Honorees of the 2023 Black Men XCEL Summit provide guidance and inspiration for Black entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs gained motivation, advice, and optimism from award winners at the summit.

October 20th 2023.

Honorees of the 2023 Black Men XCEL Summit provide guidance and inspiration for Black entrepreneurs.
The 2023 Black Men XCEL Summit was a success, with over 600 people in attendance. Trailblazers from corporate America, entrepreneurship, and entertainment were honored at the XCEL Awards, with four dynamic award recipients inspiring and guiding the seasoned and budding Black entrepreneurs in the room.

Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., President and CEO of BLACK ENTERPRISE, opened the event by speaking of the significance of holding the Summit in Florida - despite the policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis that have been deemed as anti-people of color, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ. “It is not lost on us that we are celebrating Black excellence in the state of Florida, which is currently burdened by a governor and presidential candidate who is leading a futile effort to erase and whitewash our history of trial and triumph as Black people in America,” said Graves. “While holding this event elsewhere was an option for us, we chose not to fall back, but to step up—to present ourselves as bold, living, breathing proof of our legacy of overcoming and achievement. Together, here in this room, we represent truth that cannot be denied, a history that can never be erased.”

The four honorees at the XCEL Awards included Shannon Brown, president and CEO of BCS Consulting Services and retired senior vice president of Eastern Division U.S. Operations and chief diversity officer, FedEx Express, who received the Dedicated Corporate Champion Award. During his speech, he praised the late Earl G. Graves Sr. for being a media giant and educating Black people on building wealth, and he acknowledged Butch Graves for continuing the legacy. Brown also shared practical advice he had learned, “Don’t come to working thinking you’re better than other folk. Titles come and go, but people never forget how you treated them.”

Chris Womack, President and CEO of Southern Company, was honored with the Outstanding Executive Leader Award. This year, he became one of the few Black chief executives of the 500 largest U.S.-based publicly traded corporations with a revenue of nearly $30 billion last year. Womack shared his journey from growing up in South Alabama to leading a $135-billion enterprise value company, stressing the importance of hard work, accepting help, and looking around corners into the future. “This life is not about just making a living, but about making a difference,” he said.

Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor Anthony Anderson was bestowed the Best Of Who We Are Award. Despite referring to himself as “just a kid from Compton,” Anderson has achieved great success, starriing in ABC’s multi-award nominated sitcom “black-ish”. He also spoke about living with Type 2 diabetes, encouraging other Black men to do the same. “You don’t have to die from this disease,” he said. “You can live with it and live a productive life.”

The final honoree was David Grain, CEO of Grain Management LLC, who was presented with the Earl G. Graves Sr. Vanguard Award. The company recently made headlines with its plans to raise $4 billion for a new infrastructure fund, and Grain spoke of the inspiration he drew from Earl Graves. “The telling of the stories showed me what was possible and taught me the power of equity ownership,” he recalled.

The four award recipients proved to be great sources of inspiration, guidance, and hope to all in attendance. They shared their stories of success and emphasized the power of hard work and equity ownership, making a lasting impact on the Black entrepreneurs at the Summit.

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