Bay Area Women’s Empowerment Expo

The inaugural Bay Area Women’s Empowerment Expo held Oct. 19 aimed to ignite the power within.

BY BRITTANYE BLAKE, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG — “What if a group of educated and enlightened women came together to empower one another,” asked Jenee Skipper, vice president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter. “We would have a room full of beautiful visionaries, beautiful minds and girl bosses!”

And so started the inaugural Bay Area Women’s Empowerment Expo held at Pinellas Technical College St. Petersburg and presented by the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter and The Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County, Inc.

Keynote speaker and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin engaged the crowd by sharing her personal story of losing her husband suddenly, after 18 years together.

When her husband died of a heart attack, she had to find a way to nurture her grieving children as she processed her own pain, she said. Through this tragedy, she said, she found strength, and she invited attendees to “ignite their power” as well.

“I felt that my power to attain that kind of happiness could never be recaptured,” she said. “And I have never been more wrong. My power never left me – my power sustained me…when all that was left was my flickering pilot light, somewhere deep in my soul, in a place my grieving heart could not reach, I want you to know that it was then that my power became a blazing flame that carries me forward to this day.”

After her speech, many women in the audience embraced her with smiles and hugs, expressing how encouraging she was.

Attendee Beverley Richardson said, “I identify with Dr. Tomalin’s story of finding your power. I lost my husband of 12 years suddenly…I had to find the power to provide love to my four-year-old daughter.”

There was a variety of vendors to shop, learn and explore. Vegan and cruelty-free lipsticks, lip glosses and concealers from Loud Mouth and statement pieces by Pardon my Fetish Accessory Boutique were on full display.

“When I think of the word ’empowerment,’ said Lisa Brody, president of the ZUO Chapter in addressing the audience, “I think of providing information that will enable someone to achieve something and advocating for others.”

And that is precisely what the expo did. Jo Ann Nesbitt was on hand with literature on homeownership and Tommalisa Lumpkin was there advertising her book “Menopause vs. Puberty.”

Northside Hospital with breast self-exam information and a magnetic health card for your home and Bayfront Hospital gave blood pressure readings were just a few of the healthcare vendors.

A panel discussion entitled “Women on the Move” moderated by Dr. Cynthia Johnson, director, Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development, included panelist Shannon Ligon (Pretty Smart Law), Lorna Taylor (Premiere Eye Care) and Sharon Hayes (Bayfront Hospital).

Each of these women spoke to being successful in male-dominated fields, demanding equal pay, taking care of self and much more.

Breakout sessions allowed participants to become educated on topics such as managing money, social connectivity, engagement, mental health, moving through age and personal branding.

One of the most popular breakout sessions was personal finance and wealth-building presented by Precious Green, Regions Bank Manager from the Tyrone branch. She interacted with attendees by communicating the terms in real-life scenarios. She also gave out resources dealing with Regions “Becoming a Millionaire” tracker, attainable financial goals and transferable wealth.

The ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. are already planning next year’s expo guaranteed to top last month’s event.

Brittanye Blake is a student reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Visit for more info.

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