Minneapolis recently held its “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams Expo,” but the event failed to draw the expected crowds, causing many Black-owned businesses to incur losses. Dozens of vendors who participated in the event were left with unsold products, parking fees, food expenses, and other costs they incurred to prepare for the event.
City records showed that tens of thousands of dollars in contracts went to businesses based outside Minnesota, and over $500,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on the expo. Atlanta-based Touched Apparel was contracted to organize the event, but there were communication problems between vendors and the organizers before the event, and many vendors were left with extra products or losses in general.
The head of the Department of Race, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, who was charged with organizing the event, resigned after allegations of misstatement of funding sources and a lawsuit threat against a Black council member. The city is now expected to audit the expo to investigate the alleged wrongdoing and address the concerns of the vendors who suffered losses.
The initial contract with Touched Apparel was for $175,000 and was later increased to $242,000, but the event failed to deliver the expected results for the Black-owned businesses that participated. The vendors spent money on preparing their products, parking, and food, but the lack of attendance at the expo meant that they were unable to recover their costs.
Many vendors organized a pop-up event to help entrepreneurs affected by the expo’s failure, but the damage had already been done. KB Brown of Wolfpack Promotional said that winning a city contract takes an “act of God” for minority-owned businesses, and the failure of the “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams Expo” had highlighted the challenges faced by Black-owned businesses.
The lack of attendance at the event has raised questions about the city’s procurement process and the effectiveness of the Department of Race, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. The city received only three responses to their request for proposals, and Touched Apparel was chosen to organize the event. However, the failure of the expo to draw the expected crowds has exposed the flaws in the selection process and the lack of due diligence in assessing the capacity of the contractor to deliver the expected outcomes.
The Minneapolis city council has promised to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing and address the concerns of the affected vendors. The audit is expected to uncover the root causes of the expo’s failure and provide recommendations on how to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
In conclusion, the “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams Expo” was a missed opportunity for Black-owned businesses in Minneapolis, and the failure of the event has exposed the challenges faced by minority-owned businesses in accessing city contracts. The city’s procurement process needs to be more transparent, and the Department of Race, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging needs to be more effective in promoting the interests of minority-owned businesses. The audit will provide a roadmap for addressing these issues and ensuring that minority-owned businesses have a fair chance to succeed in the city.