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Whereas the District may be internationally famend for being the nation’s capital and the hub for countrywide politics, the Higher Washington DC Black Chamber of Commerce (GWBCC) supplied a reminder that D.C. can be residence to booming Black companies. Highlighting changemakers within the arts and enterprise, the native commerce group hosted its inaugural “Juneteenth Soirée.” Held on the Hamilton Lodge on June 19, the gala, themed “Artwork of Black Enterprise,” celebrated Black freedom, entrepreneurship and ingenuity.
In a night that included an open bar, featured cocktails, small bites like rooster sliders, cheese, and mini lobster rolls, a dynamic stay band, and decor with a Gatsby, Harlem Renaissance-esque theme, GWBCC hosted a celebration with a goal: persevering with to help native entrepreneurs.
“We’re nonetheless fairly a younger chamber and a lot of what we now have been doing simply consists of ensuring that we now have the strong basis to have the longevity that lots of the chambers that we’ve seen on this space, have and succeed with,” Aisha Bond, president of GWBCC, advised the Informer in a WIN-TV interview..
Bond mentioned the chamber’s dedication to supporting the District’s inventive enterprise neighborhood spawned from filling a necessity.
“Artists as entrepreneurs actually didn’t have a house base to essentially lean into as a collective and as a neighborhood to make it possible for they’d sounding boards assets, perception, community help, some place to… get a bit little bit of aid, which is an enormous a part of being a chamber– ensuring that we’re actually desirous about the psyche of our entrepreneurs,” Bond defined.
The gala was one of some methods GWBCC has been working to focus on and help D.C.’s creative enterprise neighborhood. Final week, the chamber hosted a roundtable with leaders from the humanities neighborhood, which, Bond mentioned, helped provoke a collective “financial enterprise committee for the humanities.”
Then, there was the “Juneteenth Soiree,” which, not solely, highlighted Black companies and artists, but additionally featured the artist Rodney “Buck” Herring, whose piece– because the occasion’s artist in residence– was given to an motion winner through the night.
“It’s actually about progress, success… It’s actually about simply not letting something get in your means,” mentioned Buck about his paintings and up to date inspiration.
“We let different issues get in our means and possibly an individual, place, factor, no matter it’s, is available in your path. It’s actually not your unhealthy,” Buck continued. “You’ve folks that may help you just like the Black Chamber of Commerce, you might need pals that stay in sure neighborhoods, sure people who have pals that personal companies, they will all the time allow you to. There’s any person right here that will help you.”
Celebrating the Honorees: Awards Supply Hope and Name to Motion
Serving to others and persevering with to help the work of D.C.’s inventive neighborhood by assets and laws, proved as main themes all through the occasion.
“Each time I’m given the chance to share a platform and to inform my story, and to additional my enterprise, I’m grateful, as a result of I do know when folks help the Spice Suite, they’re supporting a whole bunch, if not hundreds, of different small companies,” mentioned entrepreneur Angel Gregorio, who was one of many recipients of the Innovator of the 12 months Award. “It’s by no means actually about me, folks all the time say ‘It’s lonely on the prime.’ And I all the time say, ‘I received’t know as a result of I’m not going on my own.’”
Along with her enterprise The Spice Suite, a “spice store and dream incubator,” Gregorio could be very intentional about increase different entrepreneurs.
“We offer free area to Black enterprise homeowners who need to pop up and promote their merchandise and have hosted over 4,000 free pop-ups within the seven-and-a-half years I’ve been in enterprise,” Gregorio mentioned.
Fellow Innovator of the 12 months Award winner Ian Callendar of Suite Nation emphasised the significance of preserving D.C.’s inventive neighborhood and tradition.
“Actually push different folks round you, together with folks on this room,” Callendar mentioned in an area filled with present and former politicians and native entrepreneurs. “We are able to make a distinction, and I simply hope that with the correct time and proper assets, we are able to articulate that by laws.”
Different honorees included Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Giant), longtime salon-owner Wanda Henderson, peace activist and organizer Ron Moten of the GoGo Museum and Don’t Mute DC, Matthew Featherstone and Branden Wiles of Hiatus Cheesecake, and the DC Anchor Partnership.
Henderson, proprietor of Wanda’s on seventh and recipient of the Resilience and Cultural Preservation Award, used her acceptance speech to make a serious announcement.
“I need to construct a faculty,” Henderson mentioned. “After I open my college in Southeast, we’re going to have the most effective college in Anacostia, and the identify of my college is Henderson Worldwide Academy.”
The ultimate award recipient of the evening, Council member McDuffie, who chairs the Enterprise and Financial Growth Committee, touted the nation’s capital as a mannequin for uplifting Black enterprise homeowners.
“If you happen to don’t assume Washington, D.C., is a mannequin, then it actually is,” McDuffie emphasised. “This can be a place the place your desires can come true. This can be a place the place you can begin a small enterprise, and develop a small enterprise, and rent folks out of your neighborhood. The fact is, we want elected officers which can be supportive of these alternatives.”