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Black Latino Expo 2008

Organizers of Black Latino Expo seek to raise urban fund.


From the June 27, 2008 Philadelphia Business Journal.

A convention in Philadelphia featuring custom cars, fashion shows, R&B music and dancing could draw as many as 50,000 African American and Latino visitors, according to Katrina Pitman.

The president of the South Jersey-based marketing company Bronze Identity, Pitman thinks such an event could raise as much as a million dollars that could help fund financially struggling urban social programs.

So Pitman and her business partner, George W. Clark, organized the Black Latino Expo, the first large-scale event that aspires to bring the two diverse communities together.

The expo will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on September 13.

"We need a really huge event that's going to draw a lot of people, get a lot of interest, and give us the ability to generate those kind of funds so we can really start doing some things," she said.

Pitman and Clark, a retired Philadelphia police officer, began planning the event more than one year ago and have spent about $100,000 in preparation so far. The event will use entertainment to draw a crowd but the greater focus, Pitman said, will be on making communities better places.

"We're always looking for solutions to a lot of the issues going on in our urban communities," she said. "The big issue is the violence that is occurring but there are a lot of issues behind that. We are trying to address some of those source issues."

The daylong event will feature seminars on financial literacy, education and empowering parents.

The National Comprehensive Center for Fathers, a Philadelphia-based organization that teaches parenting skills and provides job placement and legal services, is among the charitable groups that will benefit from the expo's proceeds.

"We're hoping to build stronger relationships with the Latino community," said Kofi Asante, executive director of the center. "I'm hoping to be able to bridge some gaps."

Traditionally, the African American and Latino communities have been marketed and approached separately, Pitman acknowledged.

"We are more alike than we are different," she said. "Especially when you look at second-generation Latinos. Their first choice of language is English, not Spanish. Their buying habits are very similar to the African American community. Their spendable income is at 100 percent as opposed to other groups of people whose spendable income maybe 40 or 50 percent."

The national Hispanic community had a buying power of more than  $860 billion in 2007, according to a University of Georgia study. African Americans topped $845 billion.

The two groups are becoming more and more sought after by corporations and advertisers, Pitman said. The expo will feature around 200 vendors - from T-shirt dealers and artists to non-profits and wireless retailers - trying to tap into those markets.

"The Latino and African American communities have a lot in common," said Yolanda Jimenez-Colon, director of marketing and communications for Taller Puertoriqueno, a Philadelphia-based Puerto Rican arts and culture organization that is participating in the expo. "We have similar food, music, dance and history, and we even share the struggles we have to face."

There are large black populations in Mexico and in the Caribbean nations, Pitman said, the ancestors of slaves shipped during the colonial era. The African American Museum in Philadelphia is currently running an exhibition entitled, the African Presence in Mexico, which addresses that history.

"A lot of Latin communities around the world are starting to really embrace their African roots," said Pitman, a Cherry Hill native who graduated from Drexel University. "It seems like we are right on the cusp of that movement."

The Black Latino Expo may be too forward thinking right now, however. Pitman said that the expo has yet to receive major sponsorships at this point.           

"The big name corporations, the ones who usually sponsor different things, have decided to wait to see how we do this year," Pitman said. "People are afraid of things that are new. They're not sure if it's going to work out."

She expects to draw around 15,000 people this year, generating between $500,000 and $800,000 in revenue. There will be an entrance fee of $20 ($15 with pre-registration). Seniors and children enter for $10. After expenses are excluded, Pitman still expects to provide a great deal of money to community organizations.

Drawing 50,000 people in the future, she said, is not unreasonable given the demographics of the tri-state region.

"I've had a lot of good response so I'm excited to see what happens next year," Pitman said. "Now I know how to come to the corporations with what we're doing. You're really not looking at two different groups of people."