NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, organizers of the Midsouth Summit Black Expo are happy to be back.
On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in North Little Rock for the event, all with a passion for networking and learning.
B.K. Simmons, Director of Innovation at the Foundation for Social Impact, was one of the sponsors for the expo.
"This event gives me chills to see how it was growing and how much we've grown this year," said Simmons. "We have so many young people here taking advantage of being at the expo [and] being inspired and hearing the stories."
These reasons are part of what inspired Teresa Timmons to host the event— which she has done for 18 years.
For Timmons, this event is also an opportunity to help keep Arkansans healthy.
"UAMS is our title sponsor [and] they do free health exams, free mammograms [and] free colorectal screening," Timmons said.
In addition to this, the expo presents an opportunity for black-owned businesses to network with other businesses across the state.
"Businesses that support black and minority people in organizations come in together and network and really find out what the resources are in the community where we can support one another," Timmons said.
Among the crowd at the expo were kids and teenagers who all seemed eager to make a difference.
That was a welcome sight for DuShun Scarbrough, executive director of the Arkansas Martin Luther King Commission.
"We [are] also talking to the kids about a non-violence pledge, pledging nonviolence [and] becoming agents of change," Scarbrough explained.
And he wasn't alone in his efforts to engage the crowd— NBA champion and former Arkansas Razorback Bobby Portis joined him.
The two were hopeful they could motivate someone in the crowd who was listening.
"He [Portis] has roots here and has made it and it inspires youth and others who are trying to do the same thing and follow those steps," Scarbrough said.
For Portis, this was a way to continue giving back to the community that helped him get to where he is today.
"Spread wisdom to the kids that was in the crowd, that has aspiring dreams [and] aspiring goals," Portis said.
While he said that the highest human act is to inspire, the best advice he has to offer anyone is simple:
"Be real with yourself and be authentic, and work as hard as you can," Portis said.