Jay-Z once dropped the line, “Black Excellence, opulence, decadence.” And that is best way to describe the first day of the second annual Black Men XCEL Summit presented by FedEx. Men and women showed up to the PGA National Resort & Spa ready to celebrate the best of who black men are.
BLACK MEN XCEL RECAP (DAY 1)
The day opened with enthusiasm as attendees arrived at registration to receive their badges and swag bags filled with goodies. As the day progressed, so did the networking and fellowship. The resort was packed with this year’s selection of BE Modern Men of Distinction mixing and mingling (some for the first time) and those who attended before reconnected.
Throughout the day, people were able to receive a quick lineup in the Sparks Studio presented by Walmart; get styling and measurement services; play tennis; and stopped by Canterbury Hall to drop off lightly worn and new professional clothing to donate to That Suits You – an organization that provides suits to boys and men in need.
RED CARPET READY
Later in the evening, attendees put on their best red carpet chic attire and headed to the welcome reception and took photos on the red carpet before heading to the 2nd annual XCEL Awards Dinner sponsored by AT&T.
And the time that everyone was waiting for finally came when Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., President & CEO of Black Enterprise, welcomed everyone to the dinner. He opened up with saying that the event is the gold standard for excellence and paid homage to the legacy of Black Enterprise as one of the first publications to display powerful black men in a positive light. “While Black Men XCEL and BE Modern Man (the digital campaign we launched in 2015) are new, they are consistent with elevating the legacy birthed by my father, Earl Graves Sr., when he launched Black Enterprisemagazine in 1970,” said Graves.
And with history coupled with the realities that black men currently face on a daily basis, Graves urged the room to not grow content with the celebration. “I urge you not to take this moment in time or the next several days for granted,” he added.
During opening remarks, host event sponsor, Shannon A. Brown, Senior Vice President of Air/Ground Freight Services and chief diversity officer at FedEx Express made it clear that, “This year’s #BMXCEL theme, ‘Celebrating the best of who we are,’ is more than a theme. It’s a call to action.”
BLACK MEN XCEL IS A LIFESTYLE
Shortly after, Corey Anthony, senior vice president, Human Resources & chief diversity officer at AT&T shared his company’s impact on the lives of men and said, “The magnitude of this event reflects what we’re doing at our company.” He then went on to introduce business mogul Kenneth Chenault as the first XCEL Award honoree of the night. He was presented with the Earl G. Graves Sr. Vanguard Award.
Black Enterprise has covered Kenneth Chenault, chairman and managing director at General Catalyst for over 30 years. Chenault spoke about the continued support that he has received over the years during his acceptance speech. “My father had a saying, ‘If you’re going to be for me, be for me early.’ And, Earl Graves Sr. was there for me early…. he has been a great mentor, role model, and friend,” said Chenault. He went on to dedicate his award to Mr. Graves.
After Chenault’s heartwarming speech, Tony Waller, senior director, Corporate Affairs Constituent Relations at Walmart, led the audience in a moment of silence and prayer for the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Her musical tribute lasted for the duration of dinner and people couldn’t help but to sing along and dance in their chairs while enjoying their meal.
The evening continued as Waller introduced the second honoree of the night, U.S. Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith for the Social Impact XCEL Award. Smith is one of two men who made it possible for the countless men who continue to take a knee when he gave the black power salute on the Olympic podium in 1968—an act of defiance for which he and other athletes were expelled from the Olympic games. Last night, Smith rose his fist again from the stage as hundreds of people joined him as an ode to history and to the power of the people. During his speech he shared that his bold and courageous act in ’68 “wasn’t a sacrifice for me, it was a sacrifice for those who came after me who took a stand.” At the age of 74, he says he will continue to do the work that needs to be done until he rests.
After that power moment, Anthony came back on stage to introduce the one and only T.D. Jakes, bishop of Potter’s House Ministries and CEO of T.D. Jakes Enterprises L.L.P. to receive his XCEL Award for Inspiration.
Jakes spoke about his entrepreneurial journey as a businessman and pastor and shared that it’s not where you start but where you finish. “I learned to never put a period where God put a comma,” he said.
SOURCE: Lydia Blanco