BRONZEVILLE — The Black Women's Expo, a 20-year tradition in Chicago, might be expanding for a national tour, including a stop in the nation's capital.
"Hopefully, if things work out, the expo will be in Washington, D.C., this year," founder Merry Green said. "We'll have to see how things go. I don't know if it will be in every city but I would like to do a national tour."
More than 500 vendors — from universities and restaurants to book stores and hospitals — participate in the expo annually, Green said.
"There's a wealth of information available at the expo, from free seminars and workshops to health and wellness screenings," Green said. "A lot of women get their first mammogram at the expo."
Last year's event drew 27,000 people, said Green, who added that attendance averages around 25,000 annually.
The event runs from Friday-Sunday at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under.
Radio personality Doug Banks will broadcast his nationally syndicated show live from the expo from 2-6 p.m. Friday.
The expo focus, Green said, has always been and will always be, to empower and uplift black women and black businesses.
The keynote speaker for the expo is "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts, who will speak at noon Saturday. Actress and Chicago native LisaRaye McCoy will speak at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton will kick off the expo when he speaks at 6 p.m. Thursday at the expo's annual Phenomenal Woman Awards, where several black women, including advertising executive Carol Williams, will be honored.
In 1993, while working as a promotions director for V103 radio, Green approached her bosses about producing an expo for black women. Green said the station loved the idea and put her in charge of running it. The expo skipped a year in 2012 but resumed the next year after some regrouping, Green said.
Originally it was called the V103 Expo for Today's Black Woman. But in 2007, when Green and V103 parted ways, she became sole owner. Today Green's company, MGPG Events Inc., produces the event, but V103 still participates as a vendor at the expo.
Green said the name change was a no-brainer.
"Most women who go to the expo were calling it 'Black Women's Expo' anyway, so I decided to change the name," Green said. "The new name is better from a branding standpoint, too."