By Ryan Hagen, The Sun

Sisters, Isis, 17, and Sabrea Curiel, 11, of San Bernardino perform a traditional Tahitian danceduring the Black Chamber of Commerce 47th annual Black History Month Super Expo on Saturday. Photo by Frank Perez
SAN BERNARDINO >> The 47-year tradition of the Black History Super-expo took on special — and different — significance Saturday, the first time it was held since the Dec. 2 terrorist attack.

The emphasis on inclusivity started with the theme, which was printed on banners and T-shirts: “San Bernardino Strong: All Lives Matter.”

The theme combines two mottos that tie together to create one message, said Navarre Bell, vice chairman of the Black Chamber of Commerce Inland Empire, which organized the expo.

The logo San Bernardino Strong has spread widely since the attack, declaring that the city would push back against terrorism to become better.

And “All Lives Matter” — which many supporters of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign say dismisses that movement’s message — was proven true when people of all races were killed at the Inland Regional Center, Bell said.

“Black lives matter and all lives matter,” he said. “That’s why we have all cultures out here. People said San Bernardino United — this is how San Bernardino unites. This is good for the downtown and the city.”

From 10 a.m. until after its scheduled 4 p.m. finish, performers celebrated African American culture through singing, dancing, spoken word poetry and other entertainment.

Elected officials and others also presented, including Frank Montes, chairman of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

“Thank you for supporting our community,” said Montes, founder and co-owner of Inland Body & Paint Center in Fontana. “Remember, San Bernardino Strong — don’t let nobody get you down.”

In addition to celebrating culture and enjoying vendor activities — face painting, chess and booths advertising nonprofits and others — the expo was a valuable networking opportunity, said Brandon Gardner.

“There are a lot of great organizations here, and it’s great to be able to meet and collaborate with them,” said Gardner, 23, who attended with other members of the Cal State San Bernardino chapter of Iota Phi Theta, a historically black fraternity.

The annual celebration was a parade until 2014, when officials for the bankrupt city said it couldn’t afford the nearly $27,000 in support requested for the parade and organizers decided to re-launch as an expo.

This is the third year the event consisted of vendors and performers, and more than 3,000 people were expected to attend, said Tammy Martin-Ryles, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce Inland Empire.

“We’re going to keep growing — inch by inch if we have to,” she said. “Next year will be even bigger.”


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