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If you heard loud noises coming from the McCormick Center last weekend, it was sisters—and brothers—at the 24th Black Women’s Expo. With record numbers, the crowd filled the expo space and created long lines.

Creative and beautiful booths filled the hall showcasing artwork, information on healthy eating and living, books, small businesses…and so much more.

Toyota, the title sponsor of the event, provided free massages, a DJ, photo booth, and plenty of giveaways.

Not to mention, singer Johnny Gill made women swoon and rapper Remy Ma showed Chicago some serious love. It was a day party in McCormick Place.

Panels. More Celebrities. And entrepreneurs proved that we can run successful businesses. Black Girl Magic was on full display and many were happy to soak it up.

The Black Women’s Expo offered a plethora of Black entrepreneurs, both female and male,  hustling to make their businesses prosper or gain financial footing for their non-profit organizations.

The Expo had something to offer everyone. From hand-crafted organic skincare offered by Christina King Rogers, whose products you can retrieve both online and at your local Whole Foods, to unique books, such as “Khahari Discovers,” created by Evan J. Roberts, whose story offers a Black family learning how to navigate through life despite fears and anxieties.

Keynote speakers included: critically acclaimed actress Kimberly Elise and Basketball Wives  reality star Tami Roman.

DaJonese Turner William, a Behavioral Therapist, is the founder of Me in the Making, an organization that provides guidance to female teens, young adults and millennials throughout their transition to adulthood.

Turner, who partnered with Breaking The Silence Mental Health, provided free services to participants.

“It was a great experience. The amount of people who were open about getting mental health services [when] mental health is not typically openly discussed in the Black community was awesome,“ said Turner.

Gina Evans, MPH Public Health, worked with the Illinois Department of Health during the Expo throughout the weekend, providing free HIV tests to individuals seeking to refresh their knowledge on their status.

“It was important to provide free healthcare services to people at the Black Women’s Expo because people typically come to go shopping, not get tested,” Evans offered. “So it opened up a new array of the population, who would not have been tested for Hepatitis C or HIV otherwise.”

Furthermore, Evans explained that providing free health services to people at the Expo helped to bridge the gap of needed healthcare for the underserved African American community who lack health insurance.

Besides providing a variety of healthcare services to Expo attendees, many small businesses and Black entrepreneurs were able to promote their products to a large audience.

Some vendors for the event included Hello Tee (which provided unique and trendy apparel that had a particular appeal for anyone with an affinity for 90s-era pop culture), Purescents Essentials Soy Candles (which offered uniquely scented and fragrant candles), And Still I Rise (a book series and compilation of women stories), Sesi ( a magazine devoted to covering the stories that appeal to Black girls), Respected Roots ( a skincare line dedicated to catering to men), Soft Shadows by Shika (a makeup artist who provides her artistry for graduations and other special events), Aunt Jackie ( a hair care line with recipes rooted in coconut and flaxseed products that are designed to define the curl pattern for natural hair) and Dave’s Coffee Cake ( offers a wide variety of large gourmet coffee cakes).

Cathy Dale, a Black entrepreneur in the Bronzeville community who has attended almost all of the Black Women Expos over the last 24 years, expressed delight in the fact that the attendance for the event seemed bolstered this year. “It’s pleasant to see a number of men who attended with their girlfriends, wives and kids this year,” Dale said.

Dale was right about the bolstered attendance. Merry Green, creator and executive producer of the Expo, told the Defender, “We had record crowds every day. Even security had to come see what was happening (with the lines).”  Green says the energy was amazing and sponsors, as well as attendees,were very pleased with the event. Some vendors actually sold out of the product they bought, which is good news for small businesses sharing goods and services with customers.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended on Sunday and announced new initiatives for small businesses. Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and running mate Julianna Stratton spoke to the crowd on Saturday.

Some vendors, like Luster products, had trouble shutting down at 6 p.m. on Sunday because the demand was so high. Consumers were ready to show why the Black dollar has so much power.

 

 

Johnny Gill

 

((((lol…that brotha is still around? And women are still swooning? Must have been an older crowd!)))))

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