Conferences return to downtown Detroit - but with pandemic precautions

Members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. are pouring into downtown Detroit for its regional conference.

"We are expecting over 2,000 members across five states in the Great Lakes region," said Carrie J. Clark, Great Lakes regional director of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

It’s the organization’s first in-person regional conference in several years after the sorority. Like many organizations, it held events virtually to keep members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I can’t even put it in words how much attending this conference in person means to me, as well as the other numbers of Alpha Kappa Alpha - we have not seen each other in person since 2019," said Denise Marshal-Walker, 91st Great Lakes Regional Conference General Chair.

As the country works to emerge from the pandemic, groups that organize large gatherings are putting protocols in place to keep everyone safe.

"We put together a medical professional task force team," Clark said. "We asked for all members to take the test 72 hours prior to arriving, they have to be fully vaccinated, and we even ask them to show proof of that as well."

"I feel very comfortable with the way the sorority has handled things and communicated the safety protocols for everyone," said sorority member Tanisha Jackson.

As conventions start coming back, it’s also an economic boost for the local economy.

"Within our region this particular conference we are expecting over a million dollars impact economically," Clark said. "We are excited we can bring that type of bang to Detroit, Michigan."

Hotels and restaurants in downtown Detroit say they are ready to welcome back the hustle and bustle conventions bring to town.

"We need conventions like that to keep going on after this two-year period if I can use that term, we are in desperate need of people to come downtown - especially Greektown," said Yanni Dionisopoulos, from the Golden Fleece.

"It will be great, it’s fantastic for us," said Dimitra Theodorou, of Bakalikon. "It means people are down here to spend money and have a good time."