With 15 studio albums under her belt and more than three decades in the music industry, Mary J. Blige has attended dozens of listening parties. But the one for her latest project felt different.
“All the women from the streaming services were coming in stressed. They were picking up their wine and talking about the songs,” Blige told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It became this big session about how each song made them feel and how it related to their lives. Just seeing that over and over and over again sparked an idea.”
Blige wanted more women to experience the sisterhood she and her peers felt that day, so she thought, ”How can I keep this going?”
She landed on the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit, a three-day event dedicated to music, comedy and community. The celebration is happening this year over Mother’s Day weekend in Atlanta.
Curated for and by women, the inaugural festival will focus on music, wellness, tech, beauty and financial literacy through a string of concerts, workshops and other gatherings taking place at several venues across the city.
From an array of educational and engaging panel discussions at The Gathering Spot ATL to an epic concert at State Farm Arena featuring Blige, Chaka Khan, Xscape and Omerettá the Great, the weekend will be jam-packed with activities that aspire to uplift and empower women.
“These are some of my favorite singers. They move the culture and have made us dance all of our lives,” Blige said. “It’s about women who want to elevate and keep moving forward.”
The festival will also honor dozens of local minority- and female-owned businesses and vendors. Some of the city’s best chefs, designers, artists and other creatives will be onsite all weekend long to help cultivate the best experience for attendees.
“For generations, the foundation of Atlanta’s resilience has been built and fortified by women,” said Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens in the official press release. “The Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit lifts up our local minority- and women-owned local businesses and amplifies the voices of the women in our lives who continuously make our communities better through their lens of courage combined with compassion.”
For Blige and her collaborators, Atlanta was the obvious place for the festival, because the city is the epicenter of Black culture, entertainment and wealth. Since her first visits to Atlanta, Blige has always been inspired by the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“Atlanta has been doing this for a while. It’s a big Black entertainment hub. If we’re doing it for the culture and we’re doing it for us, do it there,” Blige said. “Atlanta was always the most fun place to party and still is for me. I remember Jack the Rapper, and don’t get me started on Freaknik.”
Blige, who has partnered with Live Nation Urban and Pepsi for the festivities, is ready to show Atlanta a good time.
“Get dressed. Get decked out. Let your hair down,” she said. “The Strength of a Woman is about us coming together to heal, to be examples for each other and to do some partying.”
Presale tickets go live at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 8, 2022, while general on-sale begins on Thursday, March 10, at 10 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at soawfestival.com.
Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit
May 6-8, 2022. Various venues. soawfestival.com