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Women's Empowerment Expo: Raleigh, NC
The WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT EXPO is a huge yearly function held in Raleigh, NC and sponsored by Radio One. Its original intent was to celebrate the strength and endurance of African American women; however, over the years, women of diverse ethnic backgrounds have begun to attend, and in recent years, some men have begun to accompany the women in their lives. 2010 marked the 16th year of the expo being held in Raleigh, NC, and the level of talent showcased corresponded to the importance of the milestone. It seems those who plan the yearly event decided to get really creative in 2011 and have booked a male as the key note speaker—comedian, Steve Harvey.
The big selling point of Women’s Empowerment is the list of entertainers. The 2010 line-up of entertainers all but brought the house down, remaining focused on encouraging and uplifting women. The opening act, harpist, Jeff Majors, reminded the ladies of God’s presence by performing “The 23rd Psalm." Marvin Sapp roused the audience with his hit songs, “The Best in Me,” and “Never Would Have Made It.” Both tunes had participants on their feet, acknowledging their personal testimonies in Sapp’s lyrics. Karen Clark Sheard had the audience singing along with her on “Is My Living in Vain.” These three encouraged participants to remember their place in God’s heart. Since the line-up continues to draw bigger and bigger names, this year's performers promise to be of the same caliber.
Key Note Speaker
The 2010 keynote speaker, Laila Ali, daughter of Mohammed Ali, both entertained with her sense of humor and counseled, enlightening participants on issues related to health and fitness, and encouraging the audience to become the best at whatever they dream. With Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man having been a best seller, perhaps he will offer some helpful insights from it. Or maybe he’ll offer snippets from his new book, Straight Talk, No Chaser. Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether a male key note speaker will draw a bigger crowd or leave plenty of empty seats.
Music to Move You
The 2010 afternoon entertainers had the ladies moving and grooving. R&B singers: Monica, BBD and Calvin Richardson reminded the participants of the joy and freedom of the dance; and headliners, Bebe and CeCe Winans brought it all home, reminding everyone of God’s “Grace” and encouraging the audience to grow “Closer “to God. The mix of entertainers provides something for everyone.
Raleigh’s RBC Center has housed Women’s Empowerment for the past several years. Its three stories are a perfect fit for the event’s format. When participants enter the ground level, vendors, who are strictly promoting their services, greet them. That means “freebies” abound: make-up, personal hygiene items, health and other gadgets fill bags of those milling about. Some line up to get neck massages, cholesterol or glucose levels tested or wrinkles removed. Smiling vendors hand out cards, pamphlets, and flyers promoting services available throughout the Triangle area. Oh, yeah, and the aromas from the various food vendors flood nostrils, reminding participants that this will be a long day, and most will want to stop by to sample a succulent turkey leg, a yummy funnel cake or various other tempting treats.
Something for Readers
The writers’ forums take place on the second floor. In 2010, Delores Jordan (Michael’s sister), Bernadette Standis (from Good Times), Hill Harper (CSI) and others were there to promote their books. They sponsored vendor tables, but some authors also did question/answer sessions. The book titles spoke to the struggles and triumphs of the authors or offered encouragement and inspiration to perspective readers. Women squeezed politely through the throngs perusing the author-tables, delighted as they made their purchases.
Something for the Young
The second floor is also reserved for various seminars like financial planning, and health promotion. One of 2010’s most anticipated seminars was Young Entrepreneurs: Leadership and Success. There, teens (and some parents) were counseled by Angela and Vanessa Simmons, daughters of Joseph Simmons, AKA, Rev. Run, formerly of Run DMC and currently on the popular reality show Run’s House. Rev. Run, along with Hill Harper, Russ Parr, and Chris Johnson Henson sat on the panel for Black Man Revealed II which was presided over by Justine Simmons, Rev. Run’s wife, and actress, Taraji P. Henson. Their intent was to honestly dialogue about how men think and why and how that affects male/female relationships.
Calling All Vendors
The third floor is reserved for sales. Hundreds of vendors hawk their wares to thousands of serious shoppers. At no point in the day is this floor vacant. Shoppers are looking for all types of items, and their expectations are met. From clothing, toys, handbags, jewelry, make-up, health products, t-shirts, green products, to wigs, there’s something for sale that will catch a participant’s eye. If you have something to sell, and can afford the vendor fee, this is the place to be on March 19, 2011.
At the End of the Day
On March 19, 2011, the Expo’s doors will open at 10:30 in the morning and do not close until around 8:00 PM. Participants will leave tired, but revved up to not only tackle their daily lives but to thrive in them. They will have spent the day focusing on their health, wealth, and cultural enrichment. They will have been awesomely entertained and shopped without having to leave the building. They will have been reminded of their worth and encouraged to pursue their passions. And most of all, they will have given themselves permission to enjoy the day guilt-free. Now, that is empowerment!