by The People’s Minister of Information JR
The 24th Annual Bay Area Black Expo will be on Saturday, July 25, at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza (better known as Oscar Grant Plaza) in downtown Oakland from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Attendance and parking are free.
I grew up going to the Black Expo every summer in the ‘90s, when it used to be held at the Marriot Hotel on a weekend in July. I loved the Black Expo because it allowed me a chance to interact with a huge number of Black business owners and ask questions as well as it showed me what was trendy throughout the rest of the country.
One of the times I did the most shopping was when Cross Colors clothes were in, and I bought them cheaper at the Black Expo than they cost in the stores. It is important for the Black community to circulate our dollars within our community so they can benefit more of our people before they leave our hands, and that’s the first lesson of Black Economics 101.
I took a few minutes to sit down with the CEO and producer of the Bay Area Black Expo, Rose Lyles. Check her out in her own words.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell the people about the history of the Bay Area Black Expo? Who started it? When? And why?
Rose Lyles: The African American Expo (aka Black Expo) was started in Atlanta in 1895 by Booker T. Washington and other prominent political leaders of a Central Board at Clark University. This board spearheaded the inclusion of African American exhibits in the 30,000 square foot Negro Building during the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. The expo was visited by a combined total of 800,000 attendees, both black and white.
The Central Board was made up of such members as I. Garland Penn, Booker T. Washington, Isaiah Montgomery and W.H. Crogman, to name a few.
The expo of 1895 was started as part of the Cotton States Exposition to showcase African American accomplishments during slavery and for the decades following emancipation. You can read more about this at http://www.negrobuildingcompetition.com/the-negro-building/.
M.O.I. JR: How long have you been a part of the Bay Area Black Expo? What is your role and duties now?
Rose Lyles: I am the sole owner, producer and CEO of the Bay Area Black Expo LLC. I’ve been in this role since February 2009. Prior to my involvement in the expo, it was produced in Oakland by Diane Howell. During those early years, the show was owned by Jerry Roebuck.
He called the traveling expo the Black Expo USA from 1989 to 1997. When Roebuck filed bankruptcy in 1997 and ended the traveling show, Diane took over and renamed the show the Black Expo Ltd. Upon her death in 2008, I re-opened the expo in 2009 as the Bay Area Black Expo LLC. It is now in its 24th year of production in Oakland.
M.O.I. JR: Who are the headliners performing at the Black Expo this year?
Rose Lyles: Our hosts will be actor, model, choreographer Darrin Dewitt Henson and up and coming actor Ian Verdun. Our entertainers are The Drifters, The Starlights, Ronald “Serious Licks” Matthews, Rashaad, saxophonist Kevin Moore, MzSwitchetUp and more.
M.O.I. JR: What will some of the other festivities be?
Rose Lyles: There will be a Kiddie Corner, Black Girls Code with a robot, Kaiser Permanente’s health exhibit, a financial seminar (senior hour), food vendors, retail vendors, nonprofit companies, job recruitment for city, county and local government offices and more.
M.O.I. JR: What do you hope people get out of the Bay Area Black Expo?
Rose Lyles: Children will enjoy the Kiddie Corner, while adults and teens have fun shopping and networking in a safe environment with expo vendors. Patrons also have the opportunity to be entertained by watching talented local and national artists as they take the expo stage. A fun family experience for everyone.
M.O.I. JR: What is the importance of promoting Black business?
Rose Lyles: We feel it is important to educate the Black community about the importance of the economy and encourage them to support Black business by spending money back in the African American community.
M.O.I. JR: Will there be anybody talking about financial literacy at the expo?
Rose Lyles: Yes, Matthews Financial & Insurance Services will be hosting a panel discussion for senior citizens at 10:30 a.m. The topics of discussion will include wills, mortgages (i.e. reverse) and more.
M.O.I. JR: How could people get more information about the Bay Area Black Expo online?
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.