Black Meetings and Tourism

July/Aug 2011

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RICHE$ BY CHERAY O’NEAL Mayor Benjamin welcomes writer Cheray O'Neal to his office W hen asked to give a one word sentiment of his expe- rience being mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Steve Benjamin, the first African-American in the history of this city said “blessed” and indeedwe all are. He and the state are on a passionmission that is sure to shake and draw in millions. Yes there’s still a Confederate flag or rag as his grandmother refers to it. Yes it’s still hanging on state ground, but when I walked amongst the ‘human’ people, irregardless of race, and had real conversations regarding this 11-year boycott of the state, I felt nothing but a genuine welcome, respect, hon- esty, hospitable authentic good grace and a serious love for their city. People from all walks of life, and especially business own- ers and planners, just need but a glance in this warmth and you’d be sold. Benjamin along with the city of Columbia, is sure to appease any planners or conventioneers accommodations that precede flag swaying and get to the real issue at hand; a grand opportu- nity to immerse yourself and colleagues in the environment of sweet beauty, grand affordability, extra ordinary hospitality, deep rooted history and a large dose of fun. And if truth were told, in the bigger scheme of things, there is something to be said, when you have this ‘rag’ on state ground and at the same time an African American mayor. This Confederate flag as Benjamin states “represents the thinking of a very small minor- ity of people, and in the near future we’ll have another chance to have a statewide discussion on this issue.” Until then, it would be amistake tomiss experiencing this amazing city based on aminority small brain thinking, for the richness, and essence of this city, the depth of history it holds, the economic value it has to contribute, the power of a common human voice and the 24 great impact this state has and will make on the nation certain- ly outweighs a $1 ‘rag’. Does it not? So without further ado, meeting planners beware, you are about to be graced with a love plan and that all begins at The Inn at USC. It’s an elegant boutique hotel located on the historic campus of the University of South Carolina in the heart of downtown Columbia. One hundred and seventeen elegantly appointed guestroom accommodations, including 28 two-room king suites and three deluxe suites with fire- places. With a graceful blend of Georgia, gothic and art deco influences, this Inn has it all. All guest rooms are non smoking, and have the amenities of free wireless internet access, library, onsite fitness equipment, cable/satellite TV, free self parking, complimentary newspaper, separate desk, in room safe, jetted tub, a microwave, free local calls and a main lobby loaded with fresh sweet tea or lemonade 24 hrs a day daily. Start every morning with a complimentary, deli- cious breakfast cooked-to-order in the Palmetto Room and feel like it was mama’s home cooking. This home offers a rare blend of historic grandeur with modern living amenities and home-style Southern hospitality, you can’t get any better than that, or can you? For meeting planners, and business owners alike, discover the perfect hotel meeting center in downtown Columbia, SC at The Inn. This historic boutique hotel is a leading meeting and event destination and features more than 3,000 sq. ft. of flexi- ble meeting and banquet space. It has the perfect space to accommodate your needs with six elegant meeting rooms from which to choose. The Board Room comfortably seats eight for private events. The Library, Gallery, and Terrace Gardens are Black Meetings & Tourism July/August 2011: RAGS TO

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