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Alabama’s A.G. Gaston Conference inspires Black entrepreneurs

The 19th annual A.G. Gaston Conference kicked off at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, connecting business and corporate leaders with aspiring entrepreneurs with the goal of helping grow Black business in the region.

The long-running conference was inspired by the life and legacy of the late Arthur George (A.G) Gaston, the most successful Black businessman in Alabama during the Jim Crow era of racial oppression and segregation.

Gaston amassed a fortune of more than $40 million from a business empire spanning communications, real estate and insurance. Awarded the title “Entrepreneur of the Century” by Black Enterprise magazine, Gaston was the entrepreneur who built the A.G. Gaston Motel and other Birmingham-based companies, including Citizen Federal Savings & Loan, Booker T. Washington Insurance Co., and Booker T. Washington Broadcasting.

“Once again, we’ve put together a can’t-miss event as we celebrate the entrepreneur of the 20th century and use his memory, his story and his legacy to elevate Black business,” conference co-host Bob Dickerson said. “I couldn’t be prouder of our lineup or more pleased with our agenda, and I look forward to this conference, almost as if I were an attendee, not one of the organizers.”

Every year, the A.G. Gaston Conference offers an array of important speakers and presenters. (contributed)

During the two-day conference, leaders and business owners shared their experiences with entrepreneurs and aspiring Black business owners, with the goal of nurturing the expansion and development of Black enterprises in Alabama.

Keynote speaker for this year’s conference is Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans. Morial is the author of “The Gumbo Coalition,” a collection of lessons on the power of unity in American democracy.

Other speakers at this year’s conference include Natalie Cofield, founder of Walker’s Legacy, a digital platform devoted to supporting Black women entrepreneurs; Nicholas Perkins, chairman, president and CEO of Perkins Management and Black Titan Franchise Systems; and Kimberly Coffman, director of Supplier Diversity of Voya Financial.

Speakers and participants at past conferences have included George Fraser, founder and CEO of FraserNet Inc.; John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope; and Julianne Malveaux, president emerita of Bennett College.

Also presented during the conference is the annual A.G. Gaston Award, which recognizes people and corporations that use their resources to meet the needs of the community. Among this year’s honorees are Rashada LeRoy, CEO of Birmingham-based LRY Media Group; Ron Mathieu, president of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport; and Cynthia Anthony, president of Lawson State Community College.

“Once again, the A.G. Gaston Conference has assembled a stellar lineup including nationally renowned business owners, nonprofit executives and civil rights leaders,” said Gaynelle Jackson, conference co-host. “This is just the group Dr. Gaston himself would have wanted to see and be proud of.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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