ALBANY, Ga. -- The first Albany Area Black Expo is set to get under way this evening with organizer Christopher Pike hoping it will become a yearly occurrence.
The event will kick off at 5:30 with Business After Hours at the Hilton Garden Inn, followed Thursday with a "Women of Purpose" luncheon highlighted by speaker actress Lynn Whitfield.
Whitfield first appeared on "Hill Street Blues" and the Lousiana native has been busy acting ever since. She's involved in two projects this year -- "Things Fall Apart," starring Ray Liotta, Mario Van Peebles and 50 Cent, and "Mama, I Want To Sing!," starring Ciara and Patti LaBelle. In recent years, she's also had a recurring role on "Without a Trace" and appeared in episodes of TV shows including "FlashForward."
The event will run through Saturday and all events are at the Hilton except for a concert at the Civic Center on Friday night.
"We are looking at this event as an opportunity to celebrate African-American culture," said Pike, an Albany city commissioner. "We look at it like St. Patrick's Day or the Indian festival for black people.
"We want everybody to come out and enjoy themselves and hopefully begin to understand the culture."
Friday will begin with with a corporate business breakfast at 7:30 a.m. presented by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Advance tickets are $15 and $20 at the door.
That evening at the Civic Center, The Intimacy Tour with Kem and Joe will get started at 7 p.m. Tickets range in price from $35 to $75.
Saturday is filled with a trade show and business workshops.
"This thing has been a doozy to put together," Pike said. "This has been a big undertaking and is a humongous event for Albany. It runs across multiple days with lots of different components.
"We've been working on this for the past six months."
Pike said the Expo has exceeded his expectations.
"In my mind, the event is already successful," he said. "The Woman of Purpose luncheon is already sold out and we've had to add tables for the trade show."
And what would Pike consider a good outcome for the week?
"If at the end of the week we've left a positive impression on Albany that was uplifting, then that would be what I'd consider a success," Pike said.