A new global network for black professionals working in the events industry is set to make its official debut at its first-ever virtual event.
On Aug. 19, from 12:00-1:45 p.m. EST, Black in Events will host ‘Accelerating Change in the Business of Events.’ The group’s mission is to bring awareness and opportunities to a growing and underrepresented group in the billion-dollar sector.
“Black people are consistently marginalized in events industry roles and it’s not because we’re not here; rather, we’re being overlooked because businesses aren’t taking the time to search us out,” says co-founder Keneisha Williams. “We want to change that narrative and Black in Events can help do this by promoting inclusivity and serving as a platform to elevate our presence and position in the industry. As well, by creating a global network, people and businesses will know where to find us, which will make black event professionals more accessible.”
Williams and her business partner, Ashanti Bentil-Dhue, came up with the idea after striking up a conversation on a Twitter thread in February. Though separated by an ocean — Williams lives in Toronto, and Bentil-Dhue is in the U.K. — the two events entrepreneurs were united in their position that change is needed in the industry.
“The purpose of events is to bring people together and drive human connection. While we do a great job in fulfilling this need, the industry itself has fallen short on building inclusion from within,” explains Williams.
Initially, the pair explored developing a platform for women of colour but pivoted to focus on black men and women based on their needs and struggles to access the proper resources to succeed in the events industry. For instance, there’s a lack of black mentorship to promote positive self-identity, says Williams. This can make it harder to relate and design one’s own path.
“A mentor is someone you can look to for guidance and learn from as they have overcome some of the same challenges and strife you might be going through,” she explains.
Talk between the pair soon turned into action, with the death of George Floyd at the hands of police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minn., fuelling the need to step on the gas, says Williams.
“With conversations about systemic racism being had in every industry, the timing was right.”
Dedicated to raising black people’s plight, Black in Events aims to provide company partners with services to accelerate the industry in an inclusive direction. Companies and other organizations will have access to a database of black industry professionals, including speakers and suppliers, and a job board, as well as the opportunity to take part in events and access training to build on their business’ inclusivity practices, among other resources.
“Partnering helps to transition diversity from being a trend to lifelong action,” says Williams. “It’s also an opportunity to get in front of the black event professionals community.”
Individual members will benefit from being able to network with like-minded peers, regardless of geographic location, creating a sense of community, and events like this week’s ‘Accelerating Change in the Business of Events.’
The virtual event will feature professional speakers and strategists who will address how to adapt to industry changes. Topics to be covered include levelling up your brand, leveraging technology on a day-to-day basis, how to thrive as a business, mental health management and self-care, and the future of the industry. There will also be a panel discussion in which black industry professionals will be given a voice to offer fresh ideas and perspective.
“It’s an initiative to really show others that we’re here and our opinions and experiences count, too,” says Williams.
Tickets for the virtual event are free and can be obtained by registering online.