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Chicago, IL — Recent events have sparked many discussions about racism in America. This has brought renewed interest in the global Black experience. Jeff Osuji and Femi Masha, cofounders of the event company Pyramid and the ticketing solution Eventnoire, are advocating for change and working to provide solutions that address the racial discrimination experienced by Black professionals within the social events industry.

The social events industry is responsible for curating social experiences within various venues such as nightclubs, lounges, and restaurants. Osuji and Masha assert that Black professionals are frequently subjected to racially discriminatory practices within this industry and they describe this common experience for Black professionals within the industry as “social redlining.”

The term social redlining derives from the now illegal practice of redlining in which opportunities and services were intentionally put out of reach for residents of certain areas based on race or ethnicity.

Osuji and Masha’s extensive experience within the social events industry in downtown Chicago has led them to conclude that the inequitable outcomes of traditional redlining are parallel to the experiences of Black professionals who seek to either curate or attend social events.

As the cofounder of the event company Pyramid, Masha has seen how racially discriminatory practices are implemented through the policies of venues and their hiring of employees. He states that, “a majority of the employees, outside of security, are not Black, and when Black people apply, they are frequently not hired. We’ve heard from former employees that it’s out of fear that Black employees may attract their Black friends and associates to the venue. This impacts the ethnic makeup of employees working in downtown venues.” Masha notes that the ability of Black patrons to attend these social events is limited because, “venues will often stop letting Black people in and hold the door once a certain amount of Black people are inside. They do this to avoid the appearance of too many Black people and to prevent their other patrons from feeling uncomfortable.”

Osuji and Masha believe that increasing the representation of Black professionals in the industry, beyond the typical roles like security personnel, and providing racial bias training to the industry’s venue owners and staff, may prevent racial discrimination within the social events industry. They also believe that creating more economic paths for Black professionals to own venues will increase racial equity within the industry.

Osuji and Masha’s desire to advocate for change within the social events industry and increase the public’s awareness of systemic racism in America, resulted in the formation of the Event Curators Association (“ECA”) in partnership with local Chicago event promoters and DJs. When Osuji and Masha formed the ECA, which advocates for racial equity, Black professionals across the country felt like their experiences of racial discrimination within the social events industry were finally being elevated to the general public. 

Osuji and Masha cofounded their company Pyramid in response to the lack of entertainment options for Black college students. Today, Pyramid’s mission is to provide Black professionals access to the social scenes within their cities by promoting and curating social events that cater to Black professionals. Osuji saw that there was a need for an event company that specifically caters to upscale Black professionals in cities like Chicago because, “everyone loves our music, everyone loves our culture, but if you are at a social event in Downtown Chicago and more than 20% of the people there are Black, they start trying to filter Black people out. That’s why it’s important for us to own our experiences and our own platforms.”

Similarly, Eventnoire was designed to serve as a ticketing solution for users who either want to host or attend social events that cater to Black professionals while building a network of event curators across the globe. Osuji and Masha have already had events in Nigeria and are making plans to service the entire continent of Africa. Osuji describes Eventnoire as a company that fulfills the, “need to increase revenue flowing through the Black curator ecosystem” while “recycling funds back into the Black community.” After recognizing that Black event organizers have less resources, Eventnoire also became a ticketing solution that helps organizations make money off of their events. Eventnoire’s platform achieves this by using a portion of the revenue created from ticket fees to provide kickbacks for event organizers. 

Osuji and Masha’s commitment to leading a movement that promotes racial equity within the social events industry began more than 15 years ago. As college students at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, the two had the foresight to fulfill a need within the Black community by curating social experiences where Black people would feel welcomed as opposed to a nuisance. Now as working professionals, Osuji and Masha continue to be advocates within the social events industry constantly pushing the industry to evolve. 

SOURCE: FORBES – Michelle Mbekeani