Baldwin & Co. bookstore in New Orleans (Image source: YouTube/@WWLTV)
Essence Festival of Culture featured the likes of Vice President Kamala Harris, Oprah Winfrey and Megan Thee Stallion. Yet, the drama surrounding Essence Fest’s lawsuit against a Black-owned New Orleans bookstore dominated the national headlines and social media discourse.
Essence Fest filed legal documents against Baldwin & Co. bookstore, claiming that the owner and promoter Tamika Newhouse have wrongly used the Essence Fest brand name to promote its event highlighting prominent Black authors and celebrities, according to WWL-TV.Essence has since withdrawn the cease-and-desist against Baldwin & Co., but continues to pursue the lawsuit against the promoter, Newhouse, along with two other defendants for allegedly trying to profit off the brand’s name. The other two being sued are Delphine Legacy Media Co. and Lit Diaries LLC, according to Axios.
Baldwin & Co. bookstore owner Dernell “DJ” Johnson was forced to cancel the planned events to feature Black authors on Friday, June 30, 2023, the same day he received the cease-and-desist letter.“Although relieved that the lawsuit has now been dismissed, Baldwin & Co. remains committed to pursuing necessary changes in the city’s adoption of the unconstitutional “clean zone” ordinance,” Baldwin’s attorney said, according to WWL-TV.
Not everyone agrees with Essence’s lawsuit.
The event organizers misled artists into believing that they were participating in an Essence Festival event. Shockingly, the event charged each author a $650 fee to participate under the guise of working with Essence. Essence does NOT charge authors to participate in their…
— ESSENCE Festival (@essencefest) July 1, 2023
On Sunday, after the lawsuit was rescinded against Baldwin & Company, owner Johnson said he will fight to clear his name from the insinuation that he tried to exploit the Essence Fest brand name for personal gratification.
Johnson, on the right, also posted a photo of attorney Ben Crump, district attorney Jason Williams and others who came to appear and support Baldwin.
Some of the New Orleans councilmembers vowed to alter the “Clean Zone” that the majority agreed upon to prevent an incident like this from happening in the future.
“It is completely inappropriate for any large-scale event visiting the city of New Orleans to negatively impact our local businesses with something akin to a non-compete clause,” Council President JP Morrell said.
Listen to the full report below.
Source: Rolling Out