LA County Fair: CEEM 4th Annual Black Excellence
By Dianne Anderson
Celebrating Black Excellence is what’s on the roster this weekend at the LA County Fair, bringing some of the best entertainment around and startups can pitch their best Shark Tank-like ideas to nab $5,000 – not to mention food galore.
The massive two-day event is part of the annual CEEM partnership with the fair, opening up more possibilities for the businesses they support.
Kiana Webb said the festivities are sure to strike up conversations about the value of creating more Black business owners, where she sees a vast potential to work together and bring more capital to the Inland Empire.
“We have a lot of African American-owned businesses in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and some in the eastern part of L.A. County. But, we are so heavily focused on what happens in L.A. County that we forget that [Black businesses] are here,” said Webb, interim CEO of the nonprofit CEEM, the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement.
This weekend, Grammy-nominated artist Major, C.H.O.R.D.S. Youth program, Cidney Stewart, Ray Wimley, James Wright Chanel are a few of many top-tier guests and entertainment. Now in its fourth year, the event is becoming a hallmark of the LA County Fair.
Webb, who also sits on the L.A. County Fair Board of Directors, said this year is about celebrating food and culture with several vendors who are looking to promote the business and their cooperative experience of being part of CEEM.
“We’re celebrating life together, we’re doing it with food and with music, all those are Black-led. Every moment and aspect you come to the fair for the CEEM weekend, you are surrounded by the excellence that we produce every day,” said Webb, a keynote speaker at the event.
National Black Grads, the Inland Empire high school Black graduates will also be recognized for their success, a tribute that began earlier this month when CEEM partnered with CSUSB to honor 850 Black grads.
Foodies will enjoy the culinary delights of D Lo’s Kitchen, OMG Icees, Wut A Pickle, along with long lines of Black food truck vendors.
On Saturday, May 20, Dr. Judy White Educators Awards are among the attractions, youth performances are by CHORDS, comedy hour with host Mel Austin, CEEM Pitch Competition, the Snoop Youth Football League and spoken word by Leve Ross. The day wraps up with performances by Nakkia Gold, Ray Wimley, and headliner James Wright & friends.
Sunday, May 21, features New Orleans Dance, a mental health panel, praise and worship. Also performing is Cidney Stewart, followed by National Black Grad Celebration with a keynote by Kiana Webb, and concluding with Grammy-nominated R&B artist MAJOR.
As CEEM expands its reach, Webb expects it will lead to more business growth, but especially as a community experience. She wants everyone to recognize the value in buying and supporting other Black businesses.
“For us as African Americans, are you doing business together? That experience is what helps drive and change behavior when you’re doing it with joy, fun and unity,” she said.
For CEEM’s second annual pitch competition, startups and business owners will bring their next big business ideas, or plans to continue growing existing business to win the $5,000 prize.
Since developing CEEM, the mission is on a path to help Black businesses grow by working together. The cooperative project is a membership-based hub where every member has equal ownership of the organization, and everyone benefits as the business grows.
Webb compares the CEEM cooperative concept to Costco membership with its benefits, discounts, perks and patronages.
“Cooperatives grow more organically and community-based. As the community buys in and wants to build wealth together, it grows. Once you reach critical mass, it will grow fast. I think for the first time people are seeing how it can work for them,” she said.
Her father, Reginald Webb, was one of a handful of Black McDonald’s owners nationwide in the 1980s, who turned his small business venture into a thriving family franchise with 16 Los Angeles and Inland Empire locations. Their family enterprise sold the chain two years ago.
Webb believes CEEM members and partners can move Black economics toward progress, getting over statistical challenges to a place of equality and access, and strengthen the community as a whole.
“When we look through the lens of parity, it’s really where we originally began with my dad’s vision of how we’re doing things,” she said.
She commends CEO Walter Marquez, president and CEO of Fairplex, and Board Chair Heidi Hanson for being dedicated to the cause, and an advocate to support healthy communities.
“I’m so grateful that the L.A. County Fair wants to increase access and opportunities for African Americans,” she said. “It’s not just talk, they put their money where their mouth is. It’s authentic. I pray that people come and have a good time.”
To learn more about CEEM and LA County Fair lineup times, see https://www.ceem.coop/lacf2023