15th Annual Columbia Black Expo coming to Colonial Life Arena

COLUMBIA – As businesses, small and large, look to take advantage of the strengthening economy, many are looking forward to the 15th Annual Columbia Black Expo. The event, produced by Thomas Media Group, will take place at the Colonial Life Arena on Saturday, May 19, 2012 from 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.

“The success of small businesses is vital to the continued economic recovery in South Carolina and the nation,” said Darrin Thomas, president of Thomas Media Group and publisher of Black Pages USA. “We have hundreds of business owners eager to cultivate relationships with each other and connect with new customers.”

In addition to visiting with various businesses, participants will have the opportunity to attend seminars throughout the day including “Finding Money for College” hosted by the South Carolina National Guard; “Making Your Home Energy Wise” hosted by SCE&G and Cynthia Hardy, and “Can You Act Like A Lady and Think Like A Man?” hosted by Relax, It’s Ok 2b Single.

The theme of this year’s expo is Mind, Body and Soul. “The expo will provide everyone a chance to handle business, gain important knowledge and enjoy family oriented fun,” according to Thomas.

Columbia Black Expo also will feature a Gospel Best competition that, this year, expands to include instrumental, dance and mime contestants in addition to singers, all competing for $11,000 in prizes. The legendary Dr. Bobby Jones will emcee the competition. Gospel recording artist Vashawn Mitchell will also appear as a judge and special guest performer.

A new feature is the Historically Black High School Challenge (HBHSC). “The HBHSC is a new Black Pages USA initiative to pay tribute to schools that were specifically created to educate African American students and assist with scholarship efforts,” said Jeannie Jackson, vice president of marketing of Thomas Media Group. Alumni of C.A. Johnson High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Hopkins High School and Lakeview Elementary School will participate in an interactive black history trivia contest, competing for $1,000 to help support the winning team’s alumni association’s scholarship fund. Among the four schools being highlighted, only C.A. Johnson High School remains open.

Other celebrities scheduled to appear at the 2012 Columbia Black Expo include actress Meagan Good from the box office blockbuster Think Like A Man, Hip-Hop recording artist Diggy, Basketball Wives creator Shaunie O’Neal, Chef Matthew Raiford of the Little St. Simons Island Private Resort, and Bianca Chardei from America’s Next Top Model.

General admission to Black Expo is $12 or $10 with donation of four non-perishable food items. Admission plus premium seating for the Diggy performance is $25. Children younger than 2 years old will be admitted for free. Tickets will be available at the door.