Members of the Twin Cities community celebrated Black History Month through the spirit of entrepreneurship and excelling African-American businesses.
The Midwest Black History Expo was held Saturday, Feb. 23 at the St. Paul River Center, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd.
“This is a monumental occasion. This is a time for us to celebrate our history and legacy as Black people,” said Rashida Fisher, Co-Host of “Our Voices” aired on 89.9 FM, KMOJ.
The Midwest Black History Expo started as a small business in 2011. Looking for a vendor not only to celebrate Black History Month, but also to sell merchandise promoting African-American history and culture, the small business – now known as Liberation Clothing & Gifts, LLC – helped organize the inaugural event to accomplish its goal.
The expo in its entirety, housed over 50 vendors; including but not limited to the African-American AIDS Task Force; Big Brothers Big Sisters, Diva 54 Jewelry, Northside Economic Opportunity Network, Public Allies, and Above Every Name Ministries. The event also included vocal performances from neo-soul singer, Lia Renee Dior and Jamecia Bennett from the Sounds of Blackness. The stage also showcased spoken word artists, fashion shows and a performance from the LoveWorks Academy Drill Team.
The keynote featured President of Bennett College for Women; author, commentator and economist, Julianne Malveaux.
Malveaux encouraged individuals to explore the vendors to help promote African-American businesses. “Take their business cards, and let them know you all appreciate each other,” said Malveaux.
She addressed the current political state as foundation to address underlying issues, such as economy, education and employment.
According to Malveaux, this demographic is known as the employment population ratio.
“Almost half of all Black men between the ages of 16-65 do not work, partly due to the industrial shift and the automobile industry,” said Malveaux.
Malveaux said that in most urban areas such as New York, Oakland and Cleveland, more than 40 percent of the city’s African-American population is unemployed.
“Somehow, it is acceptable for African-Americans to have a high unemployment rate. If other people had this same unemployment rate as African-Americans, this would be declared a state of emergency,” said Malveaux.
Statistics show unemployment, especially in the African-American community, is directly correlated with education.
Referring to the Mar. 1 sequester deadline, Malveaux made an emphasis on public services and education in her speech.
“Policeman, firefighters and teachers will lose their jobs. We cannot afford to lose teachers, or a larger classroom size. This is the tragedy because of Congress being hardheaded,” said the economist, Malveaux.
According to the keynote speaker, contrasting images between white and African-American students exist in the classroom. She said when white students speak loudly and interrupt one another, they are curious, while African-American students are seen as disruptive.
“A lot of people believe our children are dangerous, but they’re not,” Malveaux said. “A disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions are young African American males.”
The expo concluded with a series of documentaries and seminars. One documentary, “Slavery by Another Name,” focused on private sector correctional institutions.
A seminar titled, “Three Things You Must Know When Raising Black or Mixed Race Children” consisted of panelists, Nikki Hopf, Teresa Penn and Brittany Mayfield Lane. They discussed multiple issues of those with multiple ethnic backgrounds; where they grew up and how these aspects shaped the world around them.
“Some will not lift up our history, while others will attempt to destroy it. It is very important that we know our history,” said Malveaux.