Reminder Assistant Editor
SPRINGFIELD On March 25, The Dunbar Community Center in Springfield will host their 4th Annual Success Showcase: An Exposition of Black Businesses.
Executive Director of the Center Cherylyn S. Hatchett said the initiative was started as a reaction to the lack of exposure youth have to successful blacks with legitimate businesses.
"We were trying to have a positive impact on young people in this community," Hatchett explained. "[The youth] are seeing drug dealers and rappers as successful and there was not high enough visibility of people who have an idea and work hard to take that idea to fruition and be successful on various levels."
Hatchett said this event is also a networking opportunity for blacks with small businesses within the area. She believes that there are many positive efforts going on in the local community and that this exposition is a chance to combine them.
"What we did not have is one venue where they can all come together," she said, adding that it is also important for youth to come into an establishment where the successful people look like them.
"Growing up in a community and a population where the majority does not necessarily look like you and when you open a magazine and they look like someone else, success is, I guess, how it is perceived in the various mediums it comes to us," Hatchett said.
"[On March 25] they can walk into a room and see people that look like them. [They can] find out what it took for them to be successful so it can be real and say 'if you did it, I guess I can do it, too.' We want to motivate," she added.
Hatchett has worked at Dunbar for 18 years. She said she came from parents and an environment where success and excellence were not a choice, but a requirement.
"As I became an adult I understood that it has helped to shape the direction and quality of life that I enjoy ... I appreciate being in a position that I can set that kind of tone for many others who work with young people," Hatchett said.
The Dunbar Community Center has been a staple in Springfield for many years. It provides programs on education, mentoring, leadership development, athletics and recreation, theater and cultural enrichment, job training and special needs programs for those who are mentally and developmentally challenged.
Hatchett said the exposition is reaching a turning point.
"We've got more interest from businesses this year then we ever have before," Hatchett explained, noting that businesses have been initiating contact with them this year.
She also hopes events like this help erase misconceptions that often shadow minorities.
"The myth that exists about people of color being lazy, on welfare and having to work for others at below living wages, hopefully this will help to break down some of the myths to the larger community as well," Hatchett said.
Dunbar hasn't had the resources available to sprout internships or job shadowing from the event. She said with the small staff they have not been able to put in the kind of work it takes to make that happen yet.
In conjunction with the exposition, there will also be a teen talent showcase presented by Gumbolive.
Gumbolive is a local showcase for all forms of talent song, dance, poetry, art, and more. While it was initially started for adults, it has since branched come out with a Teen Gumbolive edition.
"The talent part came about because we needed a draw, a carrot to get more kids," explained Hatchett. "Particularly the middle age group and up are those that we are trying to target."
Gina Emanuel of Ruff Edge Management will be there in addition to local portrait artist Steven Robaire Anderson. Other participants include: James Lewis for "Reflections Emporium," Andrew Keaton for "Brotherhood on the Move," DJ KLS of WTCC and Aaron Williams of the cable television show "Living in the 413."
Free health screenings will also be conducted by Health New England, Western New England Renal and Transplant Association, and Medical and Kidney Specialist Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker.
"We lost one of our volunteers and friends right here playing basketball," Hatchett said. "He was in his 50s, but we're trying to use that to get other people in the community our African-American men to understand that preventative [measures] are critical. So many of us have high blood pressure and kidney disease. It needs to be higher on our radar screen to be detected."
Hatchett said the health of the economy is important as well.
"The health of the community is based on a number of factors," Hatchett said. "As people grow and develop and become productive, [their productivity] contributes to the economy, it's a cycle."
In the end, Hatchett said she wants the youth to know one thing: "anything is possible."
"There is no limit. The sky is the limit. They need a dream, an idea, a plan and a commitment to work hard and anything is possible," Hatchett said.
Sponsors of the 4th Annual Success Showcase: An Exposition of Black Businesses include: The Springfield Department of Health and Human Services, Eastern General Contractors, Wynn Image Makers, KFC/A&W, Brown's Auto Body, Computer Ambulance, SpringBoard Technology, the New England Black Chamber of Commerce, WEIB 106.3 Smooth FM, and Unity First.
The 4th Annual Success Showcase: An Exposition of Black Businesses will take place this week on March 25 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at The Dunbar Community Center, 33 Oak Street, Springfield.
To learn more about Ruff Edge Management visit www.ruffedgemanagement.com. Individuals interested in participating in Gumbolive or Teen Gumbolive can call 788-7600.