By Stephanie Davis Smith and Marlinda Henry
Connect, a leader in live events for meeting planners and those in the travel and tourism industry, has come alongside the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals for an unprecedented three-year strategic alliance where Connect will invest in the organization’s student scholarships, internships, and professional development for its members.
The alignment with NCBMP will assist with their mission of empowering Black hospitality professionals as they have a proven track record of moving the needle in this space. Connect will donate $100,000 over the next three years to fund the organization’s important initiatives.
“We have always enjoyed a long friendship with NCBMP, but recent protests and activism has opened our eyes, and we realized we need to take urgent steps within our own industry to support racial equality,” said Chris Collinson, President of Connect.
“The National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals was built on the foundation of empowerment and friendship. We are encouraged by the strategic alignment of Connect Meetings via their actions, not just their public statements and look forward to three years of empowering our friends. It is refreshing to know that NCBMP has friends of all shades and backgrounds that believe in humanity, equity, and the future of our industry,” said Jason Dunn, NCBMP Board Chair.
“We recognize the immediate need to align with great organizations like NCBMP to help ensure our industry is a leader in equality for Black people,” Collinson added. “We have long seen and understood the importance of supporting diversity in our events and company and know these dollars will help toward greater equality for all people. We wanted to double down and partner with NCBMP because the issue is urgent today.”
Stephanie Davis Smith is VP of Content and Marketing for Connect Meetings, and Marlinda Henry is President, National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals.
By Graham Mason
Optus Stadium in the Perth, Western Australia, suburb of Burswood, is ready to welcome crowds back to football next month, following the WA State Government announcement of the relaxing of rules governing mass gatherings.
From Saturday, July 18, Optus Stadium will be in the unique situation of being able to operate at full capacity, without crowd restrictions, and be able to welcome back up to 60,000 expectant football fans.
In the meantime, until the next tranche of AFL fixtures are announced, the Catering team has begun the process of restocking the venue with Gage Roads, Mrs Mac’s pies and all the other food favourites that football fans expect.
The Optus Stadium Operations team has taken the opportunity over the past few months to complete a full range of work, in anticipation events would eventually return to the stadium that last year was voted the most beautiful venue in the world.
That includes a deep clean of retail and premium product spaces, installation of sanitising stations, sanitising of all equipment and areas, upgrades to stadium security and CCTV systems, and decommissioning and now recommissioning of all electrical equipment and infrastructure that had meant big savings in utility consumption.
Optus Stadium CEO Mike McKenna said it has been 121 days since West Australians were able to enjoy an event at Optus Stadium, with the Queen + Adam Lambert concert before more than 47,000 fans, the last event on February 23.
“The opportunity to welcome fans back to Optus Stadium is a great celebration of success for all West Australians in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Everyone can’t wait for the return of the AFL. Football is a major avenue for the people of WA to connect with family and friends, it’s a key component of our community and culture and an opportunity for outdoor social activity and engagement.”
Optus Stadium employs 3,000 casual staff, 300 security, and 200 cleaners and the majority have indicated a willingness to return to work at Optus Stadium.
“More than 60% of Optus Stadium staff are female and we understand that demographic has been hard hit by the impact of COVID-19. We look forward to providing opportunities for all of our fantastic staff to get back to the work they love,” McKenna said.
Along with direct stadium employment, events at Optus Stadium provide business for many WA companies who supply goods and services.
Fans at Optus Stadium purchase up to $50 million per annum in food, beverages and other supplies. Up to 85% of that is supplied by WA companies like Gage Roads and Mrs Mac’s which equates to hundreds of jobs for businesses reliant on stadium activities.
Graham Mason is Head of Media, Communications & Government Relations, Optus Stadium.
Voting is now open and remain so through July 17, 2020 at midnight CT. The complete slate including biographical information and photos can be viewed on the IAVM web site. Our voting process has changed with the introduction of a new nomination/application process for sector directors. The ballot you will see this year will only include the Second Vice Chair election, and if you identified as one of the following sectors: Allied, Arenas, or Universities you will find the election for that Sector Director. At most, you will be voting for two incoming positions on the 2020 – 2021 Board of Directors.
As you know, each regions’ members elect their slate of officers (to include Region Director) and does not require a ballot for the entire IAVM membership’s approval.
All voting members should have already received an email titled “2020-2021 IAVM Board of Directors Election-login information below”. The email contains a generated user name and password to use when logging in to submit votes. If you haven’t received the email, please contact Rosanne Duke via email or by calling 972.538.1025.
As in the past, the ballot is available through Survey & Ballot Systems allowing complete confidentiality and security to our members. The results of the voting will be posted following the closing of the ballot on July 17.
(Editor’s Note: The following submission by Dan Mendelson is written to Frantzer LeBlanc, whose article appeared last week on Front Row News and the IAVM newsletter.)
By Dan Mendelson
Thank you for sharing your stories. They are heart wrenching. We’ve met, talked and done business together. For that I am thankful for our time together in Daytona Beach, Florida, at an IAVM event.
I live in West Bloomfield, Michigan. It’s an upper middle class neighborhood. I have African American neighbors on my street and throughout my neighborhood.
Since coronavirus came upon us I have been running outdoors. When George Floyd was murdered, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a young African American woman out running on the opposite of the street and said, “I am sorry for what is happening to your people.” She acknowledged it and turned to continue running. I stopped again and said, “Please tell everyone in your community that I am sorry for what is happening to you.” She smiled and turned to go. She said, “I will.” Two days later another older woman was out walking her dog. I shared my sentiments with her. She said, “All you need to do is say good morning.” I did and I will. It is where we can start.
I hope by at least acknowledging it, I can make my neighbors who don’t have the same skin color as me understand that I grieve for them when hatred is evinced in our community of America.
Frantzer, we share some common friends. I miss them dearly as I am sure you do as well.
I miss our friends John, Martin, Bobby, and Abraham who were murdered.
Last year I visited the Boston museum built in John’s memory. Here is what I learned. John was a history buff. He would have been a professor but his older brother died in WWII and he was thrust into a new role. If you ever listened to John’s speeches and press conferences you would know that he was intelligent. As our chief executive he made some mistakes. I also visited the museum in Dallas and grieved on that day when I saw how his life was taken from us. I was eight-years-old when John died. I’d been to my Cub Scout meeting that week. My sister had her bat-mitzvah that Friday evening in our synagogue. The Rabbi was quite somber. America changed then.
John Kennedy would have had a great second term and perhaps he would have exited Vietnam when he realized the error of his ways. Our loss of John changed history. That war affected us all and certainly black Americans who were one-third of the foot soldiers in Vietnam. Money spent on the war robbed us of the resources for important social programs when we needed them.
I made a pilgrimage to Martin’s home in Atlanta where he grew up, a National Historic Site. A park ranger led a tour. He talked about Martin’s short time on earth. His home was down the street from the church where his father was a pastor and where Martin learned the cadence of his profession.
Frantzer, have you been there? It is worth taking your family to see how our government has preserved that memory, his church, and created a memorial park. It is beautiful and peaceful. The museum about Martin Luther King, Jr. helped me more to understand the struggle for civil rights and what he went through by being that leader when we needed him.
About Bobby, what can we say? He was in Indianapolis campaigning for the chief executive role of our country in April 1968 when he was informed about Martin’s assassination. He stood up on the back end of a truck and spoke to his feelings. The crowd of majority blacks and whites listened. He implored them not to be bitter. It has been said that this was probably the greatest speech of Bobby’s campaign because it was delivered extemporaneously.
Here is what Bobby Kennedy said: (You can also find this speech on You Tube; it is wrenching to watch.)
“I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to seek justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.
In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black–considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible–you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization–black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.
Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King Jr. did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: ‘In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. We will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence. It is not the end of lawlessness. It is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”
In June 1968, Bobby was assassinated the week before my bar mitzva. Of course, the speech that I’d written to give at synagogue had been polished weeks before Bobby’s death. In it, I quoted the Biblical prophet Isaiah, who spoke about God with these words. “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
It’s been more than 50 years since Bobby spoke about Martin and more than 50 years since Martin spoke to all of us about non-violence. Isaiah encouraged it more than 2,000 years ago and is the lesson that I learned from my teachers and carried it forward to my children. I hope it is the lesson that I think we’ve all finally learned in the death of George Floyd – that non-violence and co-existence is the new lesson for the day, the rest of our lives and for all time for everyone on this infinitesimally small blue marble situated in the vast heavens of the universe.
Frantzer, you are a role model for your family, your community, and your industry and I am thankful that our paths have crossed and look forward when in safety and in health we can see each other again and we can talk about Martin, Bobby, John, and Abraham – who started us on the process of reconciliation so long ago.
My entire life, I have been and will continue to be politically active in important social causes – now is the time for more action. I am here to join you and to fight for justice in this country. Let’s get started.
Dan Mendelson is President of Unitex Direct, Inc., based in Walled Lake, Michigan.
By Molly Rosenberg
Venue Coalition recently announced that Todd Hunt, CVE, will be joining the company as Senior Vice President, Client Services & Partnerships. In his new role, Hunt will focus on national booking and business development while continuing to service new and existing Venue Coalition clients.
An active member in the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Hunt is currently serving as past chair of the Board of Regents at Venue Management School. In addition, he has served on the IAVM Board of Directors and chaired numerous committees and councils for the organization. Since 2007, Hunt has been the Executive Director of the BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center in Tupelo, MS. In that role he actively booked the venue, bringing major headline entertainment including Elton John, James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, Cirque du Soleil, and many more to the region.
“My 30-plus years of experience as a talent buyer and venue operator coupled with my 13 years of experience as a Venue Coalition member have provided me with an appreciation for the services this organization provides to the industry,” Hunt said. “I am excited to join the VC team and for this next chapter in my career.”
“We’re thrilled to add Todd to our team,” said Andrew Prince, Venue Coalition President. “His reputation throughout the industry is impeccable, and the knowledge he brings to the table will allow us to take Venue Coalition to new heights. We know our members will benefit from this new addition.”
Molly Rosenberg is Director of Administration / Human Resources for Venue Coalition, Inc.