Essence Music Festival

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former Cosby kid Tempestt Bledsoe and singer Vanessa Williams are among the celebrities in New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival. Essence Fest is one of the premier music festivals celebrating black culture and music.

Opening day of the Essence Music Festival is kicking off with events geared for the young.

Crime, education and issues affecting today's youth will be tackled during the day at the Morial Convention Center before teen musical acts hit the stage at the Superdome.

Among the day's speakers are New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who launched a mentoring project called "Saving Our Sons," to help curb crime and violence in the city. His wife, Cheryl, launched "Girl Up NOLA," which seeks to inspire and motivate young girls.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Comedian and actor Kevin Hart has been added to the main stage lineup for the 2012 Essence Music Festival.

Organizers say Hart, hot on the heels of his starring role in this week's No. 1 film, "Think Like a Man," will debut his comedic talents during the festival scheduled for July 6-8 at the Superdome. Hart joins a lineup that includes Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Charlie Wilson, Ledisi, Fantasia, and Eve.

The festival drew more than 422,000 attendees last year.