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Expo Brings Blacks Together in a Show of 'Entrepreneurism'


PASADENA — The pervasive economic recession failed to put a damper on the "can-do" spirit at the Pasadena Convention Center last weekend.

"Opportunity," "entrepreneurism" and "self-reliance" were the buzzwords at the Pasadena Black Expo, where more than 100 local and regional businesses turned out to sell their products to customers looking for products, services and arts created by blacks for blacks.

Businesses at the Expo ranged from the Neighborhood Enterprise Consortium, a collective of home-operated businesses in Pasadena, to "the only black-owned soft drink and potato chip company" in the country--Caribbean Cool, based in Atlanta.

Representatives of Pasadena Lincoln-Mercury, the city's only black-owned car dealership, were on hand, as was Nettie Collins' "Chic Alors" westernized African fashions and "Ms. Clown's Entertainment Co. Unlimited."

"There's a push to spend some of our money at home," Pasadena attorney Joe Hopkins said. Hopkins is editor of the Pasadena Journal, a San Gabriel Valley black newspaper that co-sponsored the event.

"Now is the time to promote our products even harder," Hopkins said. "The '90s need to be a black entrepreneurial era. We have conquered every frontier except the entrepreneurial one."

The Pasadena Expo was built around the concept of larger regional and national black trade shows that promote black businesses and the concept of "Recycling Black Dollars."

Hopkins said the businesses at the Expo filled a void in products on general store shelves. Black-oriented goods are still largely missing from the shelves of most stores, he said.

Organizers estimated that 3,000 people attended the Expo.

Expo browsers Hallie Humdy and Renee Willis said they were glad to find products oriented to the black consumer.

Humdy, a resident of Pasadena, said she came to the Expo looking for black Christmas cards.

"It's nice that they're bringing them (black products) out . . . of the closet," Humdy said. "You used to have to dig hard to find," culturally appropriate items.

Krystal Willis, 4, rested her head on her mother's shoulder as the two waited for actor Robert Guillaume to sign a book of fairy tales--recast with black and Latino children as the main characters.

Guillaume, who recently carried the lead in the Los Angeles run of "Phantom of the Opera," narrated the revamped fairy tales in tapes included with the books.

Krystal's 11-year-old sister, LaToya, joined her mother in browsing through shelves packed with books on Malcolm X and other black historical figures. They also found dresses, pants and shirts made from African-styled cloth.

"There are people in the books they can relate to," Renee Willis said. "Since I have purchased culturally diverse books, my children read more. LaToya is an honors student, and I think a lot of that is due to her exposure to books."

A few booths down, Diane Shelton, co-owner of the Culver City-based West Love Cultural Crafts, remained upbeat, even in the face of the recession.

"We're at a trade show every week," she said pointing to some of the sharply colored red, green and orange tops and dresses hanging in her booth. "Recession or no recession, these are the things that keep us alive."

Throughout both days, business consultants and authors conducted workshops on such topics as "Starting a Business Made Simple."

"Black Expo is one of the ways of getting back to being proud of who we are," Hopkins said. "Civil rights may have given us an opportunity to eat at the lunch counters, but what I'm talking about is that we will now own the lunch counters."

' Civil rights may have given us an opportunity to eat at the lunch counters, but what I'm talking about is that we will now own the lunch counters. '

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