BE Modern Man: Meet the Community Coordinator Adam Dickson - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.

BE MODERN MAN ADAM DICKSON

Name: Adam Dickson 

Age: 39  

Profession: Community Development Coordinator, Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union Instructor, Political Science Department, East Tennessee State University Town Council Member, Town of Jonesborough, Tennessee

Social Media: LinkedIn: @adamdickson

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?

Being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction means that I am continuing a path that Mr. Earl Graves, Sr. and so many other titans developed that combined financial/business success with social consciousness. 

What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?

Through focused, committed, collaborative engagement I have had the privilege of seeing struggle become success. In a community where African Americans comprise only 6% of the population, convincing political leaders that it is worthwhile to listen to minority perspectives related to entrepreneurship, job creation, quality of life, etc. Even though blacks make up a small percentage of the population, they possess high rates of poverty and unemployment.

A local pastor and I took the time to study community issues and statistics, and in 2006 we formed a nonprofit organization that addressed black community and economic empowerment. Local leaders immediately dismissed our efforts, but we persevered. By 2013 the CEO of a local credit union understood our passion and the community benefit that could result from our efforts. Now, the nonprofit and credit union are strategic partners, and the credit union hired me to nurture relationships within our region’s low-income communities. Never, ever, ever give up!  

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others? 

A sense of purpose is one quality that I want to see among colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. In today’s culture, it is too easy to become selfish and individualistic. We have to remember that we are here for a purpose greater than ourselves.

What are some immediate projects you are working on?

One involves retaining more minority professionals in our area. Our region is home to major manufacturers, a well-recognized university, and a strong healthcare sector; thus, the attraction of talent is not a problem. But, once talented professionals arrive and are unable to access diversity as they know it, they leave. I am part of a group that includes business and higher education leaders, and our goal is to market our region to young black professionals with families. I noted earlier that blacks in our area possess high rates of poverty and unemployment. Attracting and retaining people with high levels of achievement is critical to improving the overall quality of life and opportunity for African Americans in the region.

What is the best advice you ever received?

My late mother’s advice has always stayed with me: “Be your own man.” This advice encouraged me to build my personal brand.

What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?

For men who wish to make a difference through public service, I would encourage them to embrace three things. First, develop the character to reflect the dignity and integrity of leadership. Second, possess the courage to pursue new opportunities despite obstacles. And third, cultivate the conviction to love humanity even when humanity hates you. 

How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?

I want to know the life details of the person or people that I am meeting (i.e., Where did they go to college? Do they have children? What community affiliations do they have?) Knowing the personality of your audience helps you strategize and be effective.  

As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.

The best vacations that I remember are when my family would gather at my sister’s house in Atlanta. There was not any one thing special about the time—it was just the people closest to you enjoying each other. These times hold special significance since my mother passed away in November 2017. 

If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? 

I would travel to Accra, Ghana, because I believe it is an emerging city. From an international business perspective, I think the city has much potential. From a personal perspective, I would like to visit western African countries that reflect my heritage.

What is your “Extraordinary Impact”? 

I take the time to listen. Many other professionals in the area of public service are much smarter than me, but they can often be tone deaf to the needs and concerns of others. In a hyperpartisan political environment where everybody feels the need to express their opinion, there is a need for more listeners to genuinely absorb both sides of arguments and make balanced decisions seasoned with wisdom. 

Anything else you’d like to say?

“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.”   —Martin Luther King, Jr. 

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