This past weekend, thousands of patrons flocked to NYC’s Jacob Javitz Center for the 12th annual two-day Circle of Sisters expo. The event was presented by AARP NYC and hosted by WBLS-FM 107.5, 1190 WLIB-AM, and WQHT-Hot 97.1 FM.
On Saturday, Oct. 15th, the expo got underway with a lively performance from the Brooklyn Stepping Band marching around the expo floor as more than 250 vendors promoted their products to browsing customers. On the Healthfirst Culinary Corner, celebrity chef, Vonda McPherson got things cooking while staff at the Special Events Hall welcomed attendees for the Red Carpet Panel. Saints & Sinners star, Kevin Powell, CEO of Monami Entertainment and Love & Hip-Hop producer, Mona Scott-Young, star of Own TV’s Queen Sugar and Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix, Ninja Devoe, singer/actor, Rotimi, and TV/panel host, Shannon LaNier, spoke on opportunities available for Black actors in film and television. The Red Carpet Panel was followed by a quick a cappella performance from Rotimi. Audience members then took turns asking panelists questions. One audience member asked: “What’s the best advice you’ve been given that you use in your career?”
–Kevin Powell: “Take the high road and be humble.”
–Rotimi: [From Jamie Foxx, his friend, and mentor] ‘Stay true to yourself; trust your first instinct and first gut.”
–Mona Scott-Young: “There’s going to be things that will bring you down, but you have to keep your eye on the prize,” said Scott-Young.
“Nobody else can be more determined in your career except for you.”
–Ninja Devoe: “Have tunnel vision and a goal.”
As the Q&A session ended, former NBA star and host, Jonathan Sally took to the Healthfirst Culinary Corner with chef Brenda Beener to cook up some of his favorite vegan dishes. At 12:45 p.m, WBLS’ Raqiyah, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Grammy-Award winner, Common took to the Special Event Hall’s main stage to discuss healthy relationships and marriage. “Don’t have relationships or marriages based on pity parties,” said Rev. Sharpton. Hear more of what the Rev. had to say HERE.
Next up, was the State of Being Black in America: Stop The Killing panel, moderated by Judge Hatchett and WBLS’ Faityn Muhammed. Family members of African-American men killed at the hands of law enforcement officials discussed the frequent occurrences of fatal police brutality on Blacks in the U.S. The discussion kicked-off with special panelists:
–Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner
–Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile
–Benjamin L. Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown
–Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, the twin sister of Terrence Crutcher
-Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant
Meanwhile, one-on-one discussion panels were in full swing with Dr. Mathew Knowles. The father of pop superstars, Solange and Beyoncé shared the formula to success from his book, The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals.
Back on the main stage, part two of the State of Being Black in America discussion continued with the How to Change The Paradigm panel, led by panelists:
–Hot 97’s Ebro Darden
–WBLS’ Bishop Hezekiah Walker
–Bishop Daren A. Ferguson
During the discussion, moderated by Judge Hatchett and Bob Pickett panelists talked about the presidential election’s impact on Black America. Ebro said we won’t see the change we want until we become active in our own communities. “Until we get active in our own communities…we are not going to see the change that we want,” said the WHQT radio personality. “It’s going to take us a generation to make the changes we want to see.”
The expo continued with showcases from The Color Purple and R&B artists, Ro James, and Joe on the performance stage. The Healthfirst Culinary Corner stayed buzzing with BBQ Sauce King and singer, Bobby Brown, Food Network’s Madison Cowan, and Chef Huda while attendees joined The Color Purple one-on-one panel with the iconic Jennifer Holliday and WLIB/WBLS’ Liz Black. During the discussion, Holliday spoke about her role as Shug Avery in The Color Purple on Broadway. Holliday also opened up about her struggles with having multiple sclerosis and being overweight earlier on in her career. Saturday’s expo closed on a supercharged note with the amazing Ashley Stewart Fashion Show, which featured the latest trends in women and children apparel.
Sunday, Oct. 16, day two of the expo, started early with the sweet sounds of Gospel worship, led by WLIB’s Bishop Hezekiah Walker. As doors opened, patrons headed over to the Vendor Hall to browse, shop, network, and partake in informative panels with the American Heart Association, SONYMA, and Disney Dreamers. On the main stage, discussion panels about women’s health commenced with the following panelists:
–Dr. Jeff Gardere, panel moderator, psychologist, and professor
–Terrie Williams, activist and author
–Deshauna Barber, military captain, and Miss USA
–Vanessa Bell Calloway, actress, producer, and breast cancer survivor
–Maria Davis, HIV/AIDS activist, and survivor
–Tracey Jones, Midwest Regional Director For The AIDS Healthcare Foundation
The discussion touched on a number health issues experienced by African-American women. On breast cancer, Vanessa Bell Calloway said, “Just a get a mammogram; it’s really that simple,” said Calloway. “Wouldn’t you rather know the truth than be shocked two years later?”
On the AIDS/HIV, Maria Davis advised the audience to “Forget the shame and the stigma in our community, we have to get rid of that,” said Davis. “We have to take charge, the government is not going to save us, we have to save us.”
Meanwhile, on the Culinary Corner, the one, and only Pat Neely cooked his signature blackened salmon with herb rice.
Back on the main stage, Good Morning America co-host and breast cancer survivor, Robin Roberts talked about her career as well as health issues faced by women with WBLS’ Shaila Scott. When Scott asked the veteran newscaster what interview in her career stuck out, Roberts said there were too many to name but mentioned that she’s: “Really enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with Michelle and Barack Obama these past eight years.” Next, magazine publisher, celebrity chef, supermodel, and lifestyle maven, B. Smith, and husband, Dan Gasby sat down with WBLS’ Déjà Vu to discuss coping with Alzheimer‘s disease. “The most important thing you can do is take care of yourself,” said Gasby. “If it wasn’t for black women, we’d be in real bad shape!” The couple whose been married for 23 years, are authors of New York Times bestseller, Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer‘s. B. Smith was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s in 2013.
Activities including performances, discussion panels, and more delicious eats from the Culinary Corner continued throughout the afternoon and concluded with the highly anticipated, sold-out MetroPCS Gospel Explosion. The showcase kicked off with a hilarious comedy stand-up segment from special guest Lunelle, in tandem with musical performances by Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Tye Tribbett, VaShawn Mitchell, and JJ Hairston.
According to a statement released by Charlie Morgan, market manager for Emmis Communications New York, the Circle of Sisters expo is one of Emmis’ key, annual events. “The final numbers of attendees is not in yet; however we know it was similar to last year’s EXPO,” said Morgan. “We would like to thank our audience, clients, and partners for making it another successful year.”
Last year, the two-day Circle of Sisters expo drew an estimated 50,000 attendees.
AARP New York’s Circle of Sisters expo 2016 was presented by EmblemHealth, and made possible by:
AT&T, Healthfirst, Consumer Reports, Ashley Stewart, MetroPlus Health Plan, MetroPCS, Fidelis Care, StateFarm, SONYMA, Maybelline, SheaMoisture, InVite Health, Disney Destinations, MTA, MajorWorld, McDonald’s All Day Breakfast, American Heart Association, AIDS Health Foundation, EXPG, Nyack College, Center for NYC Neighborhoods, The Color Purple on Broadway, NYC Health+Hospitals | Harlem, Nubian Heritage, FOX 5 NY, Village Voice, and Black Enterprise