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‘Empire’ actor, ‘Shark Tank’ star coming to Columbia Black Expo

Byrshere Gray, who raps by the name Yazz, plays Hakeen in the hit FOX drama “Empire.”
Byrshere Gray, who raps by the name Yazz, plays Hakeen in the hit FOX drama “Empire.” Byrshere Gray

WHAT: Columbia Black Expo 2015

WHEN: Events through Saturday, May 9. Full schedule at blackexposouth.com

WHERE: Multiple locations. Saturday events at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

The Columbia Black Expo has everything from business seminars and a “Shark Tank” competition to a spa and a golf outing.

The annual expo began earlier this week, but has its marquee events this weekend. The expo’s golf tournament tees off at 10 a.m. Friday at the Golf Club of South Carolina at Crickentree in Blythewood. South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley and former Gamecock football player Bruce Ellington will both attend the tournament, the proceeds of which will go to Midlands charities.

Later that night is the Taste of Black Columbia, showcasing local African-American chefs, caterers and restaurateurs at the State Museum. Competing for Best Savory Chef, Best Dessert Chef and Best Display will be Allean’s Southern Cuisine, Bruges Chocolates, True BBQ and many other local favorites. The proceeds from the event, which costs $65 if tickets are purchased before May 8 and $85 if they are purchased on May 8, will go to South Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities, including Benedict College and Claflin University.

On Saturday is the main event, the 18th annual Black Expo. The expo features business-focused seminars sponsored by groups including Food Lion and the S.C. Department of Transportation; other seminars focus on issues in the black community, from hair health to preventing the incarceration of black men.

The Black Expo Biz Tank begins at 11 a..m. Saturday, with entrepreneurs pitching products to celebrity judges for a grand prize including $3,500 cash and services to help get their business off the ground. Judges include “Shark Tank” cast member and FUBU CEO Daymond John, singer and former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams and rapper and actor Yazz, who plays Hakeem on FOX’s hit show “Empire.”

The Vibe

The Black Expo has something for everyone. Women can enjoy a Mother’s Day Beauty and Wellness Spa on Saturday, and children can take sessions on S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math) and world languages designed especially for them.

Many events in the expo are focused on celebrating and encouraging African-American business in South Carolina, but there’s also entertainment from singers like the Grammy-nominated Kenny Lattimore.

The Verdict

If there’s something you’re interested in, you’ll probably find it at the Black Expo. From a Saturday night step show to a Friday afternoon golf tournament, the ending weekend of the week-long event has almost everything.

Amanda C. Coyne