Where There Are Black Men There’s Excellence: Black Men XCEL Event Full Recap [Images]

Jay-Z once dropped the line, “Black Excellence, opulence, decadence.” And that is the 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) while those who had attended before, reconnected.

Throughout the day, people were able to receive a quick line-up in the Spark 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. 

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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 by 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 Enterprise magazine 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 raised 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. 

 Black Men XCEL Recap (Day 2)

When is the last time that you started your day off with a good game of golf? Well, this morning, that’s exactly what attendees did as they headed out to the links on their golf carts in droves to spend quality time on the green, catch up, and network. And for those who wanted to work on their personal and professional development, they spent their morning at the “Becoming a Person of Influence” session with Kevin Wayne Johnson, founder, chief visionary and CEO, The Johnson Leadership Group L.L.C., and certified coach, teacher and speaker, John Maxwell Team for the session on becoming a person of influence.

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During the workshop, people were able to learn how they can use their influence as leaders to help others build. Attendees were able to walk away with 10 ways to increase their influence and countless priceless tips.

Black Men Thriving in Corporate America

The afternoon continued with remarks from Alfred A. Edmond Jr., SVP and executive editor-at-large at the opening of the XCEL Lunch & Discussion: “Busting the Corporate Pipeline: Meet the Next Generation of Black Leaders” presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co. During the luncheon, David Clunie, managing director, Head of State & Local Government Relations; and Damon Munchus, executive director, Corporate & Investment Bank joined Jonathan Simon, executive director of Advancing Black Leaders; Terry Woodard, managing director, Asset & Wealth Management for a powerful leaders conversation about the realities that black men face in corporate America while presenting solutions.

One of the many profound statements that were shared during their dialogue came from Woodard when he said, “As a senior person, you have to be engaged. We talk a lot about standing on shoulders, but, you have to reach back.”

Immediately following that unapologetic dialogue, the audience had the distinct pleasure of hearing from T.D. Jakes, bishop of Potter’s House Ministries and CEO of T.D. Jakes Enterprises L.L.P. and Earl “Butch” Graves Jr, president & CEO of Black Enterprise during their one-on-one fireside chat. Jakes spoke about everything from his leap of faith when moving from West Virginia to the process of becoming an entrepreneur. And of course, he took us to church when he spoke about the need for the black community to support one another financially and become more business savvy.

After a riveting conversation with Butch, Jakes made the exciting announcement that T.D. Jakes Enterprises L.L.P and Black Enterprise will be partnering to produce the SOAR Empowerment event series! SOAR is a one-day liftoff event for health, wealth, and unlimited opportunity. And the first stop will be in Los Angeles, with the second stop in Atlanta.

As the day progressed, people frequented the Spark Studio, hosted by Walmart, where they received free haircuts; charged up their phones at the charging stations powered by AT&T, and relaxed in the XCEL Lounge. People also received one-on-one business coaching. And we can’t forget to mention all of the Greeks who were proudly reppin’ their organizations and colors all day!

Speakers went Deep and Kept it Real

Attendees were also able to get valuable information at the “Black, Male, and a Future at Risk: Cracking the Code to Income Equality” session sponsored by Prudential featuring Dorinda Walker, vice president, Cultural Insights and Activation, Brand Marketing and Advertising at Prudential Financial; Derek Dingle, senior vice president and chief content officer, Black Enterprise; Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., CEO and founder of the dfree® Global Foundation Inc. and Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens (FBCLG); BE Modern Man Chike Uzoka, founder of Valentine Global L.L.C.; and Ed Gordon, Emmy Award-winning broadcaster.

They also got to be a part of a timely conversation between Jemele Hill, and Tommie Smith about the state of black people in professional sports presented by Carnival. During his opening remarks, Gary Eppinger, global VP, CISO and Privacy Officer, at Carnival Corp. said, “Sports isn’t the only way out. It’s an option, not the option.”

The highlight of the evening by far was the private BE Modern Man Reception presented by Dell. The one-and-only “Mr. BE Modern Man” himself, Alfred A. Edmond Jr. and Brian Reaves, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Dell, challenged men to continue to be a positive representation for those near and far.

And that grand moment was followed by a night of laughter. Attendees laughed until their cheekbones hurt as comedians Craig ‘F.I.G.’ Figueiredo, Mark Viera, and Capone took the stage hosted by Jonathan Slocumb. One lucky attendee even won a new laptop courtesy of Dell for the highest social media engagement. And as a nightcap, Dell hosted a cigars and conversation fireside chat with Dell’s Brian Reaves, and Jerome Hutchinson, chief servant officer at the International Career & Business Alliance Inc.

Day two of the summit was where it was at and we’re looking forward to Day three of the celebration!

Check back every day for the latest news on Black Men XCEL.

Black Men XCEL Recap (Day 3)

There is no such thing as too much time on the green. That is why we kicked off the day with the golf academy with PGA Instructor Rodney Green and our annual golf tournament. Men and women learned golf essentials and the avid players competed for 18 holes straight. While others opted in for a good game of tennis.

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Later in the morning, attendees were able to relax and tap into their inner artist at the paint and sip session presented by Prudential. The theme of the artwork was family trees and everyone was able to walk away with their masterpieces. Throughout the morning people had a plethora of activities to choose from including working out at the functional interval and attending the screening of BE Modern Man Datari Turner’s new movie A Boy. A Girl. A Dream.

BE Modern Men Are The Standard

And there was no better way to kick of the afternoon than with the XCEL Lunch, which honored the BE Modern Man of Distinction hosted by Alfred Edmond Jr. During the opening of the lunch, Verdenia Baker, county administrator of Palm Beach County Government presented Black Enterprise with a proclamation declaring that Aug. 31, 2018, is officially Black Men XCEL Day in Palm Beach. Exciting, right?! After that grand moment, Frank Brady, founder of F.E.B. Communications was named the 2018 BE Modern Man of the Year! And if you know anything about Frank, you know that he is deserving.

After receiving his honor, he joined BE Modern Men Shawn Dove, CEO of Campaign for Black Male Achievement and 2017 BE Modern Man of the Year; Dr. Alex Ellis, speaker, author, custom clothier, and founder of Tied to Greatness; and Lamar Tyler, founder of Tyler New Media for a real conversation about different issues that they have faced, their influence, and the impact that they each have experienced on their journeys that have led them to where they are now. The luncheon was a sight to see as black men gathered to celebrate one another and address the realities that they face on a daily basis in their communities.

Black Men are the future of Hollywood

Following the luncheon, attendees were able to sit in on the Black Men in TV and Film session on the future of representation in Hollywood. The discussion opened with Sequoia Blodgett, reporter and producer at Black Enterprise, who introduced the moderator for the panel Tariq Walker, head of Content Development at Flight Strategies Inc.; producer Datari Turner; and actor Darrin Henson. As black men in the entertainment industry, they spoke candidly about their experiences and the expectations that are placed on them and the ones that they exceed. “Content is content at the end of the day as long as we’re getting to tell our stories,” said Turner. And Henson kept it all the way real when he added that, “We’re all pregnant with thought, but you can’t stay pregnant. You must give birth,” as it relates to creating opportunities and pursuing greatness.

The Day Kept Getting Better

Throughout the day, attendees were able to enjoy complimentary ice cream from The Discover The Palm Beach Gardens; relax in the XCEL Lounge and enjoy free haircuts.

And to top off that great conversation, the afternoon was topped off with the highly anticipated Mars vs Venus challenge hosted by the hilarious comedian, actor, and owner of Too Much Productions, Chris Spencer. The room was packed with men and women for a friendly competition of trivia. And believe us when we tell you that things got heated. But without a shadow of a doubt, the women took home the win for the second year in the row and the fellas weren’t too happy about it. But they were able to squash their beef at the poolside soirée where they enjoyed music, drinks, and the DJ of the evening. And the night wrapped up with a second screening of A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. and Q&A with Datari Turner and Tariq Walker.

Black Men XCEL Recap (Day 4)

Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! Over the past few months, we have been planning Black Men XCEL with all of you in mind and we are proud to say that this year was one for the books!

On the final day of the summit, early risers got their workout on during the power walk, Pilates Barre, iCycle class, and while playing tennis. And despite the thunderstorms, golfers headed out to the links for the academy and tournament.

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Throughout the morning, people were also able to get the professional expert advice they needed during one-on-one coaching meetings while others got the haircuts they needed in the Spark Studio.

The first panel of the day, “Succeeding While Black: The Dangers of Truth and Perception in Corporate America” opened up with a welcome from Renau Daniels, senior director, Multimedia and Events Sponsorship Sales at Black Enterprise. And the powerful dialogue about how black men are perceived in corporate America got deep real fast. Donald W. Comer, vice president of Operations Analysis at FedEx Corp.; Rahnold ‘Rah’ Thomas, National African American Resource Co-Lead at Accenture; and Ron Andrews, global head of Human Resources at Prudential Financial spoke candidly about leveraging their positions and power as black men in  corporate America in the conversation moderated by Derek Dingle, senior vice president/chief content officer at Black Enterprise.

The afternoon continued with the XCEL lunch and discussion “Prioritizing Mental Health – Yeah, it’s a Black Thing” sponsored by Koch Industries/Georgia-Pacific. Attendees were welcomed to the luncheon by Kyle V. Allman, senior vice president, Multimedia Sales & Sponsorship at Black Enterprise and JaKathryn Ross, senior director, Community Affairs at Georgia-Pacific.

During her remarks, she shared how people can only take some much and the importance of having support for black men, “I am a mother, an aunt, a sister, a daughter of a strong black man. I have a view into the daily challenges of code-switching; the games that you have to play in order to survive and thrive in this society. But you can’t keep it bottled up inside because at some point and in some way it is going to come out.” And, she is 100% correct.

That is why during the luncheon, community psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor; award-winning actor, activist, and director Malik Yoba; Sam Lewis, director, Inside Programs, The Anti-Recidivism Coalition; and Ilham Askia, executive director, Gideon’s Promise delved deeply into the topic of black men and mental health moderated by Edmond Jr.

It was clear that the conversation was timely and what some people needed to hear. Attendees were able to walk away with the resources they needed to help themselves and others.

Later in the afternoon, people were able to learn more about the business of golf with Rodney Green, owner and founder of Rodney Green Golf Inc. And those who were taking notes were able to charge up in the AT&T digital lounge.

The afternoon continued with spicy salsa lessons. Attendees were able to brush up on their dance moves and those with two left feet took notes! People were also able to indulge in an upscale wine tasting with BE Modern Man Warren Luckett, COO of Branwar Wine Distributing Co. People learned the art of collecting wine and toasted to the good life!

And the moment that everyone was waiting for came as the BMX barbershop debate sponsored by Walmart kicked off with comedians Capone and Mark Viera. And it was intense to say the least!

After the debate, we gathered for what would be that last time as a collective unit for the event at the summer send-off concert sponsored by FedEx Express. During the send-off, Donald W. Comer, vice president of Operations Analysis at FedEx gave closing remarks as he reiterated the importance of celebrating the best of who black men are over the past four days and every day. Soon after, host of the night Chris Spencer introduced Black Enterprise President & CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr and Rodney Green to present the winners of the golf tournament with their awards. After the awards, the party began when Wyclef Jean brought Carnival with him!

It’s fair to say that we partied the night away as we continued to let loose at the fade to black party. And it didn’t stop until DJ Nasty ended the night with a bang!

This year’s celebration was nothing short of amazing and it is because of each and every person who showed up and showed out. And none of it would have been possible without our host sponsor, FedEx.