1st First Friday Marks 30 tonight at Globe and Mail

By Stephen Weir: I know what Warren Salmon was doing on Friday June 3rd1994. IT was early in the evening, and he was rolling the dice wondering if people within the Black community would come out to the Glass Bucket.
It was a long gone Yonge Street lounge and it was hosting the launch of Warren Salmon's first First Fridays event. Salmon describes his vision for the monthly event he planned to run the 1st Friday of every month as the “premier networking event for entrepreneurs and professionals of African descent in North America and other parts of the world.”
Back in the early days of the evenings, the Caribbean Camera called it an event that attracts Black businesspeople “who want to network, learn about new business endeavours, meet industry leaders and most importantly, socialize.
And, on that spring even the dice rolled his way, people took to his networking concept. "Around 80 people showed up. It was hosted by Mike Purville, David Beckford and me,” recalls Salmon.
The Friday night networking sessions, based on a similar very successful program in Washington DC. IT is a simple enough formula, although as the cliché goes, the devil is in the details. Once a month, Salmon picks an easy-to-reach establishment (usually licenced) and invites the Black community (I am a testament that everyone is welcome). Usually there is a happy hour where the business cards come out and the attendees get down to some serious networking. and then guest speakers, give brief talks and answers questions and often musicians perform.
The list of past 1stFriday guests and VIPS is impressive. Salmon rhymes off a few “ we have hosted over the years Jean Augustine, current MP’s Ahmed Hussen, Marci Ien, Greg Fergus, Michael Coteau, and Gary Anandasangree. Over the years the guest list has included current and former MPP’s including David Smith, Patrice Barnes, Jill Andrews, Mitzie Hunter, Margaret Best, and Mary Anne Chambers .” And then there are the Arts. Salmon has hosted “Giller Prize winning author the late Austin Clarke, Author Lawrence Hill, Hollywood Directors and Actors Clarke Johnson, Bill Duke and Chan Berry, Author and Actress and Entrepreneur Tonya Lee Williams”.
Despite the strong support of the community, it hasn’t been an upward trajectory for First Friday’s. This networking event requires people to get together in a close environment, something that wasn’t possible during Covid How did they survive? “We went virtual in April 2020 on Zoom, and stayed virtual throughout Covid. In June 2020, we formed Virtual 1st Fridays North America, which was hosted by (several American and Canadian cities). It’s been tough to get back to our pre-covid numbers, and we’ve been hybrid post cover.”

Now back meeting in person, the meetings are selling out. Top notch entertainers are performing, and Black businesses are showing their wares. Each month, the Friday event has a different theme. This June 7th, their 30th anniversary, the Theme: "The Keys to My Success". The location is at the Globe and Mail Centre on King St East in Toronto. Salmon also stages a Friday evening gathering in Durham. They will be marking their first year east of Toronto on Friday June 7th at the African Cultural & Wellness Centre on Clements Rd. in Pickering.


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