What Went Down On Day 1 Of 2024 ESSENCE Festival Of Culture’s “Men’s Experience” – Essence

Day 1 of 2024 ESSENCE Festival of Culture’s SUEDE stage served as a safe space for men to relax, relate and release.

The opening conversation featured Cleveland Browns stars Grant Delphitt and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo getting real about their lives on and off the field, particularly around finances.

“You’ve got to be hands-on with it,” Delphitt told the crowd. “How football goes, you play on your rookie contract. So, it’s four years. And I was worried about just doing what I got to do on the field. But now, since I just signed a new contract during the season last year, that set me up pretty well, and now I could start doing some more financial endeavors, things like that. We got some things in the works right now, but my advice would be to just worry about football first and do what you got to do on the field so you get set up for after that.”

Next up was Find Your People – Building Community In Creative Spaces, a panel discussion featuring social media stars Dre Brown and Malik McIntyre. They dove into everything from navigating pay rates when securing brand deals to supporting one another’s mental health as their individual star rises.

Then, audience delighted in the Real Men Cook segment, in which a diverse group of talented chefs, home cooks, and food enthusiasts shared their experiences with cooking to becoming influencers and leaders in the culinary world. Culinary influencers KJ Johnson of Chickens Kitchen (James Beard Nominee) and Omar Dorsey of Barrow’s Catfish led us through the journey to success through their love of food.

Kendrick Sampson then sat down for our Leading by Example fireside chat where he discussed his passion for not only acting, but activism. In a conversation with Black Men Build founder Phil Agnew and Sampson shared how he is helping to organize, educate, and transform men across the country through groundbreaking programs, activism, and music.

Rounding the day was a robust discussion about men’s style with fashion experts Alexander “AJ” Julian, Dex Rob and Allen Oniya.

“When I started out in fashion, I feel like it was a lot of guys that were scared to express themselves in that way because people called them weird,” Rob shared. “Society has shifted, and culture has changed, where so many athletes and rappers really pride themselves and look at me great.”

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