Westlake, OH, March 13, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King expressed to audiences that, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
In honor of Black Heritage month, Profiles in Diversity Journal is highlighting 60 African-Americans who have never stopped moving. These 60 trailblazers have built a legacy of leadership for future generations of African-Americans in their respective fields. Their stories show the advancements made by people of color since the very day Dr. King uttered his call to action.
“You’ll learn how these accomplished professionals give back to their communities and pass on their acquired wisdom to a new generation,” said Kathie Sandlin, Profiles in Diversity Journal Editor-in-Chief. “They range from executives and community activists to board members who broke down barriers in the work place. These individuals shared their opinions on the state of the African-American community, advice for a successful career and giving back.”
Building on History
“It’s easy to forget our history and the challenges those before us faced,” said Monique Hunt McWilliams, Chief Diversity Officer of Eli Lilly and Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. “We have to constantly reflect on that. We now have generations of young people who’ve not experienced those tough times, so it’s hard for them to understand that even when you’re in the middle of something challenging, you don’t give up.”
Each generation stands on the shoulders of a previous generation that worked hard to make the world a better place. This generation of professionals has either been in the fight for equality or is continuing the fight in the work place. “During my days in the civil rights movement, I learned that advocacy, coupled with passion, can transform the ideas held by others,” said Gene L. Locke, Partner of Andrews Kurth LLP of Houston, Texas.
The economic standing of the African-American community has changed dramatically through business, entertainment, food, etc. Now, more than ever before, African-Americans wield a lot of influence and power over the future of the economy. African-American Segment Leader of Wells Fargo, Lisa Frison understands the important role she and her entire community play in the economic future of the United States. “Through a combination of education and better decision making, we have an opportunity to harness that power and move increasingly along the continuum from being spenders to savers to owners to investors to philanthropists, and claim more of an ownership stake in securing our financial future,” she said.
Advice for Young Business People
The 60 trailblazers have made their mark on multiple industries and have made a real impact in their respective fields. Their knowledge of how an organization works, the time spent in the trenches and their hard work allow them to extend career advice to young professionals.
“Don’t just take inventory of your skills and abilities, but also be clear about your passions. You may not always be able to align those two at every step of your career, but you should strive to keep them in balance as much as you can. There may be a lot of things you CAN do, but you should live your life with no regrets by also focusing on doing the things you WANT to do and enjoy doing,” said CVS Caremark Vice President of Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, David L. Casey.
Power in numbers was the philosophy for the fight in the 1960’s and it remains a key in being successful today. The Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Southern Company of Georgia, Kenneth E. Coleman, has lived by this very practice. “Building relationships is important to success. No one can be successful solely on his or her own. Over the course of my career, there have been a number of individuals, including my peers, who have helped me–from giving me wise counsel to helping me find business opportunities, and everything in between,” he said.
Pamela Petrease Felder, Lecturer at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a direct message to young people searching for the right career. “My advice would be to find a career where you will be able to love what you do. Opportunities will come and go. But doing what you love to do will transcend these opportunities in ways that will sustain you,” she said.
The Value of Mentoring
Dr. Tamkea L. Taylor, President of Compass Consulting Services, LLC. of Beachwood, Ohio, believes in the importance of building confidence in others as well as motivating people to take action. “Mentoring allows me to directly impact their lives and assist with their unique needs and concerns. It also helps me grow. When I am unable to give of myself and my time, I try to contribute financially to the community, even if it’s a small amount. Every little bit makes a difference,” she said.
The American Express Senior Vice President and General Manager, National Client Group, Suzan B. Kereere has dedicated her time to mentoring young women. She works with Zawadi, which sponsors the college education of young women with the goal of making them strong female leaders. She is proud of her role as mentor to a lot of young women of African descent who currently attend numerous colleges and universities around the United States.
The importance of education is a constant theme among the trailblazers. They attribute their success to and the future successes of the African-American community. Many believe that through scholarships, personal mentorships or reforming the system is the way to make change. Ronald Wood, Vice President of Underwriting for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to the higher education of young people.
“I am a cofounder of the Organization of Black Alumni at my alma mater, Wayne State University. Through this organization, we developed mentoring programs and scholarship opportunities for young men and women pursuing educational opportunities at the university,” he said.
Giving back to their communities gives the trailblazers the opportunity to help young people to have the chance to aspire to and achieve success in a multitude of career fields. The trailblazers are using their intellect and their checkbooks to pave the way for the next generation.
“Profiles in Diversity Journal is using this Black Heritage Month to celebrate the work that has been done and the work that continues. We invite you to read their stories-we think you’ll be heartened by them- and join us in celebrating the drive, the integrity, and the irrepressible spirit of these outstanding African-American corporate and community leaders,” said Editor-in-Chief of Profiles in Diversity Journal, Kathie Sandlin.
The full interviews of the 60 trailblazers are available online at diversityjournal.com.
Profiles in Diversity Journal is a bimonthly magazine dedicated to promoting and advancing diversity and inclusion in the corporate, government, nonprofit, higher education and military sectors. For more than 16 years, Profiles in Diversity Journal has helped to stimulate organizational change by showcasing the visionary leadership, innovative programs and committed individuals that make it happen.