( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) CEEM and LA County’s Fair celebrates Black Culture
ENSPIRE Contributor: Ava Girardi
On May 13, the LA County Fair kicked off a 3-day weekend to honor, celebrate, and promote Black culture with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) organization. The man behind this event is Kyle Webb, the CFO of CEEM, who has a passion for service and working to have every individual’s life in an environment that leads to success.
Along with being the Chief Executive Officer of CEEM, he also serves as the operator of his family’s investment company, Webb Investments. With his family’s company, Webb works to invest money to help small-scale minority-run businesses and help them have multiple operations. At CEEM, Webb creates opportunities to create wealth and more power for the Black community in inland Southern California to change many social aspects. CEEM works to close the racial gap within communities through the power of education and investments. It works to motivate its members to help out Black-owned businesses and also provides counseling and methods for one to develop their business to improve the economic stability within the Black community. To do this, CEEM follows its core values, which are “uniting our efforts for collective advancement,” “acting with respect, integrity, and trust,” “advocating for greater opportunities and economic advancement for African-Americans,” and “diversity.”
Kyle also serves on the Board of Directors for Bright Prospect, a college access organization that helps students get into college and follows them through the whole process. He also serves on the board of directors for the CEEM Coalition for Cultural Change and the University of Southern California Black Alumni Association president.
To promote Black excellence, Webb celebrated with the LA County Fair, an annual county fair where people can come with family and friends to take part in various fair activities and savor some fair food. Both organizations used this event to bring more attention to the mission of CEEM, bring awareness to the racial and economic gap present in our society, and honor Black greatness.
ENSPIRE Magazine spoke with Kyle Webb to learn more about his partnership with organizations and inspiration to create CEEM:
What were you hoping for the community to take away from this event?
“We hope this is an event where our community feels celebrated and seen. Each year, participation at this event is getting larger and attracting more people to come out and have fun with CEEM and learn about our mission. We want the Black community of Inland Empire to see their businesses highlighted and patronized at this large community event. We also hope doing partnerships like the Los Angeles County Fair builds awareness and ultimately grows our membership. As our membership grows, so will our benefit to members.”
Can you explain a little more about CEEM’s cooperative model and how it benefits African Americans?
“CEEM is created to build and focus on communal access to wealth and power. When individuals get wealth and power, they leave the community, which drains communities of limited access of those who can create more. CEEM is designed to bring our community up together, so no one is left behind. We are a cooperative (coop), which means each member of the coop is an equal owner of it. The coop’s business is to build businesses that meet the needs of our membership community and the broader community. Each member is an equal owner of the coop, which owns the businesses, which means each member is an owner of each business. We love the cooperative model because it allows us to own businesses together. When individuals own businesses and they do well, that individual will become wealthier. I love this model because as our businesses do well, our community of members will become wealthier.”
What inspired you to create CEEM?
“In 2012, my father, the founder of CEEM nearly died. Reggie Webb was rushed to the hospital just in time to receive life-saving interventions to stabilize his condition. As he spent weeks in recovery, one word kept echoing in his mind: legacy. As a former executive with the McDonald’s Corporation, Webb helped people from underrepresented communities become franchisees with one of the world’s most iconic brands. However, he wanted to do more to help African-Americans achieve financial independence. Through his research, Webb learned about the Mondragon Cooperative, a worker-owner co-op in the Basque region of Spain that grew from a handful of initial participants into a massive federation of over 260 businesses and cooperatives, 80,000 workers, and more than €12 billion in revenue. After learning how the Mondragon Cooperative helped transform its town, Webb wanted to replicate a similar model in Black communities in America. A chance meeting with Ratibu Jacocks, a community organizer in Rialto, Calif., helped Webb formalize his idea for an economic cooperative. After visiting a Westside Action Group meeting to discuss entrepreneurship in the Black community, Webb attended a retreat where he outlined the vision for CEEM.In 2016, CEEM was officially born. At first, Webb brought in his children — who help run Webb Family Enterprises — then he extended the offer to business and community leaders in his local area. Today, CEEM is a legally formed cooperative in the state of California and brings community members together to keep more of the business revenue generated by African-Americans consumers in the Inland Empire in the hands of the Black community.”
Could you describe your partnership with the LA County Fair and what it entails?
“We love our partnership with the LA County Fair. It started as we were looking to create opportunities for our business members to gain access to opportunities to grow their businesses in new settings; the Los Angeles County Fair has been really receptive. As we grow our relationship, we are excited for some of our members to become vendors at the LACF for the full run, others of our members to get opportunities to supply the Fair for the full year, and to partner in programming in and around the Los Angeles County fairgrounds. We really appreciate the relationship we are building with the Los Angeles County Fair and are excited to use this as a template for our growth.”
What were some activities visitors could take part in?
“The event was a three-day takeover that had activities and entertainment from 11a.m.-10 pm each day. On Friday, guests could celebrate over 700 Black high school graduates from the Inland Empire during the Black Graduation Ceremony that National Black Grads hosted at the CEEM takeover. Following that, we had a DJ from the Black Greek Festival for Greek Night to showcase Black Greek life to the incoming college graduates who took part in the Black Graduation ceremony. On Saturday, we hosted a pitch competition where the top three businesses from the competition pitched live for a chance to win up to $5,000 for their business. The CEEM takeover also hosted CHORDS, a local youth enrichment program, and a talent show where over 20 student groups could showcase their performances. We ended the night with performances from Kenyon Dixon and Amber Riley. We closed out the weekend with Gospel Sunday. We had a live Sunday sermon given by Pastor Maxamillion McCloskey of Crossword Christian Church. And a standout performance by Nikki Potts. Sunday also included a mental health panel hosted by the San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health, a keynote from Kiana Webb, and a gospel performance from the Inland Empire Choir. Our final two performers of the CEEM takeover were Ray Wimley and Diarra Sylla. Throughout the weekend attendees could shop from Black vendors, including our CEEM business, CEEM Interactive, eat from the food truck My3Deb, and view art from local Pomona artist, Gary Lett.”
What other organizations have you collaborated with in the past?
“CEEM has collaborated and partnered with various organizations such as the Los Angeles County, Snoop Dogg’s Snoop Youth Football League, Young Visionaries, Chords of San Bernardino, to name a few.”
What is the main initiative and goal of CEEM?
“The Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) is a membership cooperative creating parity. Our mission is to create opportunities to (1) enhance power and (2) build wealth, driving parity in everything for African Americans. Parity, the expectation that everyone has the same opportunity for success, is CEEM’s Purpose. Starting with us. CEEM enhances power through the collective influence of our membership community as a convenor – we work with partner organizations to bring together influential Black community leaders to catalyze dialogue and action. CEEM builds wealth by developing businesses from the ground up that are equally and entirely owned by its members. We are a place where members and supporters of the Black community can come together to support each other. Parity will come when our community has built enough collective power and wealth to drive the change we want for us. CEEM is created to build and focus on communal access to wealth and power. When individuals get wealth and power, they leave the community, which drains communities of limited access to those who can create more. CEEM is designed to bring our community up together, so no one is left behind.”
Through the mission of CEEM and the motivation to help others, Webb has utilized this event to bring awareness that work needs to be done within the Black community to help close the racial gap through initiatives through education and the power of investments. With the help of CEEM members and the individuals that attended this event to support this cause, CEEM will get closer to its mission of helping more black enterprises and entrepreneurs. Webb and CEEM work to allow underrepresented communities to become seen and Black businesses to receive the tools they need to run a financially stable business to support the needs of their families.