We saw Erin Jackson become the first Black woman to win a gold medal in speed skating at the Winter Olympics. Then we watched in awe as the half time show of the Super Bowl featured cultural icons Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg among others in its celebration of hip-hop, an art form created by Blacks and Latinos over 2 decades ago.
And earlier in the month, I forged the next stage of my business career and became an executive in a leading-edge consulting firm, Oxygen Experience, founded and led by a Native American woman.
As an AfricanAmerican male in a senior leadership role in a company that consults with mostly large enterprise corporations, I am an anomaly. Black History Month gives me a moment to pause and appreciate the ongoing achievements and recognition of Black excellence as I reflect on accomplishments in my own professional life.
But Black excellence goes far beyond simply highlighting my own or other’s individual achievements. It’s a mindset, backed by actions that display leadership through perseverance.
Who would’ve thought a black kid from Chicago --- a great city with a rich culture made up of nearly every ethnicity and yet remains one of the most segregated cities in America --- would end up defying the odds, expanding his horizon so he could go out and eventually develop award-winning products for prestigious brands like Coleman, Pelican and ASICS? And then help to define and lead go-to-market strategies for Fortune 100 companies likeMicrosoft, Google, Facebook, or Centene?
Black excellence means not letting your circumstances define you. It means not being affected by what others who do not know you may think of you. It means leveraging that which makes you unique, and the rich history and heritage of which you are a part, so that you can endure, achieve, and succeed at anything you put your mind to and work hard for. No matter the odds.
This month is a poignant reminder to me of the huge responsibility I feel to not only mentor others, but to maintain an active, visible presence in our industry and professional organizations.
Active involvement and leadership enable me to celebrate and nurture Black excellence as it provides me the opportunity to express my gratitude to those in the Black community who guided me.
I realize now how much growing up as I did made me yearn for and appreciate the diversity of perspectives from all walks of life. Because it is within this connected perspective that true innovation, and tangible, universal and human-centered change become real.