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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Buy Black Weekend Supports Firms by Darrell Hughes


Buy Black Weekend is the first time Kenneth Buchanan of Detroit witnessed an event that hosted so many black businesses in one concentrated area.

"This is a positive for the city," he said Friday, adding that other expos are nothing like this one.

The International Detroit Black Expo Inc. is spearheading Buy Black Weekend, a convention for African-American business owners and entrepreneurs in Michigan to showcase their services and products at Cobo Center. The event is free and open to the public. It started Friday and continues through Monday.

"We wanted to build an economic empowerment agent for African-American businesses throughout the country and internationally," Kenneth Harris, 33, the expo's founder, said Wednesday.

The organization represents more than 20,000 African-American businesses worldwide. It was created to provide networking and educational opportunities. It also offers resources to business owners and entrepreneurs.

"This is the perfect opportunity for anyone interested in business," Harris said. "Our primary focus is to build and provide resources for African-American small-business owners and entrepreneurs."

Some of the products and services available at the expo include CDs, hair products, clothing and banking services. Harris said there is $689 billion in black purchasing power nationally and $4.29 billion in Michigan.

"It's all about economic empowerment" and exposure, he said, noting that the workshops and resources at the convention could increase the productivity and financial efficiency of black businesses and entrepreneurs.

However, critics say organizations that cater to particular ethnicities are excluding others and stunting racial progress.

"It becomes exclusionary," said Gwen Williams after shopping at the expo on Friday. "There might be people who want to come here, but they think by it being all about African Americans that it's not for them when there are opportunities here for everyone.

"Everybody has something to offer, and just because the person is not black does not mean they cannot contribute to uplifting the black community," said the 50-year-old Troy resident.

"There is more to be gained" from having all types of ethnicities participating, she said.

Buchanan said the expo is simply trying to distinguish itself.

"If you don't label yourself in the sense that it's black or Hispanic, then you're out there with the rest of the products and services," he said.

Aside from promoting African-American businesses, expo leaders said they want to bring tourism to Detroit.

"Tourism is a billion-dollar industry," Harris said, adding that the expo will assist Detroit in attracting people from around the world to the city.

"This is a weekend to celebrate African-American business. It's open to the public, all cultures and ethnicities and business," he said.

Businesses from as far away as the Virgin Islands are showcased, Harris said.

Jinfeng Ma, 35, a vendor from Chicago, said he attended a similar convention in New Orleans and drove to Detroit to present his products.

"More of my customers are African-American people," he said. "This is the big black expo, and I feel very excited about this."

Darrell Hughes can be contacted at: dhughes@freepress.com

This article first appeared in The Detroit Free-Press On May 26, 2007


Darrell Hughes

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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