By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Sheila Tyson, Convener of the Alabama Black Women’s Roundtable and Nichelle Nix, Director of the Alabama Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, will host the inaugural IGNITE! Alabama at Regions Field on Wednesday, October 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
IGNITE! Alabama is a free empowerment event for minority and female business owners, high school seniors and students who attend a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
“This is an event where there is something for everyone whether you are a high school or college student or a minority that’s in business and are an entrepreneur,” said Tyson. “Some of the things we’ll be doing is providing access to resources and support for minority business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the state and promote the importance of education and supporting Alabama’s 14 HBCUs by featuring each of their flagship programs.”
The event will also shine a positive light on nontraditional career options, intentionally highlighting opportunities through workforce development and acknowledge the hard work of some of the state’s leading minority business professionals.
There will be an Exclusive HBCU Presidents Roundtable from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and an Empowerment Luncheon featuring actress Keisha Knight Pulliam who will be the guest speaker from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. These events are by invitation only.
Two events will be open to the public, the Minority Business and Resource Expo from 1 to 3 p.m. and an HBCU Business Pitch Competition from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. where Pulliam will serve as guest judge. The business expo will include a drumline showcase featuring Alabama State and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical Universities.
High school and college students will also have the opportunity to get registered to vote through Black Youth Vote, which will be on site.
Nix and Tyson decided to collaborate after hosting separate but similar events last year.
“We came together because Sheila Tyson actually approached me about the need for helping to get the word out and to get more minority participation and help in the community in general,” said Nix. “She brought me in on this conversation and introduced me to some people and that’s how this brainstorming came about . . . this is the first time the state has done something of this magnitude solely focused on minority women especially but minorities in general and the black community.”
Though not an official Magic City Classic event, Nix said she and Tyson decided to capitalize on the momentum of that week to get as many people to come as possible.
Both Tyson and Nix believe the event is important because it’s a celebration of the state’s HBCUs as well as connects people to valuable resources.
“Our HBCUs do not get enough attention but it is also an empowerment event for black women, minority women and women in business which is another demographic that does not get celebrated enough,” said Nix. “Empowerment and that celebration is needed. This platform is necessary for energizing this group and energizing our minority youth in terms of learning about the resources that are out there and the nontraditional workforce development programs that are out there. There are so many opportunities that exist… this event serves both purposes.”
Tyson said black women have sat back for too long and it is time for them to have more of a say.
“We have let people sit at the table to make decisions for us, even when it comes to business,” she said. “There are so many women that have a desire to open their own business and they are afraid or don’t know which way to go and need a little encouragement and this is what this event is all about. It’s all about information and who is who of the business world… this is something that should have happened years ago and it is very necessary.”