Forget about power walking. Instead, leisurely stroll in your sneakers to take in all the sites and events at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s “The Neighborhood Exhibit Hall,” during its 52nd Annual Legislative Conference from September 20-23 at the Washington Convention Center.
“The only thing missing is a big smoker grill with a slab of ribs,” chuckled Victoria Fore, president & founder of Fore & Associates, who is responsible for converting almost 40,000 square feet of concrete floor space into a community experience.
“In many ways, this event reflects the larger story of the alliance between the Foundation and our community,” said Fore. “We re-imagined the exhibit hall as a neighborhood with a mixture of new activations and businesses, but keeping the memories that we as a community value and what makes the neighborhood our special space,” she said.
The Neighborhood, nearly the span of a football field, will offer more than 200 exhibiting companies showcasing innovative new products and services. Attendees will be able to connect with suppliers and business partners from all over the United States and abroad including entrepreneur business networking opportunities, such as Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator Program to learn how to market, sell, and grow businesses on the platform site.
In addition, to address the global economy where so much financial growth and job creation is fueled by outreach, The Neighborhood will host a Professional Career & Job Diversity Fair. This platform will provide a space for individuals to learn about actively recruiting career opportunities in the federal and private sectors, as well as give non-majority-owned businesses an opportunity to engage with government agencies and private industry around the contracting process.
“The dual career paths were intentionally created to pattern The Neighborhood, where you may have an entrepreneur living next to a government employee, who lives next to someone working in an entry job at a corporation,” explained Fore. “Because our ALC demographics range from our Emerging Leaders who are under 25 to our legacy attendees who are 60 plus, we want financial empowerment opportunities to be applicable and reflect economic options for our diverse attendees,” she said.
The main stage in The Neighborhood will be the central “front porch” gathering spot where the opening press conference, empowerment sessions, panels, and live performances are hosted, including special events with influencers and celebrities.
To add to the staging of “bringing glam to The Neighborhood,” this year’s Authors Literary Circle will feature the latest “buzz” from the nation’s premier African American literary and scholarly talent. The Circle will also include the “Lit Lounge” Podcast Studio where attendees can engage in fascinating deep storytelling and conversations with popular podcasts across many top genres, from sports, comedy, celebrity culture, the latest trends in health, beauty, style entertainment to news and politics, and exclusive stories from artists and creators as well as insights on culture, community, and business.
“We are creating the Lit Lounge and main stage as a tribute to our history of oral culture,” explained Fore. “When we look back, we know that the written word was not always accessible, but there was plenty of storytelling going on and being passed down through generations and shared within the neighborhood. We wanted to name that and carry on our tradition of the spoken word through modern-day technology such as podcasts,” she said.
Health & Wellness Way will offer important and potentially life-saving free health screenings to all visitors, including much-needed information on lactation, skin care, and fall prevention – all areas that can cause additional challenges in the nuclear and extended Black family.
CBCF will welcome the best cook on the block through the Taste of ALC, hosted by Celebrity Chef and TV personality Huda Mu’min, founder of The Just Savor Group. The Taste of ALC is a celebration of culture, culinary, and the power of coming together for a greater purpose. Celebrity chefs and guests will include, Virginia Ali – Co-Founder, Ben’s Chili Bowl, who is celebrating 65 Years in the U Street Neighborhood; Chef Rock Harper – James Beard Award Nominee and Hell’s Kitchen Season 3 Champion, and Wanda “Mama” Durant – Mother of NBA All-Star, Kevin Durant.
To sustain a balance between mental, physical, and emotional health, there will also be daily lunchtime Block Parties with live music, line dancing, culinary demonstrations, and an array of cuisines for purchase in the Café. In This high-energy midday break will feature Market Place vendors including the popular clothier Wilbourn Sisters and ABC Anne’s Beautiful Creations as well as fresh, up-and-coming designers. A total of 75 vendors will bring everything from jewelry and artwork to clothes and imported household goods to display. “This year the Market Place will remain open until 1pm on September 23 to give the worshippers attending the Day of Healing a final couple of hours to shop after the program,” added Fore.
“I hope attendees will enjoy the exhibition, shopping, networking, health screenings, fireside chats, lunch break block parties, music, and all of the things that make our neighborhood home,” said Fore.
The Neighborhood Exhibit Hall hours are:
Sept. 20, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sept. 21, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sept. 22, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sept. 23, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.