2016 is a year of firsts and on Friday, Nov. 11, the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association started another: the first ever Black Ivy League Business Conference.
"The conference went really well. Considering all that's happened in the past week, it was great to have the support of black students across the Ivy League," Wharton junior Nanette Elufa said.
The event featured speakers from Penn undergraduate and graduate students, Morgan Stanley and other prominent business professionals. Some of the more well-known speakers included Eric Haywood, producer and writer of "Empire" on Fox; Keenan Williams, co-founder and president of Rezi, and Mitchell Harris, a member of the global marketing solutions team for Facebook.
The event started off with a dessert reception and opening remarks from President of Black Wharton and Wharton senior Anthony Perry.
“Despite everything that’s gone wrong, we’re here to celebrate black excellence,” Perry said, referring to black freshmen being targeted by racist GroupMe messages earlier that day.
"Due to Friday's unfortunate events, the conference was a much needed opportunity for us to support and lift up each other," said Alexis-Amanda Malcolm, the founding conference chairman and a Wharton junior. "We did not and will not let the deplorable ignorance of others deter us from celebrating the incredible success of our speakers and peers."
Some students who originally expected to attend the conference opted to protest to show solidarity with the black community at Penn instead.
On Friday, the conference focused on turning passions into careers with College senior Araba Ankuma talking about her pursuit of photography and College juniors Khalil, Ahmad and Malik Jones talking about their creation of 3hree Triplets Fitness.
On Saturday, students attended speaker sessions with different themes including "Dare to Capitalize on Unconventional Paths," "Create Your Own Playing Field" and "Dare to Be Young at the Top."
The conference focused on overcoming the obstacles that black and minority workers face, and how to succeed in spite of these challenges.
"I thought the conference was very enriching and a great practical learning environment," Wharton freshman Isaiah Washington said.
Students at the conference who have already shown excellence in their extracurricular activities and accomplishments so far were featured at the conference.
Wharton freshman Jordan Williams was recognized for his work to create Young Moguls Brand. With the clothing line he hopes to promote entrepreneurship to teens.
Wharton senior Victoria Brown was also recognized for her extensive work on campus. She works as a research assistant in the Political Science department with a team of researchers to study racially motivated protests and wealth disparity across different races.
The conference came to a close on Saturday night with the Black Ivy Ball, a black tie event held at the Double Tree by Hilton in Center City, featuring the final and keynote speaker, Carla Harris, vice chairman, managing director and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley.
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