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The Black Footwear Forum (BFF) exists to celebrate and safeguard the influence, leadership, and creativity provided by Black professionals in the global footwear industry.

A special black genius conversation with two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, Ruth Carter, Hip-Hop Pioneer Grandmaster Caz and ribbon cutting for Pepsi x Frito-Lay Refresh and Relax Lounge at PLC

DETROIT, Sept. 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The fourth annual national Black Footwear Forum (BFF) will convene at Detroit's HBCU Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design (PLC) in partnership with the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) on September 21-24. The theme for this year is Culture is Currency: Know Your Worth.

As a collective of footwear industry professionals and supporters from around the country, BFF encourages collaboration in establishing industry goals that center on developing and advancing black talent at all levels.

"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."

Known as "The Industry's Homecoming," the event is made possible thanks to the donations of over 30 major industry brands, including Nike, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Adidas, Target, Foot Locker, Millerknoll, Rock, AmazonMusic and more. BFF is a community that brings together the most significant cluster of black creatives to share, educate, motivate, network, and address diversity and inclusion challenges in the design industry.

"The Black Footwear Forum has evolved into a nationwide movement, shining a spotlight on the diverse and impactful contributions made by Black creatives within the American footwear industry on a daily basis," stated Matt Priest, President and CEO of the FDRA. "I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to express the collective gratitude of the shoe industry, recognizing the invaluable contributions of everyone involved in the BFF. The vitality of the footwear industry is intricately tied to the involvement of the Black community, and as such, FDRA relies on the BFF to provide a vital platform for our industry colleagues to connect, learn, and celebrate together."

On Thursday, 9/21, to kick off BFF, we will have the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Pepsi x Frito-Lay Refresh and Relax Lounge at PLC designed by PLC students. The BFF opening mixer, with music sponsored by AmazonMusic, will feature Global Hip Hop Pioneer DJ and Producer DJ Clark Kent. The art competition and showcase by MARTK'D and BFF VIP dinner, sponsored by Bacardi, will end the night.

"PepsiCo is honored to unveil the new student-designed lounge to kick off the Black Footwear Forum and as part of our continued partnership with Pensole Lewis. Together, we're combining our resources to help bridge the diversity gap in the design industry and increase representation through education, opportunities, mentorship and more to drive further innovation in our field," said Mauro Porcini, SVP and Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo.

Friday, 9/22, PLC's President and Founder Dr. D'Wayne Edwards and FDRA President & CEO Matt Priest, will kick off BFF on September 22nd with opening remarks, followed by Culture Raises US Co-Founder and Host Astor Chambers starting the empowering conversations to celebrate and analyze diversity in the design industry. The 1st topic "Culture is Currency: Know Your Worth", addressed by keynote speaker hip-hop legend and pioneer, Grandmaster Caz, (The Sugarhill Gang, Bronx Walk of Fame and Technics DJ Hall of Fame inductee), "50 Deep: Examining the history of hip hop, design, & culture with Hidden Figures" lead by legendary fashion icon April Walker(Walker Wear) rounding out the rest of the day with Black Genius talk by Rupert Campbell (President of Adidas NA), "JEMS by PENSOLE Spotlight: Highlighting the first black-owned shoe factory in the U.S.", and "The Real DEIL" (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Leadership), "The Brand of Culture", and many other enlightening topics.    

Saturday, 9/23, BFF will begin with opening remarks from a surprise guest, followed by well-rounded panel discussions. These discussions will include "Black Genius Conversation" with Larry Miller (Chairman of JORDAN/Nike), "This is the Remix", and a second "Black Genius Conversation" with two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, Ruth Carter.

The Breakout Sessions comprise Black Owned Everything and TappedIn. "Music Fuels Culture: Exploring and discussing the intersection between Music, Art, Sneakers, and Design", sponsored by Amazon Music, will follow. "Claim A Seat: Emerging Leaders in Sneakers" and the Blacklight Awards are also on the list. Additionally, creative director and designer June Ambrose will share insights on the panel "Free Game: Generational Purpose - A conversation and reflection on heritage vs. legacy". There will also be a networking mixer with music provided by AmazonMusic featuring Grammy Award-winning DJ Jazzy Jeff.

The last day, September 24th, will feature Adidas-sponsored events for women. "Cultivating the Dreamer Within - a day for Her" includes "Community R&B Yoga", "Sisters in Sole Brunch", and "Community Leadership Workshop".

However, the Men's Leadership & Wellness Workshop includes a session exclusively for men called The Game Behind the Game, which is led by Jason Mayden, Kenneth Anand, and Trevor Edwards.

Other speakers include Brian Thompson: Senior Journeyman Banknote and Product Designer (Designer of the US $100 and $50 bills), Michael Ford: Hip Hop Architect and Educator, April Dinwoodie: Head of DEIB, Steve Madden, Jazerai Allen-Lord, Founder of True to size Agency, June Ambrose, Creative Director & Designer, Daniel Cherry: SVP General manager at Adidas, Alexander-John: Designer, Jennifer Ford: Founder of Premium Goods, Michelle Marshall: Head of DEI at Puma, Byron Merrit: VP of Design at Amazon Music, Jarvis Sam: Founder of The Rainbow Disruption, Jessica Smith: CEO of i.e., James Whitner: Owner of A Ma Maniere and many more.

Our event sponsors for 2023 comprise many companies, including Adidas, Amazon Music, The Athlete's Foot, Bacardi, Caleres, Carhartt, COACH, Designer Brands, eBay, Foot Locker, General Motors, Logitech, Microsoft, MillerKnoll, Nike, Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse, ON Running, PepsiCo, Puma, RG Barry Brands, Rock, Rubik's, Steve Madden, StockX, Target, Under Armour, VisitDetroit, Wolverine Worldwide, XBOX, Xencelabs, and more.

To attend the free event, please register at: or follow us on Instagram @pensolelewis for updates and event coverage.

About the Black Footwear Forum (BFF): The Black Footwear Forum (BFF) exists to celebrate and safeguard the influence, leadership, and creativity provided by blacks in the global footwear industry. As a collective of footwear industry professionals and supporters from around the country, BFF encourages collaboration in establishing industry goals that center on developing and advancing black talent at all levels.

The BFF works to cultivate community for Black footwear professionals through national and regional chapter events and activations. For more information, please visit 

About PLC: Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design is the pipeline for career education and professional development in the creative industry. We bear the torch, leading the way to creative vision and progress. At Pensole Lewis College, we work at the crossroads of making the industry better, developing unconventional educational experiences and creating ingenious products. Offering a new path to break into the world of product creation, we prepare and empower the largest talent pool of creatives to enter the industry to make it better for the next generation. For more information, please visit

About FDRA: Founded in 1944, FDRA is governed and directed by footwear executives and is the only trade organization focused solely on the footwear industry. It serves the full footwear supply chain and boosts the bottom lines of its members through innovative products, training and consulting on footwear design and development, sourcing and compliance, trade and customs, advocacy, and consumer and sales trend analysis for retailers selling shoes around the world. FDRA also runs the footwear industry's weekly podcast Shoe-In Show featuring leading footwear executives and experts discussing key business trends. In all, FDRA supports nearly 500 companies and brands worldwide, representing 95% of total U.S. footwear sales, making it by far the largest and most respected American footwear trade and business association. For more information, visit

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