Raleigh is part of a new sisterhood.
On Aug. 13, the city will host Sister Summit, an expo that celebrates women of color in business, entertainment and life. Charleston and Columbia, S.C., will also host the event.
“We’re excited about growing into different markets,” said Deona Smith, who started the Sister Summit Foundation five years ago to inspire, educate and empower women of color. “We’re especially excited about Raleigh, with its institutes of higher learning and the research hub.
“It seemed to be a great fit for us and the woman we like to attract: a very progressive woman who’s interested in taking her life to the next level, personally and professionally.”
Smith said as an entrepreneur she was one of few, if not the only, woman of color at various conferences and workshops. Sister Summit tries to fill that void.
Year-round, Sister Summit conducts smaller, one-day conferences, or boot camps, in host cities to “dig into the meat of a subject,” Smith said. Sister Cinema champions independent films by women of color.
“And while our focus is on women of color, everyone is welcome,” Smith said.
She defines “women of color” as not only African-American, but also Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. And she doesn’t exclude our white sisters.
Men can also attend the expo. Children and teens, too.
Smith expects thousands to attend the event at the Raleigh Convention Center, which will feature vendors, performers and more. Avis Jones-DeWeever, the former – and youngest ever – executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, will be the keynote speaker and will discuss women in leadership and success.
Local experts will lead seminars on entrepreneurship, health and wellness, style and beauty, financial literacy, parenting, self-empowerment and relationships. For teen girls: body image, bullying, careers and business, and money matters.
The expo also features a vendor village of local businesses, arts and crafts and do-it-yourself projects; live entertainment by local vocalists and spoken-word artists; a fitness stage; games and prizes; and a children’s zone.
“We want to make it very much a Raleigh event,” Smith said, encouraging all of us to share our time and talent with other women.
It’s also the perfect marketplace for local businesses, since women make 85 percent of all household buying decisions.
“Companies shouldn’t ignore the power of their purses,” Smith said.
In a true show of southern hospitality, Smith applauds Raleigh’s willingness to embrace Sister Summit. And Sabrina Little applauds Sister Summit as she helps Smith organize the expo across the miles.
“It’s definitely something we’re hungry for,” said Little. “It gives us a place to go to meet, support, aid and motivate other women; learn about ourselves and each other.”
Sister Summit events are tailored to destroy barriers and erase stereotypes. They encourage self-nurturing and investment and allow space for us to support each other and model the Sister Summit motto, “We lift as we climb.”
“In our global society, competition is real, but there’s always a need for women to support other women,” Smith said. “We all share the same joys and we share the same struggles. That needs to be explored so we can see each other that way – as more alike than we are different.
“Yes, we can play in the sandbox without being catty.”
Sister Summit is family now.
“We can’t build women up today and then say, ‘Hold that thought for 365 days,’ ” Smith said. “We can’t bring that kind of inspiration and leave folks without any direction. We have to keep fueling that.
“We’re sisters now.”
If you go
The Sister Summit will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Raleigh Convention Center. Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger. Go to www.SisterSummit.com.