Mary J. Blige speaks with PEOPLE about her “mission in life” as she prepares for the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mary J. Blige is gearing up to outdo her previous year’s Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.
The 52-year-old R&B singer and actress talked to PEOPLE about establishing a venue to celebrate, elevate, and educate Black women ahead of the second annual event, which is slated for May 11-14.
“I’m really excited because last year was bigger than I could have ever imagined,” she adds. “It was so successful that we’re doing it again, and I believe it’ll have a positive impact on even more lives.”
Blige launched the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit in collaboration with Pepsi as an event dedicated to women’s empowerment and community development. It aims to provide long-term possibilities to women of all backgrounds via music, comedy, and educational initiatives.
Growing up, Blige acknowledges that she seldom witnessed women being inspired in her neighborhood unless it came from her mother’s example. Because of her experience, the Grammy winner says she has made it “my mission in life” to give back and assist others.
“Giving is an important part of my life.” And when I first started encouraging women, I had no idea I’d be starting a movement like that,” she says, adding that she’s committed herself to the followers who’ve supported her over the years.
“In my neighborhood, we’ve never had this type of event where we could bring our kids and grown women could be uplifted and encouraged,” Blige says. “So I feel really good about being able to give that back to these communities, these places, and these people who were like me, who didn’t have it.”
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In an additional attempt to give back and make this year’s event “bigger and better,” Blige and Pepsi will donate $200,000 to local Atlanta groups that “support and amplify women across the city,” according to the singer.
Blige is also launching the Strength of a Woman Scholarship, which will be given to a Black female student who aspires to or is presently enrolled at an HBCU.
“This is why we do it,” she explains. “We do it to educate, uplift, encourage, and build up places, and to get to places that can’t afford or receive this kind of support.”
The Strength of a Woman Festival will take place at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on May 11. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Summer Walker, Jodeci, Busta Rhymes, Jeezy, Method Man, and others will perform at this year’s edition.
Marsai Martin will host the Summit, which will also include discussions and workshops on music, health, technology, beauty, and financial literacy – all in collaboration with local, minority, and female-owned companies.
“Every hip-hop artist and their mother will be there,” Mary J. Blige tells PEOPLE. “It’s going to be a good time.”