2023 Black Men XCEL Summit Honorees Offer Insights And Guidance For Black Entrepreneurs
Seasoned and budding Black entrepreneurs from multiple industries gained inspiration, guidance, and hope from four dynamic award honorees at the recent 2023 Black Men XCEL Summit.
Trailblazers in corporate America, entrepreneurship, and entertainment were honored at the XCEL Awards, which was held in Miami and attended by over 600 people.
The honorees included president and CEO of BCS Consulting Services Shannon Brown, retired senior vice president of Eastern Division U.S. Operations and chief diversity officer, FedEx Express; Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor Anthony Anderson; Southern Company President and CEO Chris Womack; and David Grain, CEO of Grain Management.
In his opening remarks, BLACK ENTERPRISE President and CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. explained why the event was intentionally held in Florida. Many conferences and conventions have been canceled or moved from Florida this year due to the policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis that are deemed by many to be sexist and against people of color and the LGBTQ community.
“It is not lost on us that we are celebrating Black excellence in the state of Florida, which is currently burdened by a governor and presidential candidate who is leading a futile effort to erase and whitewash our history of trial and triumph as Black people in America,” Graves said.
He continued, “While holding this event elsewhere was an option for us, we chose not to fall back, but to step up—to present ourselves as bold, living, breathing proof of our legacy of overcoming and achievement. Together, here in this room, we represent truth that cannot be denied, a history that can never be erased.”
The XCEL honorees had a few things to say as well.
- Brown, who received the Dedicated Corporate Champion Award, saluted the late Earl G. Graves Sr. for being a media giant who educated Black people on building wealth, and acknowledged Butch Graves for continuing the legacy. He said FedEx was “proud” to be named to the BE Best Companies for Diversity List. Brown also shared some commonsense practices he’d picked up along the way. Among them: “Don’t come to working thinking you’re better than other folk. Titles come and go, but people never forget how you treated them.”
- Womack was honored with the Outstanding Executive Leader Award. This year he became the top executive at Southern Company, one of the nation’s largest energy providers with more than 9 million customers and a revenue of nearly $30 billion in 2022. Womack, one of few Black chief executives of the 500 largest U.S.-based publicly traded corporations, shared that it was still hard for him to believe he evolved from a kid growing up in south Alabama to leading a $135-billion enterprise value company. He stressed the value of working hard, accepting help from others, and looking around corners into the future. “This life is not about just making a living, but about making a difference,” he said.
- Anthony Anderson accepted the Best of Who We Are Award. The star of ABC’s multi-award-nominated sitcom “black-ish,” who referred to himself as “just a kid from Compton,” spoke about successfully living with type 2 diabetes and how other Black men can as well. “You don’t have to die from this disease,” he stressed. “You can live with it and live a productive life.”
- David Grain, the Earl G. Graves Sr. Vanguard Award recipient, heads the telecom investment firm Grain Management, which recently made headlines with its plans to raise $4 billion for a new infrastructure fund to help finance data centers and cell towers, among other assets. The firm is a solutions provider serving the global broadband industry and works with some of the nation’s largest institutional investors. Grain shared how Earl Graves was a beacon of inspiration for countless individuals like himself. “In BLACK ENTERPRISE, he told the stories of Black people in all corners of this country that I didn’t even know existed who were accomplishing significant feats and creating intergenerational financial security,” Grain remembered. “The telling of the stories showed me what was possible, and taught me the power of equity ownership.”