As we enter April, coming out of Women’s History Month, we are excited to kick off the month, partnering with this year’s Black Women’s Expo at the McCormick Place Convention Center from April 7-9.

The creator and founder of the BWe is marketing guru Merry Green, who kicked off the expo honoring African-American women over two decades ago under the original name, Today’s Black Women’s Expo. During this time, general Black Expos were taking place in cities such as Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and in Chicago. It was a mega-marketplace of small businesses, independent vendors and corporations soliciting the Black consumer. But the vision of Merry Green, with the support of then-General Manager Barry Mayo at V103, propelled another type of gathering that specifically focused on the most powerful Black household consumer — Black women.

Now we are witnessing a beautiful wave of similar women-driven “empowerment” summits, conferences and power movements that engage corporate entities with our community through a plethora of activities. According to Nielsen in 2015, African-American consumers generated $1.2 trillion overall. There is no one type of woman of color — we are all unique in various ways — many are entrepreneurs, others are armored with college degrees. Black businesses represent 9 percent of all U.S. firms with female-owned businesses being 59 percent. Black women are the backbone of our community, whether they are single moms, or raising their children with their significant other — we are phenomenal.

Speaking of “phenomenal,” the BWe will kick off the festivities on Thursday, April 6, at the Phenomenal Woman Awards Dinner at Hyatt Regency Chicago. This year’s keynote speaker will be Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). The fiery and outspoken U.S. Representative has gained a reputation as an advocate for children, women and the poor. She has been a fearless leader, serving constituents in the congressional 43rd district in California for nearly 27 years. We can’t wait to hear her speak and I’m sure the latest moves by the Trump administration will weigh heavily in her address. It’s no secret that Waters is a stern opponent of 45th and this will not be an event to miss.

Congrats to BWe Award Recipients

Barbara Bates an Toi Salter

This year’s 2017 Phenomenal Woman honorees include a host of extraordinary women who continue to go above and beyond in their community — leading the way for the next generation.

Congratulations to Jerline Lambert, Lambert’s Realty; Jolinda Wade, New Creation Binding & Loosing Ministries; Diane Latiker, Kids Off The Block; Cosette Yisrael, LUV Institute; Lisa Rollins, Barbara Bates, The Barbara Bates Foundation; Lori E. Lightfoot, President, Chicago Police Board; Rona Fourte,  Debra Vines, The Answer, Inc., and Toi Salter, Salter Financial Management.

Make sure you stop by the Lusters Haircare booth. The Luster family is celebrating their 60th anniversary as one of Chicago’s premiere businesses, still maintaining their operations in their hometown. They are truly a jewel in our community, and make sure you acknowledge it by buying their products.

Birthday Shout-Outs

It’s the time of the ram! Happy Aries celebrations go out to seven-time Grammy-award winning songwriter Malik Yusef, who celebrated on April 4. Much love to Evanston native Professor Danielle Dickerson and super radio producer Lisa E. on April 5. Turn up the music because DJ Pierre celebrates on April 6 along with former Dr. Wax Records’ store manager Charles Williams on April 7. Mucho Happy Birthday to 27th Ward office staffer Avis Miller, holding it down for Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., and Chicago premiere party producer Omar Gilbert on April 7. It’s not an Aries party without southern belle Toni Bailey and music producer Kevon Smith on April 9.

Political Ropes

Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers

There is a rumor going around about the possibility of City Treasurer Kurt Summers making a bid for the governor’s office. Since taking over the office in late 2014,  he has taken on the responsibility of managing the city’s investment portfolio and building a solid reputation among businesses. As one of the younger Black public officials, people are curious where Summers lies in his political ambitions. In a growing pool of Democratic candidates going after Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018, some insiders feel it’s just a rumor.

Summers is a contender to watch, but the question remains — is he ready for such a statewide office? As his boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, works rigorously to secure his legacy in the third-largest U.S. city, backroom discussions are taking place on who will be a strong candidate to run against Emanuel. Who else would be a stronger candidate to split the votes if Jesus ”Chuy” Garcia decides to run again?

Celebrity Sightings

In town are West Side natives the Tate brothers — Larenz Tate, Lahmard Tate, and Larron Tate, along with actor Laurence Fishburne (Black-ish). They wrapped up the critically acclaimed podcast of “Bronzeville,” which also stars Tika Sumpter and Tracee Ellis Ross. The creators of Tatemen Entertainment have been in town since Monday evening, kicking off the promo runs with a special conversation at Renaissance Bronzeville. On Tuesday, they covered the media rounds, later attending a special reception at Gallery Guichard where the cocktails flowed and culinary tastes provided by Donna’s Catering Express. It was a great mix of Chicago media, socialites, community and political leaders including Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) and newly elected, Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward).

The Tate Brothers attending the “Bronzeville” reception at Gallery Guichard. Photo: Mary L. Datcher

A great panel discussion followed featuring Fishburne, the Tate brothers along with the writer. Moderated by NBC-5 news anchorwoman, Michelle Rulerford, they explained the important process of reliving the history of Black Metropolis in the 1940’s through the power of audio. Also in attendance was African American historian, Dr. Timuel Black who sat in the front row of the audience–it did not go unnoticed that if anyone knew about the history of Bronzeville, it would the 98-year-old elder. The podcast can be heard on most streaming platforms including iTunes and Google Play. Shout outs to Joi Mitchell for coordinating the event and to Andre and Frances Guichard for providing a beautiful, visual backdrop of our history.

You can also check out Larenz in his latest film, Deuces, a crime drama available on Netflix. Produced by Queen Latifah’s Flavor Entertainment, the drama stars Megan Good, Lance Gross and La La Anthony.

Follow Mary L. Datcher on Twitter

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