The 2019 Annual Circle of Sisters EXPO came to a grand closing with nearly 30,000 in attendance at Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, Saturday, September 7, 2019.

The signature event, Circle of Sisters, continues to reign as the largest EXPO in New York City celebrating and uniting African American women and families. The day kicked off with WBLS’s Shaila Taking It to the Max—an intimate conversation of life, culture and music with Brooklyn native and Grammy Award-winning singer Maxwell. The artist was also presented with the Renaissance Man Award. On the not-to-be missed performance stage, award-winning R&B soul singer and writer Brian McKnight and songstress Deborah Cox gave an unforgettable music showcase that left the audience in a joyful mood.

Four of The Exonerated 5: Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise stood strong and proud as they were each honored with the Freedom Fighter Award recognizing their journey to vindication as portrayed in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series “When They See Us, The Central Park 5.”

Throughout the day, top celebrities and music sensations hit the stage delivering candid and inspiring messages to the audience. From today’s major boss ladies Lisa Price and BET’s Connie Orlando to political analysts and MSNBC hosts Joy Reid and Rev. Al Sharpton, to social justice leaders Tamika Mallory, Ilyasah Shabazz and Gina Belafonte, and 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst—all shared truths and candid discussions to better the community and inner self.

This year’s highlights included a star-studded PowerFULL panel featuring cast members Naturi Naughton, Rotimi, Larenz Tate and Joseph Sikora discussing the groundbreaking show POWER and their careers in entertainment; a one-on-one conversation with author, living style legend and icon Dapper Dan discussing his life from Harlem to now, and presenting him with the Style Icon Award.

“Power represents the culture in an authentic way because of the diversity of the characters in coming from different backgrounds,” Naturi Naughton told a packed auditorium. “Power also utilizes music in a cool way. The fact that even the theme song is important to viewers says a lot.”

“Everyone respects each other. It feels like a family as I’ve watched each actor grow and I’m happy to be a part of the Power family,” said Larenz Tate.

Speaking with the Amsterdam News, “Everybody is invested. And when you have a TV show that’s written—it’s not a reality show; it’s not some movie of the week. I’m not taking a shot at any of those other formats; I’m just saying that this is something that people are invested in. It speaks to the writers, the directors, the producers, and the actors who put this stuff together—so it is nice.”

WBLS’ Lenny Green hit the main stage with a “Good Life” conversation with Hollywood starlet Meagan Good sharing insights on health, love, life and the pursuit of personal happiness. We closed the day with a rousing and electrifying performance by the cast of Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,” followed by the sold-out Gospel Explosion concert, hosted by WBLS’ Neicy Tribbett, Liz Black and Donnie McClurkin with featured performances by today’s leading gospel artists Hezekiah Walker, Anthony Brown, Jonathan Nelson and Yolanda Adams.

“Each year we commit to produce an amazing Circle of Sisters for our audience and annually, we exceed our expectations to deliver a larger, more impactful and memorable experience to our community. This year was no different, with popular celebrities, an increased number of attendees, a plethora of shopping opportunities and simply, an unforgettable way to spend your Saturday,” says Charlie Morgan, senior vice president/market manager WBLS/WLIB. “From the up close-and-personal discussions with our famed celebrities to the music performances by our favorite artists to special award recognitions by trailblazers to a sold-out gospel concert and of course, the curated marketplace, Circle of Sisters remains a consistent success.”

The various panels brought out some heavy hitters.

“A society is measured by the progress of its women,” said Ilyasah Shabazz, activist and daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. “We have to subscribe to the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.”

Also speaking on the Daughters of the Movement panel, Gina Belafonte, daughter of Harry, said, “We need to wrap our minds around the Black woman’s voting power. It’s important for us to learn about our history and constantly have conversations about it—as there is great wisdom/jewels to take in.”

“When people tend to comment on how ‘loud’/’aggressive’ my father was, we forget to look at what we are fighting against,” said Hasna Muhammad. “We were fighting for justice all around the world. Our identity was at stake. He re-instilled the idea that the indigenous have a history. It is important for our children to receive the benefits of our work.”

“Don’t be afraid of the power that you hold inside of you,” declared Dominique Sharpton. “We are the change that we’ve been looking for. Don’t be afraid to ignite the giant that is within you. It’s important to carry out that purpose and drop it into the generation ahead.”

On the “State of Black America: from #Hashtag to Action” panel famed attorney Benjamin Crump determined, “It makes a huge difference to serve on the jury. It’s an important vote as a citizen because you will determine the destiny of Black people living in America.”

“We need our village to come back and be involved with our children and stop the selfish mentality,” urged Akbar Cook. “Today, our children need, more than ever, the village to reach success.”

Of course there were the magnificent vendors and the shopping! From holidays to home goods, and from fabulous food to unique clothes to handmade jewelry, enhancing make up it was busy, community an entrepreneurial and business orientated. The circle is complete!


Additional reporting by Nayaba Arinde