Partners producing The Shift Summit


Damon Lawrence. Photo via

A group of partners are hosting a summit this week on economic equity in the African-American community.

Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, or GRABB — in partnership with Grand Valley State University, AT&T, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Grand Rapids Public Schools, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Huntington Bank, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, The Wege Foundation, Grand Rapids Urban League and the NAACP of Grand Rapids — will host The Shift Summit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Friday at GVSU’s Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids, at 301 W. Fulton St.

The Shift Summit aims to “create dialogue and solutions for building sustainable communities” and “build relationships and resources statewide to address the economic crisis in the black communities,” according to GRABB,

Tickets, $40-$50, are available online.


Damon Lawrence, CEO of Oakland, California-based Homage Hospitality, will open the event with a keynote address.

After seeing “a lack of African-American brand ownership and leadership” in higher management, Lawrence and his business partner, Marcus Carey, founded Homage Hospitality in 2014. Lawrence oversees its operations and creative direction.

The hotel company focuses on opening properties that “pay homage to” and preserve African-American culture. It opened its first property, a New Orleans bed and breakfast, in July and more are in the works in Oakland, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn, New York.

In the keynote, Lawrence will share with the audience how he's “using culture as a catalyst for neighborhood transformation, economic empowerment and equitable growth,” GRAAB said.

Workshops and panels

The Shift Summit will feature several breakout workshops and panel discussions on building neighborhood business districts, female entrepreneurship, accessing capital and creating wealth.


Founded in 2013, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses is an economic development social enterprise that works to foster economic prosperity and the revitalization of predominantly black neighborhoods.

GRABB raises awareness for black businesses and assists entrepreneurs with acquiring social, intellectual and financial capital.

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