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‘Dear Black Boy’: Inspiring future Black leaders

  • Posted on May 2, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes
Dear Black Boy by Martellus Bennett

I chose to join Avanade in 2018 because of the expectation that I’d be able to own my career. The challenge associated with being given freedom, however, is the assumption that everyone is free to choose a path. For young Black boys, representation in U.S. culture is usually limited to a subset of musical genres and professional sports. External expectations from mainstream media, family and peers many times limit their dreams, encouraging Black boys to give their bodies rather than use their minds to find success and purpose. Creativity, art, leadership and ownership are not celebrated or expected from Black boys, especially in a society where they see themselves overwhelmingly represented on the basketball court or football field but rarely as a coach and where they see themselves in very few movies but rarely in the director’s chair.

At Avanade the sentiment of “own your career” permeates conversations around project leadership, continuing education and community engagement. As member of the INSPIRE community, our newly launched employee resource group for Black employees, I feel empowered to support causes that pertain not only to my personal experience but also those that support Avanade’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Through partnerships with BAM (Blacks@Microsoft) and Houston nonprofit Legends Do Live, our Vice-Chairman of INSPIRE R.J. Haynes had the great opportunity to moderate an intimate conversation about agency and the freedom to dream with Martellus Bennett, Super Bowl champion, creator and author of “Dear Black Boy,” at the Microsoft Store at the Galleria.

Martellus shared his story of being drawn to art and a desire for creative agency as child. But given his background and upbringing as a young Black boy, he was constantly encouraged to focus on athletics rather than his own aspirations. Now, given his successful football career and his passion for education, he is taking the opportunity to give voice to the idea that parents can encourage children to follow their own path to joy. He is using his influence to create a media platform where Black boys can find representation as future leaders in any profession.

At Avanade, owning our career is a call to push for more agency and representation. I am thankful for Martellus’ words of encouragement, his story and his passion for art and culture. I am INSPIRE’d to use my voice and position not only to support the younger generations, but also my peers who are raising future leaders, and my colleagues who are working toward their own professional excellence.

dear-black-boy-author

Lisa Ryzhykova

What a shame that in our age of technology and democracy people still limit someone's opportunities because of their race/gender/ethnicity. That's a great initiative, Donald!

September 26, 2019

Santos Ozoemena

This is wonderful and inspiring to the black youth. With this type of motivation and knowledge being spread, more doors will open for them.

May 13, 2019

Paul Vetersneck

Great read. I even bought the book!

May 13, 2019

Alexis Strum Twitter Orange Icon@alexisstrum

I was really moved by this post and your honesty - keep challenging those assumptions!

May 10, 2019

Gianluca Marcellino Twitter Orange Icon@GianlucaMarcell

Thanks for turning principle statements into real life, personal, public actions.
I will read "Dear Black Boy" to get a glimpse into one thorny, complex inclusion challenge that's so different and likely so close to those we face where I live.
I can remember how complex it was to even begin addressing it on campus in Andersen Consulting, as late as the early 1990s. 

May 10, 2019

Melanie Dowczek Twitter Orange Icon@meldow

Donald we are so lucky to have you here! Keep using your voice!!!! Thank you for sharing with us.  :)

May 8, 2019

Laone Taylor

Thank you so much for organizing this event. My son was really inspired. He had always said he wants to be a Scientist and meeting you and RJ solidified his choice of career. Hope we will have more of this kind of events in the future. Thank you for caring.

May 2, 2019

RJ Haynes

Love it! Thanks Donald for sharing. This was an excellent event that allowed INSPIRE to speak to young kids and adults on the impact of thinking beyond stereotypes presented to our young black boys. Excited for more to come! 

May 2, 2019

Jen Glover

This is such a great event! How can we scale programs like this across the globe? 

May 2, 2019

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