The Black-owned bookstore at the center of a dispute with Essence Fest organizers said a resulting lawsuit against it by the media company has been dismissed.
Baldwin & Co., on Sunday declared “victory” in announcing “the dismissal of the lawsuit filed against us by Essence Festivals Productions LLC and Essence Communications, Inc.” following accusations that the bookstore promoted a block party in New Orleans last weekend using Essence Fest branding.
The social media backlash was swift after it was reported that Baldwin & Co. would have to relocate and reschedule its literary block party with Black authors because of a temporary restraining order obtained by Essence. A cease and desist letter was also sent to author Tamika Newhouse, who organized the block party, which had been set to take place last Friday.
The temporary restraining order and cease and desist letter claimed block party organizers didn’t go through the proper licensing procedure to be included as a vendor during the annual Essence Fest celebration. Refuting those claims, block party organizers have said the event was not a part of Essence Fest and it was being held on private property.
“It is deeply ironic that Essence, which claims to celebrate and uplift the Black community, would choose to target a business like Baldwin & Co., which aligns with the values of community service and empowerment,” Baldwin & Co. owner DJ Johnson said Friday while announcing the event had been canceled. “Such actions are not only unjust but also tarnish the reputation of Essence and raise questions about its commitment to supporting the Black community as a whole.”
The New Orleans City Council, which approved an ordinance for the block party to happen, condemned the court order blocking the literary event and questioned Essence Fest’s motives.
“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,” New Orleans City Council President JP Morrell said in a statement on Friday. “It’s especially concerning that the canceled event was organized by a Black-owned business and would have showcased Black female authors on a weekend that is supposed to be dedicated to Black culture.”
Morrell added: “It was never the intent of the council for any ordinance, much less the Clean Zone Ordinance, to impact private businesses hosting private events that happened to coincide with the timing of Essence Fest. We are looking into how this occurred and how to prevent it from ever happening again.”
Essence Fest hosted its own showcase of Black authors.
Despite the optics of a large Black-owned corporation preventing a small Black-owned business from thriving at a time when an outsized amount of tourists were flooding New Orleans, Essence defended obtaining the restraining order and sending the cease and desist letter.
Essence Fest responded on Saturday to a social media video posted by former Louisiana U.S. Senate candidate Gary Chambers. He denounced the legal action against Baldwin & Co. and demanded Essence “rectify” the situation.
“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 Fest said in a statement it tweeted in response to Chambers’ video. “Essence does NOT charge authors to participate in their programming. The event organizers intended to charge the public for their event while Essence programming is free of charge and open to the community.”
An attorney for Essence Fest expressed a similar sentiment.
“Essence was very disappointed to learn that an event organizer was exploiting Essence Festival patrons and authors. The promoter falsely advertised that their event was in partnership with Essence when it was not,” James Williams said Saturday in a statement to Nola.com. “Essence repeatedly asked the event organizers to stop their misleading activity and to refund monies to all who had been taken advantage of in the name of Essence … We hope the event organizers will do the right thing and refund the money they obtained from the public under these false pretenses.”
Judging from the reported dismissal of Essence’s lawsuit, though, it appears that Baldwin & Co. have been vindicated.
The bookstore compared Essence to “Goliath” but said it was resolute in clearing its name.
“We firmly believe that the decision of Essence to include Baldwin & Co. in this lawsuit should never have happened and we consider this dismissal a victory for the entire community of New Orleans,” the bookstore said Monday in a statement on Instagram before adding: “In addition to celebrating this victory, we want to reaffirm our commitment to fighting against the unconstitutional ‘Clean Zone Ordinance’ that suppresses local businesses in favor of big corporations. In an era where book banning has become a disturbing trend, Baldwin & Co. will continue to fight on behalf of all small businesses to protect our constitutional rights.”
The post Essence Fest Lawsuit Targeting Black-Owned Bookstore Is Dismissed appeared first on NewsOne.
Essence Fest Lawsuit Targeting Black-Owned Bookstore Is Dismissed was originally published on newsone.com
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