By Jeffery Kazembe Batts
Recently, two large gatherings of Black people convened in different parts of New York City with the similar goal of building Black business capacity. On November 16th and 17th, led by Rev. Dennis Dillon, the reSURGEnce Conference 2023 was held at Riverside Church in Harlem. Two weeks later, on December 2nd, the Black Men’s Brunch, sponsored by 500 Men Making A Difference & Mayor Eric Adams, took place at the Major Owens Center in Crown Heights.
The reSURGEnce Conference had a theme of “linking Africa, the Caribbean, and America through worship and empowerment.” Inside the huge Riverside Church, the meeting was held in a large 2nd floor conference room. Presenters made detailed and informative speeches to focused listeners sitting at roughly 30 round tables.
Highlights included actor Harper Hill, who is running for Senate in Michigan. He left the stage and moved around the room as he talked about Black wealth. George Fraser of FraserNet, Cheryl Wills a News 1 anchor, Michael Pugh of Carver Bank, and Lloyd Williams of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce gave lively talks from the stage.
Dr. Nevers Mumba, former Vice President of Zambia, made a passionate appeal for attendees to think from a pan-African perspective when doing business. Outside the conference room, a dozen tables were filled with information literature from various local and international entities including the Jamaican Stock Exchange. The 2-day conference had a special third day with an uplifting gospel concert at Aaron Davis Hall on the City College campus on Sunday the 18th to close out the event. At that time, Rev. Dennis Dillon did some of his excellent preaching and teaching about the importance of growing Black business locally and globally, in between excellent gospel performances.
The 18th installment of the Black Men’s Brunch was titled “The Holiday Tech, AI & Black Biz Expo”. Viewing the products and services set up in a semi-circle of booths inside the large gym space in the former armory named after the late congressman was energizing to behold. Everything from real estate to health services, cosmetics, investment, travel, construction, and more were promoted at the approximately 50 tables set up. Networking was in a frenzy while people also stepped into a side room where various restaurants provided delicious hot food embodying the name of the gathering, “Black Men’s Brunch.” Despite the name, sisters were plentiful in the building. On behalf of the BMB, ladies welcomed attendees as they arrived. Mayor Adams presented awards to actor & Yoba Development founder Malik Yoba as well as legendary commentator Lenny Green of WBLS. Practical information was shared by Commissioner Keith Howard of the NY Department of Youth Community Development. The large crowd was also empowered by listening to an interview of one of America’s top Artificial Intelligence experts from Bed-Stuy, Amen Ra Mashariki.
Participants at both the reSURGEnce Conference and the Black Men’s Brunch got their money worth for the respective events, as there was a cover charge for entry. Presenters, vendors, organizers and other participants enthusiastically moved around the various spaces and openly shared their expertise while inspiring each other to set higher goals to improve the business outlook for Black people in NYC and beyond. The annual reSURGEnce Conference is currently exploring expanding to Nairobi, Kenya and Durban, South Africa in 2024. While the Black Men’s Brunch happens quarterly, usually in Brooklyn.