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Can this Elegance empower?

(ran NS S editions of Tampa Bay and State)

In Deborah Burgin's opinion, black residents in the Tampa Bay area have suffered far too long from what she calls the A-L-O-I syndrome.

That's a "a lack of information" about everything from how to start a business to choosing day care to information about health care, Burgin said. It "is what keeps a lot of us from reaching our goals."

But that no longer has to be the case. Burgin, along with Bernadette Anthon, founded Elegance Is Yours, a company they hope will fill a void where others have either failed or never even bothered to try.

"We decided it was time to get the same information that is accessible to others, out to our community," Burgin said. "A lot of companies just don't feel comfortable going into black communities because they don't know what to say or how to relate to us.

"They don't know if they should call us black, colored or African-American, because we keep changing our name. They know if they say the wrong thing we are going to get defensive. Then, they get defensive and back off and we're right back to where we started _ nowhere."

On Oct. 31, Elegance is seeking to help black women reach their destinations by hosting the first annual African-American Women's Extravaganza at the Sheraton Tampa East Hotel, 7401 E Hillsborough Ave.

Beginning at 10 a.m., participants can hear workshops on how to start a business, choose day care, care for their skin and live safely in a dangerous world.

Organizations include Ebony Fashion Fair, the Tampa Bay Black Business Association, the American Cancer Society, the YMCA and Citizens Against Crime.

Tara Shea, the division director of the American Heart and Lung Association, said the event will provide them with an opportunity to reach out to a segment of society that is sometimes overlooked.

"We're trying harder to become more involved in minority communities," Shea said. "We know that high blood pressure is very prevalent in the African-American community, so we're going to pass out literature and brochures on hypertension and other heart and lung disease that are more prone to affect them."

A fashion show, play and the Kuumba Dancers will provide entertainment for the event, which is titled "Still I Rise," and is a tribute to black women. Admission is $18.50.

"We wanted to make it informative, educational and entertaining," Burgin said. "Although anyone is welcome to attend, the event is geared strictly toward empowering black women."

Although some black churches have begun providing health care and job information to their congregations, the extravaganza is geared toward reaching a wider segment of the community, Burgin said.

"If someone is interested in obtaining specific information, such as where they can go to get help for a drug problem, they don't have to worry about someone whispering: "Did you see what she just picked up?'

"

Although the event has focused on black women, the company will tackle other issues that affect the black community, Anthon said. "There are a lot of things we want to do. We are going to be constantly brainstorming and putting our ideas together in a way that they will benefit our community."

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