By Barbara Smith
The LA County Fair is celebrating decades of pop culture and nowhere will it be more in evidence than this weekend with the CEEM Takeover Weekend, an event that promises 3 days packed with African-American community and history through entertainment, art and culture. With the Fair’s 2019 theme of Pop Culture, the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) has teamed with the LA County Fair to recognize and celebrate the unique and remarkable contributions of the African-American community in terms of art, film, fashion, sports, and music.
“Nowhere in America do we have a representative share of business revenue,” says CEEM founder Reggie Webb. “Changing this paradigm is essential to improving our economic health and increasing the number of our families that are middle class. CEEM is here to change that by uniting our community around our market potential and providing support to Black-owned business and individuals that allow them to operate successful enterprises while committing to operate in line with shared core values that create a community ethic driving greater prosperity.”
This year’s lineup includes positive hip-hop artist Ray Wimley and Los Angeles based Brunch 2 Bomb; singer, songwriter Candace Boyd; social media superstar Rujohn featuring King Bach & Friends; pop soul musician Major; and gospel artists Karen Wiggins and Rubi Greens. But CEEM’s reach and mission goes far beyond musical entertainment. Sponsored by McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden campaign, a movement to uplift communities and inspire excellence through education, empowerment and entrepreneurship, CEEM’s takeover weekend will showcase historic exhibits, expert panels led by African-American entrepreneurs, a student-led pop culture art exhibit, an interactive Kids Zone, delicious soul food from a variety of Black-owned businesses and an inspirational Gospel Sunday. Says Kyle Webb, CEEM’s CEO and son of entrepreneurial visionary Reggie Webb, the event “offers the community a fun and interactive experience that will celebrate our rich pop culture heritage, offer a path forward by seeking creative ways to disrupt the culture, shine a light on our experiences, and further CEEM’s mission to build wealth within our community.”
Webb brings passion and commitment to this positive cultural and economic movement. The Morehouse graduate spent his early years in Claremont under the expert tutelage of father Reggie Webb, a pioneer in black enterprise, who purchased his first two McDonald’s franchises in Pomona in 1985 with wife Rene, an accountant who ran the back office. At that time, Black McDonald’s franchisees did not have sufficient access to the corporation and thus did not achieve proportionate success. The elder Webb worked with others to strike a deal with the McDonald’s corporation resulting in equal access to opportunities for growth and development and consequent success for these Black-owned businesses. The younger Webb, along with his two siblings, Kiana and Karim, drew on their parents’ commitment to increasing business opportunities for families in Black communities, particularly the Inland Empire. Determined to carry on the family legacy of empowering their communities to increase business opportunities and wealth, Webb has sought avenues to reach out and support others interested in starting and growing businesses. Having earned an MBA from USC, he entered the family business and currently serves as CFO for Webb Family Enterprises which operates multiple McDonald’s franchises and Webb Family Investments. He spends much of his time working with youth in organizations such as Bright Prospect, a Pomona-based college access group that sees young people to and through college, and other organizations and boards that help bridge the gap to access and opportunity to young potential entrepreneurs and business owners in the Black community.
CEEM is a membership cooperative dedicated to increasing wealth, prosperity and educational outcomes for the African American community through mentorship, education and training. Membership is open to all residents of California who are willing to make contributions to promote wealth of African Americans. Members are committed to reaching out and supporting others in starting and growing businesses in the creative and unstoppable paradigm shift the elder Webb began. “We want to change the dynamic so that we own the things we buy,” according to son Kyle. Among CEEM’s stated core values are unity, leadership, advocacy, integrity, and success. This is for people who are willing to more than just talk, adds CEEM founder Webb. “It is for those who are willing to take an active part in making the dream of economic prosperity a reality.”
These are the concepts the Webb organization hopes will be the takeaway for participants of the Takeover. For more information visit the CEEM website at https://ceem-ie.com/lacf.
Tickets to the CEEM Takeover Weekend are available online at LACF.com/buy-tickets.
This article originally appeared in The Precinct Reporter News Group.
IN MEMORIAM: Cheryl Hickmon: National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Dies
NNPA NEWSWIRE — THE BURTON WIRE — Hickmon, a beloved and celebrated member, served the organization for 39 years. The Connecticut native was initiated into the Alpha Xi Chapter at South Carolina State University in 1982 and was an active member of the Hartford (Conn.) Alumnae Chapter. The national office of the sorority released a statement announcing Hickmon’s death which reads as follows, in part: “It is with great sorrow that Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. shares the passing of our beloved National President and Chair of the National Board of Directors, Cheryl A. Hickmon. President Hickmon transitioned peacefully on January 20, 2022 after a recent illness.
By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Culture and Entertainment Editor
The nation is mourning the passing of Cheryl Hickmon, national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, the nation’s largest African-American sorority. Hickmon was elected president of the organization dedicated to sisterhood, scholarship and service November 21, 2021 at the 55th national convention held in Atlanta, GA.
Hickmon, a beloved and celebrated member, served the organization for 39 years. The Connecticut native was initiated into the Alpha Xi Chapter at South Carolina State University in 1982 and was an active member of the Hartford (Conn.) Alumnae Chapter. The national office of the sorority released a statement announcing Hickmon’s death which reads as follows:
“It is with great sorrow that Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. shares the passing of our beloved National President and Chair of the National Board of Directors, Cheryl A. Hickmon. President Hickmon transitioned peacefully on January 20, 2022 after a recent illness.
President Hickmon was a devoted member of Delta Sigma Theta since 1982 and served in various capacities at the chapter, region, and national level before being elected National President. She is remembered not only for her role as a leader but for being a colleague, friend, and most of all, sister.
The entire sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated mourns the loss of President Hickmon. During this difficult time, we ask that you respect her family’s privacy and keep them in your prayers.”
Hickmon’s bio reads, “Cheryl lives her life by the motto … ‘Don’t measure life by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away.’” She was 60.
Parents Raise the Alarm About Violence in Schools, Say Their Votes Depends on Improvement
NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
A new poll revealed that parents continue to express “legitimate concerns” about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources.
Alarmingly, the poll released by the National Parents Union found that 59 percent of parents are very or extremely concerned about how schools are teaching race and diversity.
“Many Black parents are worried that schools are being harsher on students of color compared to white students,” researchers noted in the poll.
The National Parents Union counts as a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States.
Conducted from November 19 to November 23, the survey included 1,233 parents who also count as registered voters.
Researchers found that 84 percent of parents are concerned about how schools address the threat of violence, and 59 percent identified increased bullying or violence in school as a significant issue.
About 52 percent said student mental health after coping with the pandemic is a significant issue, as well.
“Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.
“Now, it is incumbent on schools to do something about these issues, especially given the federal funds available. It’s not rocket science. Rather than repaint a football field, first, make sure that there are enough counselors to help students cope with mental health issues,” Rodrigues asserted.
The poll also asked the parents who responded that they were concerned about the threat of violence, which worries them the most.
The top three most pressing concerns remain:
- 44 percent: schools not having enough counselors, psychologists, or social workers to work with students
- 42 percent: schools not having resources to keep weapons out of schools
- 39 percent: schools not having school resource officers or police accessible on campus
- 59 percent of parents are extremely or very concerned about how schools are teaching about race and diversity; Among Black parents, 69 percent share this sentiment, which drops slightly to 67 percent among Hispanic parents.
Of the overall number of parents who are at least somewhat concerned (79 percent):
- 48 percent say what concerns them the most is schools are not teaching accurate information about the issue of race.
- 42 percent are most concerned about schools pushing a progressive agenda onto students
- 56 percent of GOP parents who are concerned say this is their top concern
- 32 percent are most concerned that schools aren’t focused on the issue enough
- 46 percent of Black parents who are concerned say this is their top concern
- 78 percent of parents are concerned about how schools are handling disciplinary issues
- Nearly half (46 percent) of Black parents who said they are concerned about how schools are handling disciplinary issues are worried that schools are harsher on students of color compared to white students
- 38 percent of parents trust Democrats to do a better job of handling education; 31 percent trust Republicans; 14 percent trust both equally; 11 percent trust neither
Among parents who identify as Independents, 28 percent trust Republicans and 20 percent trust Democrats.
“These findings underscore the importance of the very thing we have been imploring school leaders across the country to do – listen to the parents in your community,” Rodrigues stated.
“It also reinforces the need for those running for office to take the concerns of parents very seriously or risk losing elections.”
COMMENTARY: Telling Our Family Stories Keeps Black History Alive
We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of our favorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.
Let’s Talk Black Education
By Dr. Margaret Fortune, President/CEO Fortune School
When we were kids, my dad would take us to football games at the University of Southern California (USC). I didn’t care much for football, but I loved it when we’d stay after the game to hear the USC marching band play. His love for marching bands is why we have a drumline at the public charter school I founded and named after my parents — Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School.
We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of ourfavorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.
As the story goes, one day back in 1947, my grandma sent little Rex to the corner store to get some eggs so she could bake a cake. My dad bought the eggs and put them in his pockets. On the walk home, he encountered a marching band high-steppin’ down the dusty road to his mother’s house. Little Rex got so excited that he followed the band, beating on his legs like drums all the way home and, yes, breaking all the eggs.
“Rex and the Band” explores a day in the life of Rex, a spirited young boy who dreams of one day playing in a high-energy marching band like the ones he enjoys watching with his father during North Carolina A&T football games.
Reading my sister’s beautifully illustrated book, I cried tears of joy. Telling our family stories is such an important way for African Americans to keep our history alive. Griots, or storytellers, are the reason why we know the truths that we do know about our family history and ancestors.
I believe all of us can think back to when our grandparents would tell us stories about our ancestors who may have passed on before we were born. It was their way of making sure our stories were not only told but preserved.
The Black press has been the clearinghouse for many stories that have impacted the Black community over time. My sister published her first poem in Ebony Jr. as an elementary school student and then in high school she interned at the Sacramento Observer newspaper.
Gwen founded Cocoa Kids Books to publish books like “Rex and the Band” that encourage Black children to dream, aspire for more, and soar because they see themselves reflected in stories that are engaging, authentic, uplifting, and inspiring. I’m so proud of my big sis! You can buy Gwen’s book at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/rex-and-the-band.
Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.
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