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BlackElectorate.com Building and Business Mixer (Update) – Agenda, Possible Initiatives, and Registration Fee


Things are moving along in the deliberation and planning of our proposed "Building and Business Mixer,” to take place in late October. I guess you could say we are well into our exploratory committee mode - have been looking at locations, going over a budget, and kicking around an agenda and initiative for the two-day affair.

I want to make a final decision in the next couple of weeks so that in the event that we move forward we can make an announcement immediately after Labor Day and place tickets on sale (We will only be selling advance tickets. No walk-ups or tickets sold at the door.)

So, in the spirit of the ‘democratization of event planning’ or for the Muslims - ‘the Shura of event planning,’ here is an update of where we are right now. I need feedback from all of our seriously interested viewers on all of these points, below. So please don’t just read what follows – give feedback, whether in our Dialogue Room (http://www.blackelectorate.com/msgbrd2/msgbrd.asp)or on our voicemail (856)-964-4664.

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Number of Attendees. The more I think about this the smaller I want the group to be. Not only because, of course, it makes it easier to manage the event, but it also represents a tight core critical mass of our viewership, and I would like to think those who are most ready for community action, which is what this event is about. This is a social event but for the purpose of leveraging our unity around specific initiatives. We want to have an honest, creative, critical and inspiring dialogue and meeting but one that reaches sufficient agreement and consensus to move forward with action steps and an agenda and initiatives to place before the larger BlackElectorate.com Viewer Family, and to lead. I want this group of attendees to be a community of leaders.

This group of attendees should form the foundation of the larger community and will have responsibility and authority to get out front and shape things. So, I am thinking that 75 people would be beautiful to start. But I am willing to push 100 or so if the interest and commitment is there. But again this is about work - before and after the event - as much as it is about an enjoyable weekend. So I want people ready to get busy while in attendance and in subsequent weeks.

The Event. Remember we are looking at a 5-hour Mixer on a Saturday night, with Speakers, Open Mic, Live Music and Food; and a 4-hour Coffee Talk on a Sunday morning with a facilitator. Maybe an afternoon of fun somewhere later (keep reading below.)

Location. I don’t want to disclose right now any specific names but right now, thanks to the recommendations, leg work and suggestions of our viewers and friends I am narrowing it down to either a restaurant/club location on U Street in D.C. or a cultural/historic location closer to the Capitol in Washington, D.C. With the restaurant/club spots you get the ready made location, comfortable atmosphere, and in-house equipment. You also get the busyness of that part of the City on a Friday or Saturday night, which is what we are looking at. With the cultural/historic location you get the more dignified atmosphere, intimate setting, and greater accessibility. You also get less in-house equipment. I see pros and cons with each, but am leaning to the cultural/historic spot, maybe 60% to 40% in favor of it.

For the coffee talk I have a location already committed but am not sure if they can accommodate in one setting the numbers we might draw.

Agenda and Initiative Committees. This is just Cedric speaking. But I am stimulated by the idea of the BEC B&B Mixer attendees taking on any of the following five areas, or a combination thereof: 1) A Political Issue To Advocate 2) A Business Venture 3) A Domestic Grassroots Community-Based Issue 4) An International Issue and 5) An Intellectual and Scholarly Endeavor. I would like us to agree to decide to work feverishly in these areas for a year, setting goals, and making ourselves accountable to the larger website community. And just off of the top of my head I would nominate the following (keep in mind, I am not making any final decisions on this, the community, I imagine, will decide in some form of vote or consensus building process).

1) Political Issue Advocacy. I want an issue that would in effect have us monitoring and engaging Congress and in particular the Congressional Black Caucus. I would like an issue that will have us playing the role of honest broker and not lap-dog or co-signer to any political party, ideology or clique. I want us to be in a position where we are both critical and supportive where merited in the furtherance of a cause. The purpose of this initiative would also be to educate ourselves and our viewers about strategic maneuvering in the furtherance of what we support. I am not interested in making shout outs to our viewers on why they have to support something. I want some chess-playing and some well-thought out moves being made. So, I have in mind, advocacy of HR 40, the reparations study bill that has languished in Congress for years. Might we be the group that places it over the top? Something dealing with Black-owned banks, maybe, and some things they are facing that Congress could help with. Maybe a criminal justice issue or a unique piece of legislation on education. Maybe we might decide to push forward Same-Day Voter Registration which would alter the way elections are won and campaigns are waged. But I only want one issue so that we can focus and leverage all of our unity.

2) Business Venture. I like the idea of us getting together and establishing an investment club which we can open up to others. We could put together a team of lawyers and financial experts to dot I’s and cross T’s, examine investment opportunities and advise us. I would love to see us set up a board and 'stakeholder meetings' and have members voting investment opportunities up and down. We could buy businesses, real estate, stocks, and bonds by pooling our resources in very affordable ways. As long as we set up a system of transparency and accountability and are properly motivated this can work and should be part of our 'activism.'

3) Domestic Community-Based Issue. I want something here tied closely to the streets. So I would nominate we work on something like addressing the problem of street organization and gang violence and its root causes. We could work with those already in the trenches in various cities and refine, collaborate and promote good work in this area. We also might get involved with local education reform. And I love the idea of partnering with a group mentoring young Black youth. Also, I personally would like to put the website behind an effort to help prisoners re-integrate properly into our community, whether this Mixer leads to this or not.

4) International Issue. The United States of Africa. There is nobody just focusing on this issue among Blacks in the Diaspora. Only Minister Farrakhan has made it a constant priority among Black leaders in the U.S., but no organization among Black Americans is staying on top of developments on this monumental effort, and the challenges it faces nor is anyone suggesting thorough ideas and proposals that can help in the areas of conflict resolution, monetary, fiscal and trade policy. We could.

5) Intellectual Endeavor. The BlackElectorate.com Think Tank. I would like to see a couple of well-researched papers come out on serious issues or topics that need empirical and scholarly investigation and exploration. But they must read in clear language so that our people can understand the problem or solution we are looking at. I want academicians and researchers involved, here. But not folk who are sitting in some lofty ivory tower disconnected from the masses, pontificating. We have enough of that. I want ground-breaking stuff on some ‘original’ or critical topics. Innovative thinking as well.

Committees. For all of these five areas we would need people who are ‘doers’ to consider heading up a committee to ensure follow-through. Also we need an informal planning committee to dialogue on proposed speakers of the Mixer. Remember, we want speakers coming who will inform, inspire and give wisdom. I would prefer if they are familiar with the website and maybe have already been a focus of our coverage. I don’t want people sliding through who don’t know us and want to push a book or something and bounce after speaking for eight and a half minutes. Whoever speaks must respect BlackElectorate.com and must be willing to stay a bit to build and mingle. We aren’t groupies or fans of just anybody who looks smart or important or has some fame. To me, you all - the attendees - will be the most important people in the room, not some celebrity, 'leader', intellectual, or politician. The speakers must reflect what we are about and add value to what we are trying to do. So they really should be folks well-acquainted with our website and who want to water something new, not just promote themselves and run their mouths out of vanity.

Ticket Price/Registration Fee. A sit down dinner is not looking like it is going to make it. Very expensive, it appears. But if we go with nice hors d’ovores, drinks and desserts we can do something at a very nice location and a reasonable expense, with a small profit. Also, if we pick a non-restaurant/club venue we may have to bring in some out-of house stuff like sound equipment, chairs and tables, and there will be a lot of miscellaneous expenses, regardless to where we do it. The budgeting and negotiations are making that clear. But what is guiding all expenses is not making a huge profit – which is very difficult with event planning like this – but our ability to provide an intimate setting that we can manage that has good food, music, atmosphere and allows us to get to know one another, develop rapport, and build and conduct business. To that end, it is looking like we are not going to be able to do this at the level we want at less than $75 per person. With that, ‘registration fee,’ the person gets the Mixer and Coffee talk, and commemorative information materials.

Bowling. I am looking into reserving several lanes the afternoon of the Coffee Talk (probably a Sunday) for those who want to get busy on the bowling lanes. Let me say that I have been bowling since I was six years old so I am well prepared to see whomever, from anywhere in the country. Also, I will be sporting some new bowling shoes just for the occasion. I do see and hear that bowling is big again among us folk, so this could be a very interesting affair, no doubt. Please come fabulous, jiggy, or comfortable, as only we can. I am looking at two very nice bowling locations that have a fun atmosphere. They cost a bit more than what the average bowler may be used to but you do have a lot of fun. Depending upon the level of interest, we will book the lanes, but everyone would have to take care of their game fees etc… this isn’t the PBA, and I don't want to build this activity into the registration fee. Purely optional. We would just need to know who is interested so we could hold the lanes. We of course will be dividing participants into teams. I think we can have a prize for the winning squad – like gift certificates to a book store or something else we could spontaneously agree to that might be more fun.

So the pressing need now is general feedback, but specifically how many people would be down for a $75 registration ticket. That is what will determine whether we can move forward and do this properly. Let us know on the voicemail (856)-964-4664 and in the Dialogue Room (http://www.blackelectorate.com/msgbrd2/msgbrd.asp).

Once we have this last bit of feedback we can give the final green or red light to you all in a couple of weeks.


Cedric Muhammad

Monday, August 14, 2006

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.

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