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What Happened and How Was It – The Columbia Black Expo Opening Reception and Auction

On Thursday night, I attended the opening reception and auction for the SC Black Expo. Since this was an invitation-only event, I’m sure many of you did not attend. But that’s what That Teowonna! is here for… to answer the questions: What Happened and How Was It.

First, let’s talk about the auction. There were a number of items and ‘packages’ put together by area entities and businesses up for bid. The types of items were: Art by Ernest Lee The Funky Chicken Man and packages for services like: HVAC, pest control, dental services, carpet cleaning and many more. Other packages for spa services, and week-end get-a-ways were also auctioned off. There was even a package that consisted of two Maxwell concert tickets and an overnight stay in the Columbia Marriott. Nice. The proceeds of the event went to support Palmetto Health Cancer Research.

The reception also served as the unveiling of the Columbia Edition 2010-2011 Black Pages. To be honest with you, when they said they were going to ‘unveil’ the new who’s who book, I thought they were unveiling some kind of a masterpiece. Actually,.it turned out to be just more of the same ole’ same ole. It highlights all of the 'top' movers and shakers in Columbia… the current and rising stars. But what is conspicuously missing are sections like: Who in Public Service; Who’s Who in Community Activism; Who’s Who in Volunteerism; Who’s Who is Mentorship. I know some people who are doing some great work for the people of Columbia who should be recognized. Man, what does it take to get recognition for good deeds in this publication? A $1000 ad?

Now that that’s been said… let’s talk about the event itself… off the chain. I can’t even lie; I had a fabulous time. Here are the best things about the evening:

1. The Music. From the moment you walked through the door, you were engulfed in the smooth jazz sounds of the Phase of a Pulse band, featuring an outstanding lead vocalist. The music helped to set the mood for the evening that ensued. When the vocalist broke out in George Gershwin’s “Summertime”, I knew I was in the right place. But I do have one thing to say about the music that is neither a compliment nor a criticism… just an observation: Can black people ever have a single event without the electric slide? I mean damn.

2. The Venue. The event was held at 701 Whaley Street in the historic Olympia district. For those of you who don’t know, 701 Whaley Street isn’t only the address, it is also the name of the building. This artsy venue was the best possible location for this event as it had just the right combination of space, swagger, upscaledness, down-to-earthness, and culture. The atmosphere that this place created propelled this event into the memorable category for me… memorable good, not memorable trifling!

3. The Food. Absolutely delish . Everyone I talked to was raving about the cuisine that was expertly prepared and served by Houston’s Enterprise Catering. I mean, Frank and Millie Houston really put their foot in it. As the meeting planner for the best insurance company in the whole southeastern region, I have been to some swanky receptions. Heck, I’ve planned some swanky receptions. But that was without a doubt some of the best reception food I’ve ever had…absolutely superb. Houston’s will definitely be hearing more from me.

4. The Art. In addition to the art being auctioned off, there were excellent pieces displayed on the walls of 701 Whaley Street. No offense to Ernest Lee The Funky Chicken Man, but I wish there were more of a variety of art up for auction, like that of local artists Keith Tolen and Schring Khaka, both of whom I had the pleasure of meeting. There was one piece by Keith Tolen that literally jumped off of the wall. When you are in the area, go by 701 Whaley Street and take a look at it… you will know exactly which one I am talking about. The other piece of art that got my attention was a paint/varnished wood piece by Schring KhaRa. (It’s times like these that I wish I had not dropped Art History in college.) That piece has my name written all over it! As a matter of fact, I’m certain that Schring channeled That Teowonna! when she working on it. That piece is so me that I’m not going to talk about it anymore for fear ya’ll might go scoop it up before I can raise the money to buy it.

5. The Crowd. This invitation-only event managed to muster up some of Columbia’s finest. Seeing as how I didn’t get a formal invitation, I think the event host, Thomas Media, needs to update their who's who list. But much to your amusement, as a bona fide member of the media, I was there by default. Ha-ha. Anywho, I saw local who’s who: doctors, lawyers, politicians, businessmen… blah blah blah. All those who make an event an event. All those who always receive recognition, therefore, I don’t need to do it today.

But much to my delight, I ran into Columbia’s #1 Who’s Who right now: Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin. Mayor-elect Benjamin and I had a brief but confirming conversation. He said he read and loved the blog I wrote last week, Columbia’s Play Play Elite Fired Chief Tandy. Now, to keep him out of trouble, he didn’t say he agreed with my assessment. But he didn’t say that he disagreed either! What our conversation confirmed for me was that I have a voice worth listening to and write words that are being read. Thank you, Mayor-elect Benjamin. I appreciate you and look forward to a brighter Columbia under your leadership. Just know that when I write about you, which I will eventually do, please remember that I have a voice worth listening to and write words that are read.

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