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Sharing the same issues and desires as women in the business was our common bond and made the whole thing jell.
NABFEME SUMMIT SOARS
Our Correspondent Crashes a Helluva Confab
When was the last time you went to a convention that began and ended on schedule, was well-organized, well-attended and interesting throughout? The NABFEME 2001 Summit (put on by the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment), which took place Aug. 23-26 in Toronto, was one of the best conferences ever.

Founder Johnnie Walker and staff did an exceptional job putting together this unprecedented event. Keynote speakers Jean Riggins, Suzanne de Passe, Felicia D. Henderson and Kevin Liles were insightful and inspirational. Honorees Terri Rossi, Sylvia Rhone, Thea Mitchem, Kashon Powell, Kathy Brown, Terri Avery, Daysha Parker, Monica Starr, Carla Boatner, Tiffany Green, Kris Kelly and Tosha Love were all gracious and beautiful. We also celebrated Toronto’s first Black-owned and operated Urban station, Flow 93.5, and its PD, Michelle Price.

The panels and workshops focused primarily on what it’s really like to be a woman in the music business. The sacrifices we make, juggling family and career, standing up to the boys’ club, prejudices and labeling were among the topics discussed.

The presentation of the awards was both well thought-out and beautifully executed. At a time when most conventions inspire little more than hanging at the bar by day and playing poker by night, it was refreshing to attend panels that were packed and exciting. Participation by attendees was key in making this a worthwhile experience. That said, the most profound part of my three-day experience was the camaraderie, love and understanding among the women who attended. Most of us were complete strangers at the beginning of the summit. Just three days later, we felt like we’d known each other for ages. Sharing the same issues and desires as women in the business was our common bond and made the whole thing jell.

I was excited to meet the cast of Showtime’s "Soul Food" and Executive Producer Felicia D. Henderson, a well-spoken, brilliant and humble individual. I couldn’t be in the same room as Suzanne de Passe without wanting to jump up and hug her. The story of her journey, beginning in the early Motown years as Berry Gordy’s right hand, was breathtaking. You could hear a pin drop in the room while she spoke. Sylvia Rhone’s presence was the icing on the cake. To be so close to one of the industry’s female role models was invigorating.

It took a woman’s mind to pull off an event like this one. I applaud Johnnie Walker for her integrity and strength. She is one class act. I’m betting next year’s NABFEME will double in attendance and prove to be an even more worthwhile experience than this one was.

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