Columbia College Black Expo kicks off its Black History Month celebration

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COLUMBIA - Columbia College is beginning its Black History Month celebration with a black business expo.

The Columbia College Black Expo will spotlight 20 black-owned businesses that are based in mid-Missouri. Vendors will include food, beauty, fashion, art and financial services. 

The networking event opens to the public at 10 a.m. in Dorsey Hall. The small businesses have their own stations where they'll be able to showcase and sell their products. 

Columbia College's assistant director of admissions Micheal Lewis said, in the wide small business picture, there are fewer black businesses in what would be considered a predominantly Anglo population.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean that the businesses are bad businesses or they're not good enough," he said. "This event gives us a chance to highlight just how well a black business can be."

Columbia College spokesman Sam Fleury said the expo is something the community has not seen before.

"I think we're constantly looking, as a college, to be on the cutting-edge of different events and trying new things and this is a great opportunity to do that," Fleury said.    

The expo came about after the school tasked its diversity, equity and inclusion committee to create an event that embraced the celebration of Black History Month. 

"It took little time for us to realize that a black business expo would be the best way to highlight the accomplishments of black people," Lewis said. "I think that black businesses are the essence of survival, ingenuity and strength."

Lewis said he hopes to make the expo and annual event with more vendors and a bigger audience. He believes it can be a springboard of momentum for other Black History Month events, such as the committee's showing of The Movement, a one-man show about civil rights history in America.

Jetawn Smith, Owner of My Tax Lady, a tax preparation office, said it was a great way to highlight different parts of the black community.

"Often times we get so caught up in the negative things going on in the community," Smith said. "This is a chance for us to all come together for something positive, and show that we are virtuous and business owners, as well."

Naomi Collier, CEO of What's Poppin', a gourmet popcorn company, said the event was even bigger than business.

"Never underestimate the power of unity," Collier said. "There's so much need for newness and ingenuity. That's what entrepreneurial-ism provides us."