Ms. Vickie Lynn McGee’s impact on the Beloit community is traceable through all of the lives she touched and the connections she made, but what may be the most remarkable part of McGee’s legacy is in the Black Women in Business Beloit Expo she began in 2019. What started as a small gathering of Black women entrepreneurs in a tattoo parlor blossomed quickly from about a dozen vendors involved to multiple dozens of vendors, numerous sponsors, and a need for a larger space.
Unfortunately, shortly before last year’s expo in 2023, Ms. Vickie Lynn passed away. With only days leading up to the expo, Paquita Purnell and the other Black Women in Business Beloit committee members knew it would only be right to carry out the event in McGee’s memory. While they were able to execute McGee’s plans for the year, there were still plenty of sad moments considering McGee was not there in person to celebrate the success.
This year, Purnell, one of the organizers of the expo, is certain she has not stopped having an effect on expanding the possibilities of the expo, and the plans to celebrate her memory are already in motion.
“We have over 60 vendors at the Eclipse Center this year, so we’re racking the numbers up there, we’re at full capacity,” Purnell told Madison365. “Even though Ms. Vickie isn’t here, it just feels like she’s working behind the scenes on everything. You know, she never was able to sit down ever when she was alive, so I’m pretty sure she’s up there in heaven making moves for us. Everything is just coming together so smoothly.”
The Sixth Annual Black Herstory Day and Black History Month Celebration Expo at the Eclipse Center on Saturday, Feb. 10, is currently at capacity for vendors with plenty to choose from and will even have speakers giving insight into their work such as Janene Stephenson of Stephenson Business Services Center; Felicia Walton, founder of Healing Our Hearts; and Ms. Deatra Kemp, vice president of Acts Housing.
“She hand-picked the five of us to keep the legacy going. I would say about a year and a half ago, she asked us all if something was to happen to her, to keep the expo going. When that happened, we just picked up the torch,” said Purnell, referring to the organization’s committee that has grown to include Roshelle Sims-Lumpkins, Adriana Sanders, Stephanie Prewitt, Jennifer Franklin, Shanta Lana Hereford, Samantha Green, and Purnell herself.
“Now we have nonprofit status. All things Ms. Vickie wanted. She really wanted to turn Black Women in Business Beloit into a nonprofit organization. We’re just checking off her bucket list for her,” Purnell said.
Vendors and highlights of the expo can be found on the Black Women in Business Beloit Facebook page here. Like the variety of vendors who will be at the expo, McGee was also multifaceted in her talents beyond gathering people and putting on events. As an artist, author, and comedian, McGee made friends across many circles.
Some of McGee’s own work will be on display by two of her children, Jaesa and Walter, who will be at the expo to celebrate her memory with the community. Photos of Ms. Vickie Lynn will also fill the Eclipse Center as a reminder of what she set out to achieve through the Black Women in Business Beloit Expo, and what is to come from all that she did accomplish in her Beloit community.
“Ms. Vickie was very particular about who she put on the committee,” Purnell said. “She wanted to make sure you were going to be inclusive, that you would help other women who may be new to the expo, and that vibe is still there. We’ve been with her from the beginning, so we know exactly what type of atmosphere that she wanted the expo to be. This year, our host is Christina Martinez. That’s one of Ms. Vickie’s best comedic friends, so she knew her very well and Christina has that same spirit about her that Ms. Vickie had, so we’ll get a little bit of that.”