100 Black Men, Inc. Honor Entrepreneurial Women of Color

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Last Thursday evening, men and women alike gathered at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to the riveting sounds of Jazz musician Stephen Crommin and his band to celebrate the 1st Annual Women President’s Organization 2011 Award honoring entrepreneurial women of color. These women not only own their own company but also have built it into a self-supported multimillion-dollar company. President of the 100 Black Men, Phil Blanks, hosted this special event. “We wanted to do something that would be meaningful,” said Marsha Firestone, who is the CEO of WPO. The two organizations joined forces after Betty Hines--a Chair in WPOs Baltimore’s chapter-- came up with the concept and discussed it with her colleagues. “There is an increasing number of diversity in business ownership, specifically by that of a woman of color” said Hines. Ten different women from all arenas of professional work were honored this evening.

“Women of color are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth," announced Blanks. "We are proud to bond and be a part of the women of color organization… These women are opening doors and showing others how it’s done," he continues. Almost instinctively, the WPOs is following the footsteps of the 100 Black Men, Inc. And rightfully so. The 100 Black Men, Inc, which was founded in 1963 after a group of concerned African American men began meeting to determine ways to improve conditions in their neighborhoods, now has 163 Chapters around the world. Their mission has always been to implement programs to improve the quality of life for not only African Americans but also all men of color. "We started right here in NYC. If you work hard you eventually will achieve. What you put in it is what you get. We want our youth to know that even if you are born in Harlem, there is still a pathway to success, explains Banks.

The night was graced with the presence of Ernesta Bowman, a insurance and real estate mogul especially to the Black community. Bowman took the time to share with me a few pointers on making it to the top. "Whatever you profession is be proficient in it. You've got to learn it to understand how to promote it," explains Bowman who is a millionaire in her own rights. Her company E.G. Bowman Co., which was established in 1953, is the largest minority-owned insurance brokerage. "It ain't easy. Brainstorm. Learn how to market your program," Bowman concludes. She has definitely set the trail for other women of color to confidently walk through.

Vera Moore of Vera Moore Cosmetics was one of the 10 honorees at the event. Moore, who was on NBC’s Another World for 12 years was one of the first contracted black actresses. Having worked on set and discovering that the production team struggled finding the right make-up for her complexion, she was inspired to begin her own cosmetic line. “We wanted women of color to look and feel fabulous every day of the week” said daughter Consuela Helms, who is also involve the family-owned business. Vera Moore Cosmetics recently partnered up with Duane Read and can be found inside the store’s upscale beauty section, The Look Boutique. She also carries a skin care line for men called Moore 4 Men.

Shirley Moulton--who was also another honoree-- is owner and CEO of the Academi of Life and promotes 'the art of living'. She noted that too often women don't realize how important it is to live for the moment. "Sometimes you have to come out of your shell and allow people to honor you for efforts and accomplishments," said Moulton. "I'm grateful to be recognized and step into it with a sense of pride," she continues. Moulton urged women to go find the value that is instilled in each and everyone of them.

Other honorees included:

Valerie Lancaster-Investment banker

Joi Gordon-CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide

Dr. Ebony Kirkland-Owner of Ebony Marketing Research, Inc

Mr. Banks ended the evening with an eye-opening conclusion. "Perseverance is our [Black people] trademark, it’s why we aren’t extinct today," said Banks. "Be independent women but be dependent. Our youth are observing. Educate them to be what they want to be," he concludes.

"Speaking Truth To Empower"

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