Michigan’s only HBCU to host Black Footwear Forum, a time to celebrate and uplift Black creatives

What’s happening: In what’s being touted by organizers as the “largest gathering of Black creatives globally,” it’s the fourth annual Black Footwear Forum and it returns to Detroit this Thursday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 24. The national conference will take place at the Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design.

What it is: This year’s iteration of the Black Footwear Forum operates under the theme of Culture is Currency: Know Your Worth, with the larger goals of celebrating the creativity, influence, and leadership of Black professionals in the global footwear industry while also developing and advancing Black talent throughout. The event is free and open to the public, although registration is requested online.

What’s planned: A lot. The event kicks off with a ribbon-cutting of the new Pepsi x Frito-Lay Refresh and Relax Lounge at Pensole Lewis College, which was designed by students there, and goes on to include panel discussions, forums, workshops, and networking opportunities with the industry’s brightest stars. Special guests include two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth Carter, Hip-Hop Pioneer Grandmaster Caz, and more.

Where it’s at: The event is sponsored by Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design and industry group Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, the former of which is the only historically Black college and university (HBCU) to be reinstated as such. The school initially opened as the Lewis College of Business in Detroit in 1928, closed in 2015, and was reopened and reinstated in 2021 as Michigan’s only HBCU.

[Related: Read “Pensole Lewis students compete in initiative to increase diversity in design” on Model D.]

Why it’s important: "This is by far my favorite time of the year. I am humbled to have the support of the industry's top brands who deeply care about our culture and the Black creative talent that agreed to volunteer their time to share their knowledge," says President of Pensole Lewis College, Dr. D'Wayne Edwards. "This makes it possible to collectively uplift the culture, and remind us of our value and our industry. Every year we try to raise the bar and BFF 2023 will be a magical moment that will continue the movement."

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.