During the first weekend of the month, African-inspired music, good food and relaxed conversations filled a two-story building in View Park. KolorCon, an event to kick off Black History Month, was an ideal spot for millennials and Gen Xers looking to casually network while building skills and growing their businesses.
Zaneta Smith and Vincent Brathwaite co-founded the event, which is now in its second year. Although last year’s KolorCon was held in the summer, this year’s event was intentionally held on Feb. 1 and 2. According to Smith, deciding the date for this year’s KolorCon was easy.
“When Vincent and I had the strategy session of when would be the best time, we thought Black History Month. I'm not sure if you go to a lot of black history events, but the events I usually go to during Black History Month involve baby boomers, and there are not a lot of events for millennials and Gen Xers,” Smith said. “[They’re] either at a church, or it’s a gala or a fundraiser, but where are the events that are kicking off Black History Month in a fun way that we want, ushering in the next two generations following the baby boomers?”
Terry Hart, one of the event’s attendees, came to see his company director speak at one of the KolorCon panels but remained to hear the voices of other speakers, as well.
“Getting information is the number one thing, and having information is what can elevate you,” Hart said. “This event has a lot of great information that they’re giving out about connecting, about abling, and those are the kinds of things and encouragement that we need: [black] people are out there and succeeding at their businesses.”
Some of the keynote speakers included Adrienne Reed and Benjamin Walker, co-founders of the networking company Brunch 2 Bomb.
“Zaneta is doing the work to bring us together and give us platforms to reinvest in ourselves and give back to our [black] community, and she’s doing all that work in a community that was historically ours,” Reed said. “I really love the work Kolor Society is doing.”
According to Brathwaite, KolorCon was an idea for a long time in the making. “It was a conversation Zaneta and I had just talking about...wanting to provide content...and access to people that would continue to help continue to build a legacy,” Braithwaite said. “[KolorCon is] just another opportunity to engage without [black] community by providing some unique content to individuals, opportunities, etc.”
As it turns out, KolorCon is only a smaller part of a larger project named Kolor Society, a social club for members of the African diaspora who want to network across South L.A.
Smith, who is also the CEO of Kolor Society, said KolorCon was created to meet the member’s needs.
“The events are [Kolor Society] member-curated, but members said a whole bunch of stuff that they wanted that we couldn’t possibly fit into events in one year,” Smith said. “So we decided to have KolorCon, which is a gathering that encompasses a number of things that the members wanted into one event."
“After KolorCon, we hope that attendees will get the knowledge to curate an impactful life, that they will get marketing tips to market themselves, their brand and their business in a successful way and that they will gain knowledge from the industry leaders that we will have speaking today,” Smith said.
In addition to a myriad of speakers, KolorCon also invited several black business owners to sell their products and services. Natasha Oiye, owner of Motherlandstuff, sold authentic Kenyan jewelry.
“I buy the jewelry at more than it’s worth, more than [the Kenyan women] usually get and then I sell it here. And then I feel like I am giving people a piece of the motherland,” Oyie said. “I tell them what the motherland is like, what we do in Africa, and that way, I feel like when they wear these pieces they know the story behind it and the motherland comes to them.”
Will Catlett, director of the 2019 film “Malcolm” and recurring actor in the CW’s “Black Lightning” is a personal friend of Brathwaite. He came to discuss how he found success in his career and shared some inspiring words for how others could do the same.
“Just being here and watching everybody and listening to other speakers...people have so much to say and so much information,” Catlett said in an interview. “You advance in this world by information that you know, so I would highly recommend [KolorCon] and I definitely will be back, for sure.”
Kolor Society will host more events throughout the remainder of the year.