I am not one to make a slew of New Year’s Resolutions. However, the first two months of the year begin with endearing and instructive celebrations–Dr. MLK Jr. Day and Black History Month–that should influence our thinking and behavior. Executive Leaders must set the tone on “what we do” and “How we do it.” These celebrations, as well as others, provide opportunity to be visible on what’s important to maintain a healthy business and operating environment internally and in our communities.
Dr. MLK Jr. Day allows us to reinforce non-violence, respectful treatment of all, service and the travesty of silence. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I have found curiosity and respectful, rigorous debate are foundational to ensure best thinking, leveraging all and continuously improving results.
Black History Month pushes me to reflect more deeply on the impact of 400+ years of slavery on Blacks, our broader business ecosystem and today’s health, education and wealth gaps. And of course, US slavery was followed by Jim Crow Laws and Sharecropping that extended aspects of slavery.
May I share a personal moment? My dad died early (age 67). He did not complete 10th grade because he needed to support his mother and a large group of brothers and sisters. However, he was an entrepreneur and taught me a lot of business concepts before my business education at UNC-Chapel Hill. Both he and Mom were part of the Sharecropping system where Blacks often worked all year with no money provided. And yet, there were also Whites who went against the status quo to provide help. My experience is not unique. Black History is permeated with unsung heroes like mom and dad, who with grace and faith, somehow carved out workable relationships with white neighbors under dire circumstances.
Yesterday, I referenced the impact of Jim Crow laws on me in a note on my mom’s Valentine’s Day card:
You created so many wonderful memories for me as a child. One of the favorites was our frequent trips to Cameron Village & Hudson-Belk. Even though I can never forget the “White Only” and “Colored Only” water fountains, you walked in with so much courage and pride and you still made it a great trip by holding my hand tightly & keeping our heads high and buying our favorite candy!
Think of the impact on Black children when they witnessed first-hand and repeated messages of “you are less than.”
Friends, you are doing noble work that will help customers eliminate waste and improve return and reliability within their supply chain. Also, core to our mission is to provide a systemic approach for companies to increase their spend and number of Black businesses. This is required for Corporate Responsibility statements to become real and disparities closed.
Chairman of the Board