The Black Table: Los Angeles' Powerhouse of Multi-Million Dollar Black Event Production Curators
WRIGHT PRODUCTIONS’ MERGE PHOTOS BY VlexPhotos @vonjackson
Nipsey Hussle's mantra was all about recycling the Black dollar, supporting Black businesses, and things like that. That was his message," begins William P. Miller, founder of WP Miller Special Events. "So, it surprised me when I saw that a white, Jewish woman had planned his funeral. How did this happen?"
It couldn't have been because there was a lack of experienced Black funeral planners. An accomplished event planner for well over 30 years that also includes a wealth of experience in the realm of funerals — he planned Lou Rawls' funeral, Michael Clarke Duncan's funeral, and even Prince's (Rogers Nelson) funeral, among others.
After writing an Instagram post about the oversight, Miller was contacted by other local planners who shared his disappointment. Then, after organizing an early meeting of other local Black planners, it became clear that many were strangers who didn't know each other. From there, The Black Table was born.
As a collective of Los Angeles-based Black event professionals dedicated to elevating the presence and positioning of Black-owned businesses in the special event and creative industries, The Black Table's focus is to leverage our economic and cultural impact by pooling our resources. Their goal is to create a pipeline of wealth through ownership and influence within the special event, creative, and entrepreneurship communities.
Once formulating their mission, they hit the ground running. "When we first all met, it was just the synergy and the purpose that was there from the very second," says Lauren Montgomery, owner of Collective Rentals, a furniture rental and interior design company. "We all entered the building, and we all came from different backgrounds. We're all very different producers—I'm the only one on the vendor side. At the same time, we have a common goal and purpose. That has been one of the most fulfilling things that I have done for my community in my life, so it's great."
Despite being formed in 2019, it wasn't until 2020's pandemic that The Black Table began garnering the attention, focus, and signed contracts for its members that they deserve. They have produced several leadership forums, seminars, and special episodes of The Black Table Sauce, where they serve up industry news and hot topics that elevate the Black event professional. "People have become real conscious since last year and the George Floyd incident. I remember when Niecy Nash contacted me about her wedding last year. She's like, 'I want to use all Black vendors.' And guess what? We executed the wedding with all Black vendors," says Miller. "You know we have a Black-owned ballet company. We have Black DJs. We have Black lighting designers. We have Black florists. We have Black rental companies. A lot of people say they don't know that, so it's up to us to raise the awareness."
Mena Wright, a co-founder of Wright Productions, recalls producing an event in Canton, Ohio, for one of the players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Despite being a sports league that heavily employs Black players, she was the only Black producer in attendance. "Most of the players are Black, and they want their [culture] experience to be shown within their events." She finds this to be indicative of a larger issue at play. "There are so many talented Black event producers in this industry, and there's a lot of excuses, that people 'don't know about us,' but I think even when they do know about us, are they willing to work with us."
A common sentiment echoed profusely among the co-founders is "we are stronger united than divided." With an emphasis on collaboration and disdain for competition, everyone rallies to champion and help support the various events and productions they each participate in, whether that be additional resources, a helping hand, or words of encouragement. "Something that I love about The Black Table is that I've been able to meet other qualified Black professionals in this space that I feel comfortable referring clients," says Leslie Jones, owner of Leslie Marie Events. "I can do it confidently because I've seen their work and their work ethic, I know who they are, and I can trust them."
“I've worked with several of them, including Wright Productions and Collective Rentals, so we've been able to collaborate amongst each other as well," says Tammy Dickerson, owner of TBG Events. "It's been really good, and I'm looking forward to what I know we can still do as The Black Table, not necessarily elevating our companies but elevating other vendors, suppliers, and producers that are in this space, especially those that are just getting started."
As the only member of The Black Table who offers vendor services, Montgomery's offerings are much needed amid a landscape that heavily caters to the production sector of events. "I cannot even tell you the amount of events that the producers who are on The Black Table have come to me with," she gushes. "Even if I didn't have the right look or exact piece that they wanted, the collaboration and the willingness to work through that in order to strengthen our community within the event space is a real life thing… I could give you dollar amounts [of the added revenue I've earned through The Black Table relationships]."
With so much heavy lifting on their plates, to help change decades of systemic racism and oppression intended to exclude them, it's vital to remain inspired. Miller can't help but reflect on one titan in the event planning world who stands tall above the rest, Bayard Rustin. "I've called him the greatest event planner of all time." A co-organizer of the 1941 March on Washington, Rustin's actions helped ensure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. An openly gay Black man, he faced aggressive discrimination but persevered despite this. "He didn't have this type of technology [that we have today]. It was just the message, and [the] creative way he pulled people together is what he stood on." William pauses before reiterating, "He's definitely one of my biggest inspirations, the kind that keeps me going."
Shantee Wright, a co-founder of Wright Productions, says, "The Black Table is just an amazing platform of event professionals and Black people who support each other and push each other forward. We have some great things in the works for that. Stay on the lookout for The Black Table."
The Black Table invites you to engage with them to continue ideating how we all can bridge the gap on racial disparities within the events and production industry. You can follow them on their various social media platforms, which are listed below, or join today as a member by visiting their website, theblacktable.co.
For individual stories, click on their names: William P. Miller | Tammy Dickerson | Leslie Jones | Lauren Montgomery | Mena & Shantee Wright