Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

Celebrating Black Innovators this Black History Month – PART 1

It’s February. And it marks Black History Month – a month-long celebration that provides a platform for recognizing and celebrating the achievements and accomplishments of African Americans. Black History Month plays a key role in highlighting the integral part the black community has played and continues to play in US history and society. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future contributions of African Americans to our nation’s history.

From Sports to Education. From Arts to Policy. From Tech to Science. Since the month began, people and organizations have been celebrating Black History Month in a variety of ways in an array of spaces and sectors!

WWE celebrated some ground-breaking World Champions that garnered thousands of views and has had thousands talking about it. ESPN celebrated some incredible women in sports.

UN Women celebrated several Black women like Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou, and Shirley Chisholm – as a way to showcase to the young girls of color all over the world to dream big and act courageously. And Sussex Squad are celebrating and appreciating the force of nature that was Winnie Mandela.

And even little girls! We saw a 6-year-old (with her mom) celebrating the significance of the month by highlighting some of the groundbreaking Black women and inventors!

From companies like Amazon Music celebrating Black culture with their Black Culture Radio station, to platforms like Discord celebrating the month by showcasing the highlights and insights from the collective intimate conversations within the platform. From Missouri State University celebrating black history by highlighting Dr. William Augustus, to Girls Inc celebrating black future with Amanda Gorman, Simone Biles, and more.

All of these celebrations may fill up our feed and threads over the month of February only, but what it really highlights is how far we’ve come together, and in moving forwards, the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion – in the workplace, in our lives, and in our society.

Celebrating Black Innovators

Seizing an opportunity to celebrate Black innovators who have blazed trails, made a difference or paved the way for change in their field or society as a whole, we’re celebrating by highlighting 20 leading lights in a 2-part blog series. We’re honored to highlight our first ten:

1. DeShuna Spencer: a former radio host and producer, Deshuna Spencer is the founder of Kweli TV. DeShuna founded Kweli TV, an interactive live-streaming service, to celebrate black culture, providing access to documentaries, children’s shows, web series, independent movies and news. Spencer is not afraid to tackle the issues that people want to talk about and she recently completed her first documentary, which was centered on gun violence.

We also had Deshuna on our Curious Monica Podcast and as a company that makes the decision every day what content should be available for her customers, she shares why being extra mindful and intentional about each step. 

2. Antoinette Carroll: Antoinette Carroll is a social entrepreneur, activist and community champion. She campaigns for social, racial and health equality, promoting redesign as a means of making positive changes. Redesigners for Justice is a cross-generational movement, which reimagines society. Carroll is the founder of Creative Reaction Lab, a nonprofit, which aims to educate young people to challenge injustice and inequality.

3. Shelly Omilȃdè Bell: Shelly Omilȃdè Bell is the founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures, a social enterprise, which provides Black/Brown woman-identifying founders with access to community, capital, and capacity building in order to meet business milestones that lead to economic advancement through entrepreneurship. Bell is a high-profile public speaker and she has an incredible record for training and developing leaders, employees and entrepreneurs. A host of The Shelly Bell Show, she is known to have raw & rare conversations at the Intersection of Culture & Finance.

4. Marcus Bullock: Marcus Bullock is the founder of Flikshop, a venture that connects people who are in prison with friends and family on the outside. The idea came about as a result of Marcus’ own experiences. During his time at a maximum-security prison for adults, Marcus became depressed and hopeless. His life changed when his mother promised to send him a letter every day. The letters gave him hope and kept him going. He pledged to do the same for others.

We also had a pleasure of having Marcus on our Curious Monica Podcast where he shares some great insights and advice. Like, knowing who is clearly not your customer or partner is also just as important, and shares why such details matter.

5. Kristina Francis: Kristina Francis is an experienced entrepreneur, strategist and technology executive. Executive director of JFFLabs, Kristina has more than 20 years of experience in corporate operations and entrepreneurial ventures focused on management consulting, business development, software and data integration, and impact investing competencies. Kristina has a passion for education, empowerment, and wealth building. She wants to make sure that all people, especially women, have pathways to education and reliable pathways to solid jobs that lead to rewarding careers and economic advancement.

In our 2nd episode of season 2 on Dear Workplace Podcast, we had the pleasure of having Kristina Francis, where she invites us to express what we need or what we would like with our team members. 

6. Jessica Childress: Jessica Childress is a managing attorney, speaker and children’s author based in Washington DC/Baltimore. A managing attorney and founder of the Childress Firm PLLC, Ms. Childress represents clients in all aspects of employment law. Ms. Childress has litigated retaliation, discrimination, sexual harassment, non-competition, trade secret, unfair labor practice, and whistleblower cases before various tribunals. She has been the recipient of several honors, and has been named to the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers Rising Stars list. Only 2.5% of practicing attorneys in Washington, D.C. are selected to receive this honor.

On episode ten of Curious Monica Podcast, we had an opportunity to have Jessica as  our guest, where she shares the power of agility and mindset to thrive as an attorney. From the moment she fell in love with being a lawyer as a child to how she serves both clients under her business as an attorney to the next generation of youth through her children’s book.

7. Corey Ponder: Corey Ponder is a tech expert who is passionate about driving change. A founder of Em|PACT Strategies, Corey also leads inclusion efforts at Instagram, focusing on equity & well-being. Corey Ponder is a speaker and creator who strives to promote empathy and build communities to create equal, diverse, inclusive spaces. “What if we could move people’s connection to the experiences of others from an abstract space to a personal one? How could we move conversations about inclusion and diversity from an impersonal “number’s game” to a personal connection to others’ need for fairness, equality, and justice?” These are the challenges that, Corey says, Em|PACT Strategies was born from. Corey is also a host of a Pondering Allyship podcast.

8. Terri Broussard Williams: Terri Broussard Williams is a movement maker with 20 years of experience specializing in social impact, corporate social responsibility, and leadership. An author and speaker, Terri’s work involves inspiring others to create change, and encouraging and building up others who want to make their own movements. Helping them do something big. If community service were a genre, Terri says she inherited it. Because it’s in her blood, passed down from generations before her who had an unrelenting need to give to others.

We had an opportunity to have Terri as a guest on first season of Dear Workplace Podcast, where she shares insights on navigating how you find the courage to innovate, and how curiosity helped her find the courage to innovate.

9. Derrin Slack: founder and CEO of ProAct, Derrin Slack launched the organization after a college mission trip in Botswana and having experienced the power of giving back to others. With a strong background in nonprofit management and research, training, and leadership, Derrin acts as the conduit between the needs of the community, and the individuals, partners, sponsors, and students that engage with ProAct. ProAct has since engaged more than 25,000 young people, business owners and community leaders.

In our Beyond The Box series of events, we had an opportunity to have Derrin in our ‘Courageous Black Innovators’ event in 2021, where we got an insight into his journey of innovation. Below is the wrap-up and reflection blog where you can get a scoop on the conversation. 

10. Lumbie Mlambo: founder and CEO of JB Dondolo, Lumbie Mlambo set up the nonprofit to help poor, underserved communities with limited access to clean water. They do this by removing barriers of access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to help reduce poverty and promote gender equity. A mother and wife first, Lumbie is also a Global Goodwill Ambassadors (GGA), a UN Global Leadership Award Recipient, a UNA-USA Global Goals Ambassador, a Mavericks Community Shining Star Award Recipient, a member of UNA Women, Forbes Women Forum and Global Citizen Forum, advisor for The Futurist Initiative, and an advocate for Clean Water and Gender Equality.

Last season on Curious Monica podcast, we had the pleasure of speaking with Lumbie on ‘Building From Scratch’, and she reminded us how we should hone our listening skills to see new insights and opportunities.

Seizing the opportunity…

Every US president has recognized February as Black History Month since 1976. The president at the time of its inception, Gerald Ford, urged the public to “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Not only does Black History Month highlight the importance of diversity, inclusivity, equality and justice in homes, communities, workplaces and in society as a whole, this February, it’s important to remember that pulling together will help us to achieve much more.

In Reflection…

And as we wrap up, I want to reflect back to last year, when we had created the intentional space to highlight and celebrate the voices of Black innovators who are doing wonderful things in their spheres of influence and share their stories of persistence, resilience, creativity, and innovation, and how they are paving the way for the next generation of Black Innovators.

About the Author

Picture of Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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