chaka khan (verizon - essence)

At The Super Life Transformation Graduation (seated left to right) Essence editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White, Chaka Khan, Dr. Denese Shrevington, founder & president, The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, and Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence Communications, Inc. pose with graduates (Photo by Chris Mitchell)

*According to statistics, domestic violence touches all of us. Nearly one in four women, one in nine men, and over 3 million children have been affected by domestic violence.  Communication is a key element to help combat this horrific problem.  Stepping up to the plate to empower domestic violence victims and survivors is mega communications corporation Verizon Wireless who, through its HopeLine program, is helping thousands in their fight against this crisis.

HopeLine from Verizon puts the nation’s most reliable network to work in the community by turning no-longer used cell phones into support for domestic violence victims and survivors.  Wireless phones and technology can serve as a vital link to emergency or support services in a time of crisis or as a reliable, safe connection to employers, family and friends as survivors rebuild their lives.

At this year’s Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, the global communication company partnered with Essence and 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan to pay tribute to 33 women of the greater New Orleans community who participated in The Super Life Transformation Graduation ceremony at this year’s 18th annual Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.  This special event was held from 9:00-10:30am, Saturday, July 7, 2012 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.  Essence invited over 5,000 to witness this remarkable achievement and extend their heartfelt congratulations to the graduates.  Attendees were encouraged to bring their no-longer-used wireless phones to donate to Verizon’s HopeLine.

During the graduation ceremony, the proud graduates were cited for their amazing life changing achievements. “These incredibly courageous women embraced the notion that resiliency comes from within, and hence tapped into their own capacity to heal and transform.  I applaud their noble resolve!” stated Dr. Denese Shrevington, co-founder and president, The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies.

Khan delivered a heartwarming commencement speech in celebration of the graduates evolution and passage into their new lives.  And after handing out each graduation certificate and posing for individual pictures, a svelte-looking, and 60 pounds lighter Khan proved that she’s every woman in a stellar performance that had everyone dancing and cheering her on.

Joining Khan and Dr. Shrevington in congratulating the Class of 2012 graduates was Marquett Smith, vice president, Verizon Wireless Corporate Communications which was the proud sponsor of this event; Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence Communications, Inc.; and Constance C.R. White, editor-in-chief, Essence; and Dr. Shrevington.

One year ago, Chaka Khan’s The Chaka Khan Foundation in conjunction with the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies and Essence partnered on the Super Life Transformation Program, an in-depth life and community-altering transformation process for deserving women who wished to accomplish their lifelong goals.  To launch the program, these women first gathered at the 17th annual Essence Music Festival and met with the multi-talented singer Khan and author/inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant before embarking on an extraordinary journey of personal and community improvement.

With the help of community partners, agencies, and mentors, these selected women ages 18-35 realized their dreams from starting their own business to finishing school to reclaiming their health in a structured one-year program.  Now one year later, each of these women return to where their journey began — on the Essence Empowerment Experience stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center — to be commemorated in a spectacular graduation ceremony.

“The SuperLife Transformation program has been an oasis of optimism as these women whom we celebrate are likely to become the entrepreneurs and leaders that this country needs,” stated Khan, founder of The Chaka Khan Foundation.  “After witnessing their transformations in the past year then to come full circle and commemorate their triumphs in this wonderful and memorable occasion will be one of my fondest days to remember.”

“Our collaboration with the Chaka Khan Foundation and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies in this life changing program truly exemplifies Essence‘s mission of ’empowerment in action,'” remarked Ebanks.  “Essence‘s commitment to improving the lives of mothers and daughters and our work with the Louisiana community remains undiminished. Saluting these extraordinary women who have inspired us to live without limits gives them and the city of New Orleans the moment they deserve.”

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verizon (dooky chase)

At the Verizon Wireless Brunch at Dooky Chase Restaurant, Verizon’s executives are joined by VIP guests and Members of the 2012 Essence Music Festival Press Junket (Photo by Chris Mitchell)

*Verizon Wireless returned as one of the major sponsors of the EMF.  Each year, the company hosts an amazing lunch for media members attending the festival.  This year’s memorable lunch was held at New Orleans’s very own Dooky Chase Restaurant led by world famous chef, Leah Chase, and her grandson Edgar “Dook” Chase IV.  This famous family restaurant serves up an incredible array of Creole and soul food in a restaurant atmosphere full of eclectic local art.

Members of the 2012 Essence Music Festival Press Junket enjoyed a spread of scrumptious soul food while listening to speeches by actor Laz Alonso and Pastor Marvin Sapp, both recent honorees of Verizon’s “Celebrating Your Story: Powering Your Network” program that took place during Verizon’s 2012 Black History Month celebration of influential African American leaders. “‘Celebrating Your Story: Powering Your Network’ provides a platform for the community to learn about these inspiring leaders who have made significant contributions to our society and culture,” said Marquett Smith, vice president of Corporate Communications for Verizon Wireless.  “We are honored to be able to share their stories with the public.”

At the end of the lunch, Smith was joined by fellow colleagues — Krista Bourne, president, Houston/Gulf Coast Region; Vicky L. Boston, director, retail sales, Washington/Baltimore/Virginia; and Cameka Crawford, manager, multicultural communications and community relations – in handing out to each guest a fabulous swag bag that contained the newest version of the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE phone.

About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless operates the nation’s largest 4G LTE network and largest, most reliable 3G network.  The company serves 108.7 million total wireless connections, including 92.2 million retail customers.  Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with nearly 82,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ: VZ) and Vodafone (LSE, NASDAQ: VOD).  For more information, visit  To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j bernard

Audrey J. Bernard