In an effort to increase youth participation in the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, the Women Vote 2012 Summit traveled to Philadelphia and hosted campaign events at the Obama Campaign headquarters, 209 South 52nd Street, and the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Among those events was a luncheon held for 60 young women leaders at the Temple University Diamond Club on Monday. Through this event, African-American women between the ages of 18 and 21-years-old discussed empowerment, mentorship and civic engagement — and how they can help the re-election campaign.
The keynote speakers were Senior Advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett, and R&B singer Alicia Keys. Both Jarrett and Keys talked about the important role that women play both politically and socially.
Jarrett, who also serves as the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, talked about knowing the president and first lady, Michelle Obama, for 21 years. She shared a few anecdotes about the president’s upbringing, working with him and Michelle in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and his goals to advance education and heath care in the country.
“We have a leader who does not put his political objectives in front of you,” Jarrett said. “He wakes up every single morning, walks into that Oval Office and says, ‘What can I do for my girls and you to grow up in a world were you can do whatever you want to do?’”
Keys, who is a Grammy Award winner, an active philanthropist and co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive — a non-profit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa — encouraged women to rethink the voting process as a positive experience that brings enlightenment and social power.
“It’s wonderful for women like us to have a forum, a place where we can get together and we can talk about what’s happening and what’s going on in our world — because we have an opportunity to change things,” Keys said. “It is absolutely the case that we have to be involved. We must. There is no choice, because if we don’t utilize our voice, nothing will happen.”
Other special guests included Desiree Peterkin-Bell, the Obama campaign’s Pennsylvania Senior Advisor for communications, Councilman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Tina “DJ Diamond Kuts” Dunham, Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and Charisse Lillie, vice president of community investment for the Comcast Corporation and president of the Comcast Foundation.
Aisha Winfield, founder of the Junior Music Executive, a non-profit organization created to expose students to careers in the music business, was also a special guest at the luncheon. She said she appreciated talking with the attendees.
“I told our table that we get a lot of negative images of young people in the city of Philadelphia,” Winfield said. “This is an extremely inspiring event for me to be able to talk to the young ladies about some of the things they’re interested in. It’s just reassuring that we do have young people who are willing to be in leadership positions for the country.”
For Ashley Ashby, this election will be her first time voting. She will attend Montgomery College to study nursing, but Ashby admitted that after talking with Jarrett, she is considering studying law.
“I feel excited,” Ashby said. “I feel included. I feel that my vote will count and he will win.”
Brittany Love, a Philadelphia resident and student at the University of South Carolina, came to the luncheon to understand the president’s campaign, and network with the other attendees.
“I want to know what he’s doing, and how I can possibility make a change to this election,” Love said. “I want what’s best for us. We all come from families that aren’t as fortunate as they could be, so it’s kind of hard for us to pay for our education. But, I could see determination within [the women]. Each of them have a glow that’s like, ‘I’m not stopping and I’m going to get there no matter what.’ That’s what we all have in common.”
The Multicultural Affairs Congress’ 19th Annual Hospitality Education Day served to enlighten more than 200 high school and adult transition students on the employment options within the hospitality sector.
Mayor Michael Nutter highlighted the growth of the city’s third largest industry as he addressed students during the event held Wednesday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Nutter said the city’s hospitality workforce is slated to grow from 50,000 to 60,000 over the next few years; due to the expansion of the convention center and opening of new hotels. He said another 700 to 800 room hotel is needed in Center City.
“This is a very homegrown industry and business. This is an industry that has a great career path,” said Nutter, noting that 80 percent of Philadelphia’s hotel employees live in the city.
“You can start literally by turning down beds, cleaning rooms, and get to the front desk and move up through the management ranks and one day, any one of you here in this room could actually be a general manager or CEO of a hotel — or move up further in the management ranks.”
He also noted the opportunities in restaurant ownership, and the opening of businesses which support the hospitality industry.
“There’s great upward mobility within this particular industry. There are a lot of components to the hospitality and tourism industry,” the mayor said.
He encouraged the students to stay in school, graduate, pursue some form of higher education and to stay involved and connected to the hospitality business.
Participating students hailed from Ben Franklin, Dobbins, Furness, George Washington, Germantown, South Philadelphia and Swenson High Schools, OIC, Philadelphia Academies, Philadelphia Youth Network, Cheyney University and the Community College of Philadelphia.
“It’s really important for us to continue to showcase not just the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but the career opportunities that are available to our youth. Primarily because it’s an industry that many people don’t realize as a way to make a lifetime career choice,” said Tanya Hall, MAC executive director.
“When I was in high school, I had no idea that the industry was one that was so vibrant in Philadelphia.”
The focus on the city’s hospitality sector comes as the convention center marked its first year anniversary of the expansion project this month. The center is now 62 percent bigger.
‘The Pennsylvania Convention Center really is the center of the industry for us. In Philadelphia, meetings and conventions are our lifeblood,” Hall said.
“Tourism is great, but it’s meetings and conventions that keep our hotel and hospitality industry alive. It’s important for students to really understand that this is where it hinges. The success of our industry hinges on the success of this building, so we want them to see that.”
During the day-long event, students tapped into workshops on career ladders in hospitality, information about college admission and the nuances of planning and executing meetings and events. Students also received initial screenings for internships, scholarships and summer jobs and the opportunity to hear from culinary professionals in food and beverage management. The event featured a motivational session with DJ Diamond Kuts, the DJ of rapper Nicki Minaj.
In other Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau related-news, the organization recently showcased its strategies for attracting business to Philadelphia.
“Philadelphia’s reach is global and we must learn more and adapt to our existing and potential customers’ needs and desires,” said Jack Ferguson, president & CEO, PCVB. “With proper planning and implementation, we can attract new visitors and conventioneers from all around the globe and make them feel welcomed and appreciated in Philadelphia.”
In the spirit of giving back to his hometown, Philadelphia native Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Grammy Award-winning hop-hop crew, The Roots, is hosting “Let’s Move It Philly,” a charity concert party taking place on Saturday, February 18. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The musical event, benefiting the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, will be held at Sigma Sound Stage, formerly the site of the historic Sigma Sound Studios, located at 212 N. 12th Street.
“Let’s Move It Philly!” uses hip-hop as “a catalyst to spread awareness about the growing obesity problem in underserved communities. The evening will feature special performances by Trotter and his Roots band mate, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, as well as DJ Rich Medina, DJ Diamond Kuts, Nikki Jean and Money Making Jam Boys.
Despite The Roots’ busy schedule as the “house band” on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” along with a multitude of recording and performing commitments, Trotter became involved in the GrassROOTS Community Foundation after a reunion with an old friend.
“I guess two years ago now, there was an event at Warmdaddy’s — like a ‘get to know Black Thought’ kind of thing,” Trotter said during a recent interview. “I went down there, and I spoke to a bunch of people, and there was a bunch of artists with submissions of their interpretations of a portrait of me. I went down there and just kind of sat on the stage and told my story in short.
“At that event, I made contact with a friend who, when she was going for her master’s at Temple, was my upstairs neighbor. Her name is Janice Johnson Dias. I hadn’t seen her in quite a few years — since we both lived in Philadelphia, but now we both own homes about 10 minutes away from each other in North Jersey. She told me she was a professor at John Jay (CUNY), was traveling the country on this health initiative, stressing fitness and addressing sexual and mental and physical health issues to young girls around the country, and she was getting grants to do her projects.
“We both have daughters who are about the same age — maybe a year apart — and she asked me to participate in a fundraiser that she was doing a year ago in Philly. It was at the Blockley. I did the show, and from that point on we’ve been working in concert in this organization. She asked me to come on board and help get this organization started, and she kind of took a sabbatical from her regular teaching gig and is focusing her energies on this GrassROOTS thing. It was an opportunity and one of those things where, ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I felt like she had come back into my life to use my influence for the forces of good.”
It is significant that “Let’s Move It Philly,” the first step in a 13-city initiative that will address obesity in the African-American community, will take place at Sigma Sound, where the lion’s share of the unforgettable R&B and soul classics known as “The Sound of Philadelphia” were created. Trotter described his return to the building as a “homecoming,” saying, “Sigma is the first major studio that The Roots worked in, and we recorded our first couple of albums there. It’s definitely a Philadelphia historic landmark, if not a national one.” With the legendary sound studio now converted into a performance venue, Trotter is excited about what will take place within its walls on February 18.
“You can expect to see some great Philadelphia DJs such as DJ Diamond Kuts and Questlove of The Roots and legendary DJ and poet Rich Medina,” he said. “You can expect to see artists that work in conjunction with the GrassROOTS organization like Nikki Jean and myself, and some of the MCs that you hear on Roots albums. So it will be very loose. It’s not as structured as going to a Roots concert. It’s not very traditional in that sense, but it’s like a meeting of the minds to celebrate having a successful first year as the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, and to get like-minded individuals on board with us, moving forward.”
Proceeds from the 2012 concert will benefit C.H.I.C.K.S. (Creating Healthy Informed Confident Knowledgeable Selves), a GrassROOTS after school program for girls at Harding Middle School, located in the Frankford section of the city. C.H.I.C.K.S. focuses on health, literacy, wellness and professional skills. To purchase tickets, visit www.grassrootscharityconcert.eventbrite.com.