The New Mexico Black Expo is Our Gathering Space by Sean Cardinalli
The New Mexico Black Expo in Albuquerque is a highly-anticipated, annual celebration of black culture and commerce. It has increased in size and scope every year since its inception in 2003 and has doubled in size in each of the last three years alone. It’s fair to say the Expo has become a “gathering space” for black New Mexicans.
Everyone interviewed for this article gives kudos to the hard work and determination of current OAAA Director Yvette Kaufman-Bell, the youngest-ever appointee in that role. Mrs. Kaufman-Bell and the Expo’s Steering Committee proactively expanded the Expo’s profile and guided its business-centric pivot.
The Expo’s career fair and corporate luncheon have been roundly praised; and in the OAAA, “It’s important we have a state body to represent and advocate” for black New Mexicans, affirms former State Treasurer James Lewis.
The Black Expo literature and ethos now emphasize the importance of expanding business visibility, attending to brand awareness, cultivating customer relations, building business relationships, and establishing contacts with state and social justice agencies.
Mr. Lewis is particularly pleased with the economic summit named after prominent community businessman Ed Corley, Sr. The corporate luncheon last year birthed a strategic alliance initiative signed by over 20 black-owned businesses and chamber of commerce members statewide.
Of course, the cultural significance of the Black Expo’s main exhibition can’t be emphasized enough. Expo Steering Committee member Jonathan Johnson was astonished by last year’s program expansion. The Expo’s musical, artistic, and culinary components “highlight the fact that New Mexico has rich diversity” beyond the tri-ethnic notion of the state.
Mr. Johnson maintains, “The Black Expo is another avenue to showcase one of [the state’s] treasures,” namely, our rich culture. “The audience’s response to the hair show was phenomenal. It set the bar for future shows,” and “the smoked turkey legs are the best in New Mexico, too.”
This year, over 4000 attendees and nearly 200 exhibitors are expected. Black folk will come from as far as Farmington, Las Cruces, Hobbs, and Clovis, which is a “galvanizing” experience, per Mr. Johnson. And it provides a view of African Americans that, in these difficult times, is little focused-on or celebrated.
To keep the Black Expo’s momentum going, Mrs. Kaufman-Bell encourages black-owned businesses to share their participation in the Expo on their company websites, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites.
The 2016 New Mexico Black Expo starts on Thursday, August 25th with the career fair at the African American Performing Arts Center; continues on Friday, August 26th with the Ed Corley, Sr. corporate luncheon at the Embassy Suites; and concludes on Saturday, August 27th with the culture extravaganza on the Albuquerque Civic Plaza.
The official link to the Black Expo can be found at http://www.oaaa.state.nm.us/black-expo.aspx.