Thursday evening, I attended a striking event call the Columbia Talented Tenth CEO Networking Reception. The event was hosted by Mayor Steve Benjamin and seems to be one of his campaign promises and dreams being realized. As he mentioned in a recent article in The State, he wants to reverse Columbia’s talent drain. Specifically, he said: “My goal is to reverse the brain drain.”
And if last night’s event were any indication, he just might be successful in doing so… in spite of the controversial name of the event. Even in the early 1900’s the ‘talented tenth‘ concept was a source of major controversy between W.E.B Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. So, I was surprised, and quite frankly, a little put off by the name. I mean, if your goal is to bring people together and be inclusive, I don’t see how selecting such a divisive name would help reach that goal. I actually thought about sitting this one out. But since it is my duty (and honor) to bring the events to you, opting out of this HOT event was not an option. So, on to the review.
A slam dunk. I can’t say anything to the contrary. It definitely exceeded my expectations, even though I was a little skeptical when I first walked into the room. A young lady that greeted me, asked me my name. When I replied, Teowonna Clifton, she said, “Oh, you’re the one from facebook,” perhaps in response to a comment I left on Sam Johnson’s fb page, questioning whether the event is elitist. “Yes, that’s exactly who I am,” I replied, flashing my brilliant smile. OK… so it’s gonna be like that, I said to myself.
Anywho, once I entered the room, I introduced myself to a couple of people (and had a lemon drop martini) the event took off. I met so many wonderful people who have their own hopes and dreams. I even met Mr. Tigerron Wells, who was featured in The State newspaper article. And I must admit, it would be a shame to loose such a sharp brotha. However, it would also be a shame to loose LaMondre Pough (public speaker and trainer)… and photographer, Asa Pressley… and DJ, Sheem One. They may not be lawyers, doctors or other ‘brainy’ professionals. But they are young professionals who are doing their thang and Columbia will be much richer by maintaining their talent as well.
Personal Aside: Columbia does not only need to retain their brainiest young people, they need to maintain their strongest young people as well. They need the people who are not only strong in mind, but strong in personality, character and body. We need Clevis Harrison (photographer), in addition to Brian Newman (city council member). We need Lelia Washington (RN & tattoo artist), as well as Bakari Sellers. These people are valuable members of society and help contribute to Columbia’s rich culture. Talent comes from all walks of life and can be found in all income and education brackets. Know what I mean? Talent is very broad… and expands far beyond ten percent of our race.
OK… back to the review. Mayor Benjamin spoke for about one minute, in which he thanked everyone for coming out and said he is committed to making this event an annual occurrence. I opted for another lemon drop and made my way over to the hors d’oeuvres. By the time I got around to the food, the only thing remaining was fruit, cheese, spanakopita, and egg rolls. Gone were the coconut shrimp, and regrettably, it appears as if they never had meatballs. Tsk, tsk! (Ya’ll know how I feel about events that don’t have meatballs. But I overlooked it this time, since it was the Mayor’s event.)
Now, I didn’t get to meet everyone because I was became heavily engaged in conversation with fellow contrarian, Attorney Holly Atkins. But the high-ranking business owners/leader I recall seeing/meeting were Pamela Lackey, President of AT&T – South Carolina, Donita Todd, VP and General Manager of WISTV, Rep. Bakari Sellars, Councilman Brian Newman, and many others I can’t recall right now. (Sorry… I should have stopped at one lemon drop).
Oh yeah, the venue. The event was held at the Main Street Tavern at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. Very impressive. I will be adding it to my list of outstanding venues. It was very appropriate for this event.
Final Verdict: Exceeds Expectations. The event was pretty close to perfect. Shouts out to the organizers. For me, the only things that would have made this event better are a more inclusive name and meatballs. No meatballs and your event has an uphill battle to win my approval. But, the Columbia Talented Tenth CEO Networking Reception managed to do so, even though it was meatball-less.
More Columbia Talented Tenth events will follow this weekend. Check back on Monday for a complete review Friday’s all-day conference.
Addendum: I came across this 1996 episode of This American Life. It is titled: The Cruelty of Chidren. I found it very interesting and wanted to share it with you. Please advance the player to 46:50 to hear the story I found most compelling. Lemme know what you think about this in regards to the above blog.