Descendants of Colonial slave, including Oprah's beau, head to Philadelphia

Stedman Graham, shown with longtime companion Oprah Winfrey in 2008, will be keynote speaker at Philly event. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
Stedman Graham, shown with longtime companion Oprah Winfrey in 2008, will be keynote speaker at Philly event. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
Posted: August 03, 2012

FORMER BLACK slave Benjamin Spaulding, who married a free Native American named Edith and went on to have 10 children and 83 grandchildren, lived to become a prosperous man for his time.

But there's no way that Spaulding, born in 1773, could have envisioned what's about to take place in Philadelphia in his name. An estimated 400 family members will converge Friday on the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing for a gathering so well-organized that it rivals some professional conventions. In addition to the usual offerings you find at family reunions, this one will include an Entrepreneur Expo, open to the community at a cost of $10 for a two-day pass.

Among the offerings: A keynote speech by one of the most famous family members, Stedman Graham, Oprah Winfrey's longtime companion. Another Spaulding descendant, author Miasha Coleman, whose titles include Secret Society and Diary of a Mistress, will speak about her experiences in publishing.

"We always try to give something back to the community," said Neil Campbell, an event organizer who lives in Plainfield, N.J. "In past years, we've had expos with doctors from Duke University doing health screenings."

Over the years, Spaulding's descendants have awarded 21 scholarships and also run a for-profit group called the Benjamin and Edith Spaulding Descendants Association. There's also a nonprofit organization called the Benjamin and Edith Spaulding Descendants Foundation.

"We can't repay their sacrifices directly, so we pay it forward by carrying on their work," Campbell said of his ancestors.

The Benjamin and Edith Spaulding Descendants Association's 2012 Entrepreneur Expo costs $10 for a two-day admission fee ($20 includes admission to the expo and six seminars). For tickets, or to register, log onto Ticketleap.com or www.BESDAEXPO.com.

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