Celebrating Black History Month 2024 with Riskified’s Tavar James

February 16, 2024

Taking place each February, Black History Month is an ideal time to honor and celebrate the achievements of Black people in the events and trade show industry and renew our commitment to continue fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

We want to recognize and highlight Black industry leaders and share their experiences. This week, we are featuring Tavar James, head of field and partner marketing, Riskified, a publicly traded company that provides software as a service fraud and chargeback prevention technology. Find who inspires him and what tips he can offer others to champion DEI in the events industry. 

Tavar James, Head of Field & Partner Marketing, Riskified

His experience: James started his career in the hospitality industry working on a variety of events while developing great relationships with suppliers and companies in his portfolio. He helped scale the corporate events and experiential marketing function at a leading financial services firm. Today, he leads a global field marketing and events team in tech.

His superpower: His diverse experience in the field across different segments and industries affords him a unique angle and people-centric approach to his work, his leadership and his creative process. James has a strong sense of balancing creativity and strategy, anchored by a foundational knowledge of the business. He is passionate about giving back to the industry, which he does most frequently through sharing his experiences and best practices in hopes to help his peers and upcoming event professionals navigate the industry amid volatility, uncertainty and frequent change.

His passion: His love for the events industry is evident, and he continues to advocate for events professionals having a seat at the table and being respected as super assets to any organization when given the space to create. He said he is an event pro’s biggest advocate and a true steward of the profession and how it brings significant value to an organization.

Events he will produce in 2024: His team oversees Riskified’s annual merchant summit, bringing together about 150-200 of the industry's best-in-class fraud experts in the ecommerce world. His team also produces RiskiTalks, a regional community-driven thought leadership series of events that takes place in major markets around the world. In addition, Riskified sponsors several trade shows across the globe, where his team produces experiential activations, networking engagements, speaking engagements and more. Learn more about Riskified events portfolio here.

Tavar James, head of field and partner marketing, Riskified, oversee the company's annual merchant summit.

Who are some contemporary Black leaders, thinkers or artists who inspire you and how have they shaped your views or aspirations?

Most recently, I have been inspired and motivated by Thasunda Brown Duckett, president and CEO of TIAA. I have also been influenced by Ayesha Coker, vice president of marketing, Porsche Cars North America, and last but not least, Joe Anthony, founder and CEO of Hero Media and Hero Collective, a 100% black-owned media and advertising agency. 

All three of these black leaders have gotten my attention in the past two or so years because of the unapologetic work they are doing to not only improve the lives of our community but also in how they are true representations of Black Excellence, fulfilling a purpose greater than themselves. This is how I try to live my day-to-day life, in and outside of my job and the company I work for – I have a greater purpose outside of my title and the company I work for.

I believe more than anything, we need more grounded North Stars. And not the typical North Star in business, but a North Star in people. People who inspire us, guide us even sometimes indirectly, and are a great example for those who are coming up behind us. You don’t always find this in A-list celebrities or big name delegates or politicians. Sometimes, that reach is a bit too far from home. These three giants are who I consider reachable North Stars. When I think of my two-year-old niece and my one-year-old nephew, I’m confident these three leaders are examples of North Stars for them, too.

Our community has somewhat become distracted, and sometimes in the worst way possible. I encourage us all to find our North Star and get back on track. We are still a minority, and we still are at a disadvantage in many ways. While I am no fan of the “woe, is me” mentality, we need to lean into people who are getting it right by driving a purpose bigger than themselves in respectable, transferable and universal ways. 

That is what I see in Thasunda, Ayesha and Joe — three trailblazers who have worked their way to the top leaving no stone unturned and anchoring every step along the way so others can ascend right behind them. 


Tavar James was a speaker at the 2023 UFI Global Congress in Las Vegas. Here’s his summary of the experience.

What tips would you share with fellow event professionals and the industry at large to champion DEI? 

Events are one of the easiest and most universal channels to showcase DEI and its importance. At the helm of these events are us event professionals and with that is a huge responsibility to make sure that we are advocating for all people. This is not just about race, gender, sexuality or nationality. This is also about accessibility for those who have impairments or physical limitations. All of these things fall under diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Here are four tips I think will resonate with my fellow event pros: 

 1.   Plan with the intention to make your event available to as many people as possible. Cover everyone in your target audience and think through all the potential limitations that may need to be considered and address them so that everyone sees a seat made just for them. 

2.   Be intentional in your programming and make sure there is a sense of belonging for everyone. Challenge your content team and anyone else who plays a role in developing your programming. Representation matters; stay steadfast in your position on this. Your speaker line-up should be diverse. Your activations and entertainment should be inclusive. Your sponsors should have a similar position as you around driving DEI. The way you deliver your content should be accessible to everyone. There really is no excuse for alienating anyone in your audience. 

3.   Implement CSR into your programming and make sure some of your CSR efforts are focused on helping underserved communities. We all are responsible for doing more for people who have less. This really comes down to being a force for good. 

4.  Be the change you want to see. You have a seat at the table where you can suggest significant changes that can ultimately turn your event into something bigger, better and greater. One of the ways you can do this is by achieving significant strides in showing diversity, equity and inclusion. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. And if your suggestions are met with resistance, keep fighting until you feel like your event is leading by example. 

In the past few months, I’ve seen two industry associations announce new board appointments with zero diversity. This is a problem. I understand it’s a voluntary thing and if people don’t volunteer, they can’t be appointed. But I trust that we can do a better job in how we are reaching out to our community when time to fill these positions. 

In 2024, there is no reason why any board of any organization should lack diversity. Representation matters, and we are responsible for making sure our colleagues, our peers, our fellow industry luminaries, and those who are coming up behind us are seen, represented and feel a sense of belonging.  

We are master artists at connecting people in places and spaces that ignite a spectrum of experiences. That is our superpower as event professionals. How can we live in that superpower and not try to touch as many people as possible? This can only be accomplished by intentionally focusing on being as diverse, equitable and inclusive as possible. 


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