MeetingsNet’s 2022 Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2022 Changemakers list here.
Event Strategist and Founder, Black in Events Network
For her ongoing efforts to build community for Black event professionals
In 2020, Keneisha Williams founded the Black in Events Network to build community and create opportunity for Black professionals working in the events industry. Over the past year, Williams has directed two big wins for the nascent organization—a new Slack channel and the second annual #100Highlights campaign. Looking ahead, she’s planning for the group’s first in-person event: a recognition ceremony celebrating excellence in events, which will be held in Toronto and virtually on October 26.
For Williams, the #100Highlights campaigns are all about raising awareness. The format is straightforward: On the LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter channels for Black in Events, she posts photos and information on 100 Black meeting professionals who have been nominated for their work as a planner or supplier. “It gives visibility to people who sometimes don’t have that visibility in the industry, and that’s really what I’m striving to create with this platform.” Williams also notes that this year’s #100Highlights professionals came from Canada, the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Saudi Arabia, which shines a light on the breadth of the Black in Events community.
“The reception is just phenomenal, and not just within the Black community,” she adds. “People are excited to see new faces as well as familiar faces, and to see that there’s enough space for all of us. That’s one of the most important messages: If we embrace people in this space, the more successful the events industry becomes, so it’s beneficial to all of us.”
That philosophy is behind the group’s new Slack channel as well. “It gives us a space where people can join in and be more collaborative, more supportive,” Williams says. “Black in Events is an open door. … To get to a place of inclusion and diversity means that we have to be able to function in a space together and learn from each other. So Black in Events is a platform that recognizes Black professionals, but in our Slack group, we have people who are not Black. The goal for me is to build authentic inclusion, where all people can come. We can’t grow if we’re in silos.”
“One of the most important things to know about creating change is that it is an ongoing process, even when the light seems to get dim,” says Williams, noting that pushing for diversity, equity, and inclusion is an effort that gets “trendy” but then can be forgotten when the next hot topic comes along. “When you’re really in the mud of change, if you’re really dedicated to it you’ve got to just keep working, even when everybody else seems to forget,” she says.
And not only do you have to remain consistent and dedicated “but also come at it with a sincere and genuine human approach,” Williams adds. “It really comes from that place, and when we as humans tap into that place where we want make change, it will happen. It’s a lonely road sometimes, but you just have to keep going. It’s not always going to get everyone’s attention, but you know it will help somebody, and that’s the goal.”