The coronavirus caused uncertainty in many institutions and wreaked havoc on gatherings for the past year. Last year’s 16th A.G. Gaston Conference was held just in time to avoid the impact of the pandemic.
It ended in mid-February 2020 right before things began to shut down. Conference organizers Bob Dickerson and Gaynell Jackson breathed collective sighs of relief just after the 2020 Gaston Conference ended as other gatherings were cancelled.
Even as plans began for the 2021 conference Dickerson and Jackson assumed that things would be back to normal so they booked space and started making plans for the 17th annual conference. As the months and weeks rolled on not only did the virus not subside but it actually increased.
By October 2020 it had become apparent that planning a February 2021 gathering would not be wise and the team put in place a plan to host the conference on a virtual platform. It was important to the organizers that the 17th conference take place.
This event which started as an idea that Dickerson began back in the late 1990s has become one of Birmingham’s Black History Month traditions and had never missed a year since its launch.
It is an opportunity to celebrate Birmingham businessman Dr. A.G. Gaston, focus on the importance of Black enterprise, network with some of the city’s influential people and hear from motivational and inspirational national speakers on topics that empower the audience.
The virtual conference planned for February 23 and 24 promises to continue to do just that. The conference theme, “One Vision, One Cause: Elevating African American Entrepreneurship” will be supported by keynote speakers of national acclaim and panels of local experts.
Headlining the 2021 A.G. Gaston conference is Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. As the conference focuses on the economic state of Black Birmingham as well as Black America, Morial’s voice is a critical one. Morial’s newest book, “The Gumbo Coalition”, shares important messages about leadership and joining forces under a common cause.
Along with Morial, are Maggie Anderson, activist, and author of the critically acclaimed “Our Black Year” will be joined by business strategist and entrepreneur, Shelly Bell, founder of Black Girl Ventures, a social enterprise that creates access for Black and Brown women founders.
This is Anderson’s fifth appearance at the Conference and, based on feedback from conference organizers her message is welcomed time and again. Bell, a compelling speaker and figure blends solid advice with a millennial energy and commands the attention of her audience with both her delivery and her message.
Another speaker, Dedrick Asante Muhammad, has emerged as one of the leading voices in America speaking to issues connected to race, wealth and community. In fact, Muhammad heads up the Race Wealth and Community division of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. He is a long time thought leader on racial economic equality has written and lectured extensively on topics related to the racial wealth divide.
As has been its practice for 16-plus years, the Gaston conference will feature local experts as well. Business owners Selena Rogers Dickerson, Nolanda Hatcher, Brian Hamilton and Jacqui Jones share their views and insights and offer advice to other entrepreneurs. Former UAB professor Dr. Anthony C. Hood, who is now an executive with a financial corporation in Memphis, along with Birmingham Urban League president William Barnes and Irvin Henderson, a North Carolina developer who is central to several local redevelopment projects will also be on hand to share information with the audience.
Although the coronavirus has made it impossible to have a conference in person a virtual platform has some benefits. It allows more people to attend, view, share and has a longer shelf life as the YouTube versions will be available in perpetuity. According to conference organizers the virtual format is something that sponsors, and others may actually like simply because of the longer-term availability of the conference and all of its messages.
The conference is free to the public. Registration is available by visiting the conference website www.aggastonconference.biz
For more information about the conference, you may also call the Birmingham Business Resource Center at (205) 250-6380