Sunday, May 18, 2008

Do You Know Who's Been In Our Backyard?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/18/2008 No comments
Across the country, people are realizing that Charlotte is the "It" place for African-Americans. We consistently rank in the top-three among cities attracting the most African-Americans, primarily young professionals. So it is no wonder why we're seeing a growing number of conferences and conventions coming to this city that appeal to that demographic. But I'm starting to wonder why those events haven't been making a bigger splash.

Everyone, by now, knows about CIAA and the impact its tournament has had on Charlotte during the last three years it's been held here. We've embraced it and it has embraced us, and the historically black conference has signed on to come back for another three years. But the CIAA Tournament is different. There are a hundred parties and events that take place around it—most of them not sanctioned by CIAA—so you would have to be living under a rock in Rock Hill not to know that the tournament is held here during the last week of February.

But there have been a handful of other African-American related events that have come to town with much less fanfare and recognition, two of which I've blogged about recently. The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference was here for four days, wrapping up yesterday, and last month, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network presented the "Get Your Money Right: Hip-Hop Summit on Financial Empowerment," a one-day event on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. Also in October, the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment held its International Women's Leadership Summit here for four days. How many of you were aware that all of these events came to Charlotte?

We're talking business here.

The great thing about Charlotte is that these conferences can come here and essentially have the city to themselves for the duration of their events. It's not like Atlanta where there can be four big conferences going on at the same time in one hotel. While I assume the organizers of these events are attracted by what Charlotte has to offer, I think they've failed to realize what it takes to engage the local community, to make everyday people--the ones they're supposedly here to serve—aware of what they're doing. They can bring all of the celebrities and high-profile people they like--and they have—but what good is it if a large segment of the public doesn't know about the event until after it has passed?

I've talked to countless people who weren't aware that the aforementioned conferences were in town (again, not including CIAA). There's usually very little news coverage of the events while they're here and oftentimes that is too late for someone who might be interested in attending. So when I go to some of the events, I'm often left thinking how nice it would've been if more people would've been there. How nice it would've been if more people knew about it.

So here's my advice to out-of-town organizers. When you're bringing your wonderful conference to Charlotte, you're going to need to do more than schmooze with the local executives and corporate sponsors that you're happy to be in front of. Stop preaching to the choir and turn around and face the congregation. As a matter of fact, rather than me just using that as an analogy, you might want to actually consider spreading the word to area black churches that you're coming. See that's the thing. When you're in Charlotte you must do as Charlotteans do. You'll also need to reach out to the many young professional organizations here—and there are a lot of them because there are a lot of us. And when an organization like the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists (my group) reaches out to you months in advance and says that its members represent all of the major media outlets in the area, you might want to get back to them.

Oh okay, now we get it.


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