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Last weekend, entrepreneurs from across the country gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Center City for the 42nd annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Conference.

This year’s conference was titled “The New Black: Creating Impact in Business and Society.” The event featured keynote speaker Russell Simmons and a variety of other speakers and panelists from different fields of business.

Simmons — a business magnate who co-founded hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings, created multiple fashion lines and is an active animal rights advocate — spoke about his business strategies and philanthropy. Simmons is also a devoted practitioner of meditation and yoga, and pointed out repeatedly how they helped shape his career.

“Meditation helps to quiet all the noise in your head,” he said. “The more presence you have, the more control you have over your actions.”

Panels discussed diversity in technology, business life and career paths, as well as two TED talk-style presentations featuring Stanford University graduates Big Piph and Olatunde Sobomehin. Big Piph, a successful rapper and hip-hop artist, talked about overcoming adversity and his new project combining philanthropy and hip hop.

Sobomehin, creator of Team Esface Athletics, spoke about “making popular culture positive,” and empowering young people by applying their interests in basketball, hip-hop and other activities to the technology industry.

While the majority of the conference was held on Saturday, a high school business plan competition took place at the Wharton School on Friday. Students from all over Philadelphia were invited to pitch their business idea for the chance to win a $3,000 grant and initial coaching from Wharton students. Participating students had the opportunity to attend the conference on Saturday as well, where the winner was announced.

Organized by the Wharton School’s African American MBA Association, the conference brought together Wharton students and alumni, global business leaders and many others passionate about diversity in the business world.

“[The conference] is an opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate [Whitney M. Young’s] work in civil rights and empowering the minority and African American community,” said Monica Myers, marketing chair of the AAMBAA and a second-year MBA student. “We can use this time to talk about our perspectives and our careers ... [as well as] meeting new people, getting inspired by our speakers, to walk away from the conference with new ideas and get inspiration to do good and do well for themselves and their communities.”

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