sometimes gets pushed to the sidelines of major events, but here it had headline status, adding sparks to the fest’s Independence Day activities.

After two days of empowerment and partying, thousands packed an exhibit hall in the New Orleans Convention Center to praise.

The program had the feel of mega church with world class “gospotainers” in tow to pay tribute to the legendary Shirley Caesar, gospel music innovator Kirk Franklin and founder of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, Bishop Paul S. Morton and his wife Deborah.

Kirk Franklin’s words were filled with emotion as he accepted the honor with his wife, children and in-laws on the stage. Franklin shared that he was adopted, has no relationship with his biological family and those who stood beside him are all he’s got. (The couple participated in a relationship seminar on the first day of the 3-day fest.)

“I live to be a good father to my children,” the contemporary gospel hit maker said exposing another layer of his life.  

From the mind blowing vocal acrobatics of Tyronne Foster and the Arc singers, Ledisi’s flawless execution of “Thank You,” the “sunshine” the Clark Sisters brought, Marvin Sapp’s powerful delivery of “Never Would Have Made It,” and  Mary Mary’s crowd pleasing “God In Me,” all of the performances were first rate.

A 15-year Essence Fest vet from Atlanta, GA said, “I enjoyed all the performances,” while noting the overall growth of the festival. “Essence has definitely stepped up their sponsorship game.”

Pastor Marvin L. Winans preached the sermon titled, “Same City, Different Street.”

The last day of the cultural celebration has always been designated a day of faith, which “goes along with our brand and that’s what we’re about,” the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Angela Burt Murray said.

Watch the video recap to hear Pastor Paul S. Morton’s gospel version of “Purple Rain” then take a look at some of the stars who attended the event in our photographic highlights: