On the heels of Mary J. Blige’s second annual Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit in Atlanta (State Farm Arena, May 11-14), event co-presenter Pepsi announced it has partnered with Blige to present a scholarship to a deserving HBCU female student this fall. The forthcoming award is among $200,000 in donations to organizations and initiatives dedicated to securing empowerment, education, elevation and equity for Black women.
In addition to the inaugural PepsiCo x Mary J. Blige Strength of a Woman Scholarship, Pepsi is funding several local Atlanta organizations selected in collaboration with Blige. Focused on empowering women in the areas of wellness, technology, finance and creative arts, the chosen organizations include Silence the Shame, City of Refuge, Right Hand Foundation and Earth Girl ATL.
“Between Pepsi and [music partner] Live Nation Urban, I have some great heavy hitters that are helping me to benefit our people and all the women who are coming out; that are helping to uplift, encourage, inspire, give back and donate,” Blige tells Billboard. “And speaking of donate, I’ve partnered with Pepsi to donate $200,000 on behalf of a college scholarship as well as organizations that support and amplify women across the city. To keep doing things like this to help the community is why I’ve partnered with such heavy hitters.”
Among Pepsi’s other programming initiatives at the Mother’s Day weekend event, which expanded to an additional day this year, is Pepsi Dig In. Supporting Atlanta-based female-operated, Black-owned restaurants, the platform will provide complimentary food from Ms. Icey’s Kitchen, Gocha’s Breakfast Bar, Twisted Soul and Local Green Atlanta. Pepsi will also turn its spotlight on Black women entrepreneurs and changemakers through its Stacy’s Rise Project and Doritos SOLID BLACK platform, hosting a dinner to honor women who have made an impact at the company and in the Atlanta community.
In a statement, PepsiCo senior vp, industry relations and multicultural development Kent Montgomery said, “The Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit has proven to be a powerful platform for Pepsi and its brands to create opportunities that bring long-lasting change to amplify and elevate women. This year, with even more events for fans to experience, we want to recognize, celebrate and support the voices of the community from the incredible onstage talent, including the iconic Mary J. Blige, to the on-the-ground local restauranteurs and entrepreneurs whose vision and passion inspire others.”
Rounding out the four-day Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit are two nights of concerts and a comedy showcase. The former includes an R&B show starring Ms. Lauryn Hill, Summer Walker and Muni Long. The evening before will feature a special “MJB B-Sides” set in celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. Nine-time Grammy winner Blige and friends — Jodeci, Busta Rhymes, Jeezy, Jadakiss, Method Man and DJ Drama — will roll out rarely performed hits.
Says Blige of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, “It means so much because we held on to our voices and to our expression. And we continue to give and to inspire other generations to speak their truth through hip-hop. And that makes me feel good. As for the show that night, you’ve just got to come and see.”
Closing out the festival on May 14 will be a new event, The Purpose Ball. It will honor the LGBTQAI community and feature a special performance by Saucy Santana. “The Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit is about showing love and the LGBTQAI community is a part of our community,” says Blige. “We love and support them.”
Tying in with her festival theme, Blige executive produced two Lifetime original movies through her Blue Butterfly production banner. Borrowing their titles from her catalog of hits, both will premiere in June: Mary J. Blige’s Real Love (June 10) and Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman (June 17).
“At the end of the day, real love is something we’re all searching for,” notes Blige. “But once we find it for real, we find it in ourselves. And that’s when we become really strong women.”