#SHEMATTERS Black Women’s Expo celebrates 25 years

Black Women’s Expo celebrates milestone
Creator set out to engage Black women 25 years ago

A lot has happened in the last 25 years since The Black Women’s Expo began.

“We’ve had a Black president in our 25 years,” said Merry Green, founder and creator of BWE, president of MGPG Events Inc., the company responsible for the Black Women’s Expo.

Black Women’s Expo will celebrate its 25th year, with the theme She Matters, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 12- 13; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at McCormick Place, 2301 S. King Dr.

Prior to launching MGPG Events, Inc., Green worked in television and radio. In 1982 she was the first African-American Assistant Program Director for the ABC network affiliate in Rochester, New York, WORK-TV.

Green relocated to Chicago in 1984 where she joined NBC Channel 5 as the administrator of community programs producing local community affairs specials on Chicago luminaries and community organizations, which garnered several Emmy nominations.

From NBC, Green was a producer for the nationally syndicated Ebony Jet Showcase, a top-rated program produced by Johnson Publishing Company in 1986.

Green later moved to radio where she was promotions and marketing director for V-103 radio, where she created and produced marketing and promotions campaigns and special events, most notably the Expo for Today’s Black Woman, the first radio generated USO tour, The Transatlantic Jam to England and West Germany, and The World’s Largest Steppers Contest for Anheuser Busch.

“I worked as promotions and marketing director at V-103, my job was to create promotions and events for our listening audience. I wanted to do something to engage Black women because I got a lot of calls from women who wanted to talk about different issues so the idea was to target Black women,” Green said.

Described as the nation’s foremost exposition targeting the African-American consumer market, Black Women’s Expo is designed to empower, enlighten and uplift African-American women and their families. It consists of informative seminars, panel discussions presented by notable local and national speakers and lecturers, educational exhibits, displays and other entertainment.

Seminars throughout the years addressed health and wellness, racial equality, hair and beauty, travel, career advancement, business/entrepreneurship and the welfare of Black children.

Themed pavilions over the years included cosmetic products, minority food manufactures, African-American authors and booksellers, natural hair and health screenings. It also included beauty makeovers, runway fashion shows, reality television stars, pop-up shops, various seminars and workshops, employment recruiters, celebrity meet and greets, national musical performances, beauty and hair demonstrations, culinary tastings and more than 250 small business vendors.

“We’ve evolved and we’re focusing on change and what the future holds,” Green said. “We have a lot of new components for engagement. We’re trying to create different messaging. We have a wonderful following with so many beautiful Black women and men and their families who attend the event each year. It’s informational, educational, empowering, inspirational, and we talk about things like racism, health and other things that impact the Black community.”

The League of Black Women will take part in the Expo again this year with a career pavilion.

Sandra Finley, President and CEO of the League of Black Women, said it’s important the event continues.

“We think of the Expo as an institution that is self-renewing,” Finley said. “We pool our resources and time and we convene to consider the possibilities. What I love about it is that a Black woman, Merry Green, founded it and other Black women choose it. It allows us to build bridges to opportunity. We will have recruiters on hand so those who are seeking career and job opportunities should bring an updated resume.”

As a Black woman and in recognition of the Black Women’s Expo, Finley shared her thoughts on Chicago having its first Black female mayor.

“People are surprised but if you had been aware of the League of Black Women, you would have seen this coming because Black women are continuing to move forward. More Black women are stepping up and running for elected office,” she said.

Finley went on to say the new mayor should focus on economic investment strategies for Black women and the Black community.

“We want to monetize our education and so the new mayor should also do something about career suppression of Black women in these companies,” Finley said. “The new mayor can make the determination and say this is not going to happen on my watch. I will request a meeting with the new mayor to discuss the issue. Chicago can’t be what’s it’s meant to be unless it frees all of its people. This is an opportunity to move the entire city forward.”

Finley thanked Green for creating the event and keeping it going for the past 25 years.

“Her vision, courage and being brave is inspirational,” Finley said. “She makes a space for us to gather.

For more information about Black Women’s Expo, visit theblackwomensexpo.com, or call (312) 454-6100.

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