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Young professionals dedicate time and talent to the Black Expo. PAGE 23 PLUS:A SCHEDULE OF THE SUMMER CELEBRATION

SAT & SUN • PG. 63





Thursday, July 6, 2006


On the lawn: Sunny and Kellie Hyde, Cincinnati, at the Black Expo Summer Celebration concert. Indianapolis Star file photo

The Black Expo Summer Celebration takes a lot of work to pull off. These volunteers should know. By Kimiko Martinez Photos by Michelle Pemberton


housands of people will spill into Downtown this week as Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration attracts visitors from across the nation for the country’s largest black culture event. Some will take advantage of the free health screenings, employment fair and business workshops. Others will flock to the convention center for the shopping, the art or music. They’ll attend the free concert, take their children to kid-friendly festivities and enjoy seeing friends they haven’t met up with since this

time last year. Still another group of young people will flock to Downtown during IBE’s annual event — not to cruise the streets in their pimpedout Impalas — but to work. An event of this size, which draws more than 60,000 people every year, requires quite an army of volunteers to run smoothly. We pulled four of those behind-the-scenes types into the limelight to show just how much work goes into pulling off a Summer Celebration of this magnitude.




Thursday, July 6, 2006 INtake

Flexing their fashion sense Courtney Jackson, 22, and Coyon Ford, 24 Fashion committee co-chairs It’s a Monday evening and about a dozen well-dressed men and women are lounging at a friend’s house. It’s a sharp bunch. One of the men dons a wicked big belt buckle, black pants, a button down and some fierce black leather boots. Yet another is wearing white, samurai-style bottoms with a colorful Asian-inspired cotton shirt. The women run the gamut from high fashion — short black mini-shorts, a white blazer and some chunky accessories — to classically tailored suits and dresses, summery cropped pants and shirred tops. “Why would you wear khakis with a white shirt?” someone asks. “They’re not khaki, they’re paper,” he responds. “No, they’re still too beige.” Yes, this is definitely the fashion committee meeting. And these are the men and women whose task it is to pull off a fashion show as good as any you’d find in New York during fashion week. Though their individual styles vary, they all have a distinct sense of style. Duties: Courtney Jackson manages the organization behind the event, while Coyon Ford is the creative mind. “We want to learn from last year’s flaws,” said Jackson, who runs her own marketing/presentations company Powerful Presentations Plus. “And how to make it bigger and better.” This is her first year as a volunteer for Black Expo. Ford took over as cochair for this year’s Summer Celebration, but this is his third year helping out. “The style is more of my thing,” Ford said. “I’ll dream about it and think about how to make it real. Courtney has the strategic plan to make sure that nothing gets in the way.”

What flaws do you want to improve upon? “The amount of people who attend,” Ford said. “To make it bigger.” The ballroom where the show is being held holds 3,000 people, but they plan on hosting about 3,500 during the one-hour event. And by moving the time from 5 p.m. in previous years to 6 p.m. this year, the team hopes that people will perceive the fashion show as more of a destination event, which will unfold into nightlife happenings. What’s the experience been like so far? “It’s been a fun rollercoaster,” Jackson said. “I’ve learned a lot, especially coming right out of college. I get to go from strategic planning to community relations, behind-the-scenes working with the event coordinators at the convention center and I designed the flyers.” What do you wish more people knew about what y’all do? “It’s not just about what you see in the videos,” Ford said. “It’s called ‘Hip-Hop to Chic’ because that’s what it is,” Jackson chimed in. “And it’s a full-time job that we’re all volunteering to do.” Ford agreed. “It’s something like you’d see in New York,” he said. “It’s not just sloppily put together. We have the best stylists in Indy to the best clothes from Man Alive — stuff that you won’t even find until next year.” “But the show is for everybody,” Jackson said. “We tried to make it more diverse (than in past years). In terms of models, age, as well as race. Because Man Alive isn’t just strictly a black thing.” Speaking of ‘black things,” why do you think so many non-blacks avoid the expo? “Because of the hype and stigma attached,” Jackson said. “All that’s going on outside on the street. But if you go inside, there’s art everywhere, and free health screenings. So much stuff.”

Photo finish: (Above) Fashion committee cochair Courtney Jackson. (Left) Markee Wilder photographs the 2006 Summer Celebration fashion committee.

Michelle Pemberton / INtake

Fashionistas: Courtney Jackson and Coyon Ford are the Expo’s fashion committee co-chairs.



Thursday, July 6, 2006

Bringing the entertainment Grey Jarred Patterson, 25 Cultural Arts Pavilion/Music Lounge Committee A lot of people know about the free health screenings, the business workshops and the big free concerts, but not enough know about the cultural aspects that Summer Celebration highlights. Like the many other summer festivals — Italian Street Festival, Fiesta Latina, Greek Fest — Black Expo is first and foremost a cultural celebration. But aside from bringing in national acts like Boys II Men and En Vogue (headliners for this year’s Free Concert at the American Legion Mall July 16) and Mary J. Blige and Jaheim (Musical Heritage Festival I at Conseco Fieldhouse July 15), it’s Grey Jarred Patterson’s job to find local acts that fill that mission. Duties: Graphic design and setting up artists for Cultural Arts Pavilion and Music Lounge. “They had some African drummers and a few things last year,” Patterson said, “but we wanted to make it bigger this year, have more artists.” How’d you get involved? “I know a lot of people who are doing things with music in the city,” said Patterson, who is also involved in Old Soul Entertainment, which puts on local art/music events. “People saw names from those flyers and contacted me to see if I knew acts that wanted to perform.” What should we expect at the Music Lounge? “We’re going to have pop, R&B, neo-soul and jazz,” Patterson said. The Twilight Sentinels, Black Soil Project, Da Field, New Year Revolution, Blackberry Jam, Boondock Saints and Bulletproof Soul are among the acts scheduled to appear. “I really wanted to bring more diversity into this,” he said. “It’s really not just about black people.” Boondock Saints, for example, is an all-white hip-hop group, while the Twilight Sentinels include both Asian and black members. New Year Revolution, he said, sounds kind of like Fiona Apple over hip-hop beats. And he has also added a DJ Battle, hosted by friend DJ Top Speed. “We’re really trying to bring back the ages 18 to 30,” Patterson said.

“I really wanted to bring more diversity into this. It’s really not just about black people.”

Hey Kelly, Years ago, when I was in High School, I had a very close guy friend. Apparently he had a HUGE crush on me, at the time, but never asked me out. I never knew how he felt until after we graduated and another friend told me. A couple of years later I heard that my close guy friend came out of the closet. I found that hard to believe because he’d always dated women and because I never got the gay vibe from him. Just recently we got back in touch and he told me he wasn’t gay anymore. Well the more we talked the more I realized how much I like him and want to date him. He’s a fantastic guy, we’re a lot alike, and he still has a huge crush on me too. I’m concerned about one thing, though. Can a person be confused about their sexuality or is that just wishful thinking on my part? I’ve talked to him about it and he says he just fell into that lifestyle and it was never really for him.

What do you think?


Dear Confused, You have GOT to be kidding me with this!!! No one can just “fall”into being gay. You either are gay, or you aren’t. It IS possible that your friend is bi-sexual (a.k.a. a person who likes sex with anyone or anything, anytime), but there isn’t a man alive who would be gay...JUST BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS! That is impossible!You need to decide whether or not his past will be an issue for you before you try dating the guy. By the tone in your email, I would guess that you know the answers to your questions and you’re looking for someone to stop you from making a big mistake. If you date your friend, you’ll be dating a very confused man who’s trying to be someone he’s not. Don’t go there!

Just Stay Friends!

Kelly McKay

Grey matters: Grey Jarred Patterson, 25, a graphic designer with the United Way, volunteers for the Indianapolis Black Expo Summer Celebration. Patterson works on the Cultural Arts Pavilion and books music acts. What do you see as Black Expo’s role and goal in Indianapolis and beyond? “I see it being an event where it’s like a cultural gathering place,” Patterson said. “You see unique sides of black people that you don’t see when you turn on the television or are listening to the radio — things to promote art-

ists, and not just painting; spoken word, music, comic books.” Any particular events that you’re looking forward to at this year’s Summer Celebration? “The music, the free concert, seeing people that I haven’t seen in a long time — people who went away for college and never came back,” Patterson said.




Thursday, July 6, 2006 INtake

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Exposing Midwestern business opportunities Sherlonda Anderson, 37 Business conference chair Sherlonda Anderson has been involved with Black Expo in one form or another since her 20s. Anderson supported IBE through her sorority when she began volunteering. For the past seven years she’s taken the reigns as the business conference chair and begins monthly committee meetings in January, amping things up to biweekly meetings in May and weekly meetings in June and July. With a mayor’s breakfast to plan, workshops to coordinate, corporate sponsorships and participants to organize, Anderson’s group has a big job to do, which is why they start so early. “Most people on the committee have pretty demanding jobs,” said Anderson, who holds down a demanding job of her own as the City of Indianapolis’ director of the department administration. “But to come together and put on this business conference is an ultimate achievement.” I’m sure your day job keeps you plenty busy. Why do you do this? “Working with IBE gives you a broad range of experiences,” said Anderson, who was formerly the city’s director of diversity affairs. “I was in my 20s when I first started volunteering. It branches out, what your opportunities will be, as it goes forward. The business conference struck a

passion for me — doing things for minority-owned and woman-owned business. “Growing up in Indy, I’ve been a fan of Summer Celebration as long as I can remember,” she said. “But I didn’t really realize the impact and work that goes into it until I had the chance to volunteer on a committee.” The first committee she joined is the one she now heads — the business conference. “And then anything else that IBE wanted me to do,” Anderson said. “And the people who I meet or have met have definitely become mentors.” Included are former Mayor Goldsmith and the late Rev. Charles Williams. What’s your committee’s goal? “We want to provide workshops to help existing businesses and those with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Anderson said. “Small business is so important to the state and local economies.” What’s your favorite part of Summer Celebration? “One thing about IBE is that it’s an attempt to showcase our entire community,” Anderson said. “There are so many things to share. It’s a chance for cultural exchange as well. The more diverse the crowd is at IBE, I think that spills into our city throughout the year. To be able to continue the conversation, continue the understanding, that helps us as a whole community.”


Young professionals dedicate time and talent to the Black Expo.

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