The Coca-Cola Company gives back awarding scholarships to minority students during Essence Music Festival. Attending the award presentation event are Lori George Billingsley, vice president, community connections, Coca-Cola Refreshments; Shakiyah Huston and Nikita Peter; Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president, global community connections, The Coca-Cola Company, chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation; The Coca-Cola Polar Bear; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; scholarship students Alexandria Packer, Southern University-Baton Rouge; and Cybil Mashia, Southern University-New Orleans; and Kimberly Evans Paige

*The Coca-Cola Company and The Coca-Cola Foundation continued its 125th anniversary celebration during the Essence Music Festival with an array of commemorative events.  As the festival’s presenting sponsor, the premier beverage company hosted several unique events that included:

2,000 per day giveaways of the 125th anniversary commemorative bottle; music by MC by Rock T of the Rickey Smiley Morning Show; text-to-screen for Coca-Cola prize packs; 360 decree digital photograph that can be instantly shared with family and friends across the country via Facebook and Twitter; Essence Music Festival largest line dancing series; nightly entertainment at the Coca-Cola Super Lounge featuring sounds of hot and exciting R&B artists; and lots of product sampling.

When you have so much, your blessings continue to flow when you take time to give back to those less fortunate and in that regard, Coca-Cola serves as an ATM for many non-profit organizations.  The Coca-Cola Foundation has contributed more than $418 million in support of sustainable community initiatives worldwide.

While in New Orleans, the company awarded $125,000 in scholarships to five Louisiana historically Black colleges and universities.  Each educational institution will receive $25,000 from the foundation to support women’s empowerment and education initiatives.

The scholarships will benefit women who are the first in their immediate families to attend college, and who lack the necessary financial resources to attain their college degrees.  Recipients must be in their senior year of college and must attend Xavier University, Southern University New Orleans, Grambling State University, Southern University at Baton Rouge or Dillard University.

“The Coca-Cola Company has made a major commitment to empower women by helping them overcome barriers to business success,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, chairperson, The Coca-Cola Foundation.  “These scholarships will empower women scholars to fulfill their dreams of achieving a college education to better their lives and their families.”

In addition, The Coca-Cola Company sponsored the Chris Paul Foundation’s CP3K Walk for Kids at Danny Thiel Track at Tulane University in which over 300 youth participated in support of the company’s strong support of youth development and youth fitness programs.

Other Coca-Cola activities included a Youth Outreach and Empowerment Program and all three of their booths kept attendees refreshed handing out free Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and a new favorite Gold Peak Tea.

Celebrity chef G. Garvin also stopped by the Coca-Cola booth to show attendees how to live positively when making every day meal decisions.  And to keep the party going, Coca-Cola hosted four Super Lounges featuring entertainment from well-known neo-soul and R&B musicians.

“At the Essence Music Festival thousands of African Americans enjoy a weekend full of music, empowerment sessions and fun with friends and family” said Kimberly Evans Paige, assistant vice president, African American marketing, Coca-Cola North America.  “While the music and weather are hot, ice-cold Coca-Cola keeps fans cool and refreshed.”

During the festival Coca-Cola hosted a breakfast for a small group of Black junketeers in which their representatives brought them up-to-date on the company’s ongoing and future activities at the Loews Hotel.

In attendance at The Coca-Cola breakfast for African American junketeers are Coca-Cola Associates (l-r) Wanda Rodwell, Kel P. Villarrubia, Mark Pitts, Kimberly Paige, Lori George Billingsley, Seth Freeman, Briana Patrick, Colleen Murphy, Gorki De Los Santos, and Amber Ferchaud with celebrity chef G Garvin (center)

Attending The Coca-Cola “Old School Dinner” at the Hilton Riverside Hotel at Essence Music Festival are (l-r) Constance C.R. White, editor-in-chief, Essence; Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president, global community connections, The Coca-Cola Company, chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation; and Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence poses with The Coca-Cola Polar Bear at Coca-Cola “Old School Dinner”

The junketeers were captivated by what the company has in store nationwide and listened attentively as company associates presented the company’s initiatives over a delicious breakfast.  Representatives from The Coca-Cola included: Wanda Rodwell, Kel Villarrubia, Mark Pitts, Kimberly Paige, Lori George Billingsley, Seth Freeman, Briana Patrick, Colleen Murphy, Gorki De Los Santos, and Amber Ferchaud.

Media junketeers included: Kalia Silva/; Diane Larche/Atlanta Daily World; Alicia Powell/; Audrey J. Bernard/ New York Beacon; Mia Fields-Hall/NBC Washington & The Fab Empire; McKenzie Harris/; Denene Millner/; Rebecca Thomas/MTV News; Lee Bailey/; Terrance Gaines/; Darius Brown/; Rahman Dukes/MTV News; Jayson Rodriguez/; Shaheem Reid/; and Jawn Murray/Café Mocha Radio.

The Coca-Cola topped off their celebration with a VIP Day Party at the W Hotel and an Old School Dinner in the ballroom at the Hilton Riverside Hotel that was attended by the Coca-Cola Polar Bear whose image has become one of the company’s most popular symbols of its advertising campaign created by Ken Stewart.

Thousands of festivalgoers concluded that “Things do go better with Coke!”  #EMFJUNKET11 (Photos by Margot Jordan)

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