Each year, I look forward to Black History Month as a time of reflection and remembrance, but this year is so much more. In addition to honoring the Black trailblazers of history, we celebrate Black people making history today. It is a celebration of how far the Black community has come and the people who are shaping its future.
We celebrate Vice President Kamala Harris. The first female, the first Black woman, the first Asian-American, and the first second-generation immigrant to hold that position. We celebrate the largest social movement our nation has seen as thousands took to the streets last summer with a call for justice, liberation and progress. And, at AT&T, we celebrate our Black innovators who are literally shaping our futures.
Every week of February, we celebrated those in and outside AT&T who are shaping the future today. That’s movers and shakers, like Lebron James and Abby Phillip, and frontlines heroes like Dr. Carl Lambert. In total, AT&T honored twenty-eight Black Future Makers from across industries and backgrounds. It was a true pleasure for me and my children to tune into the DJ Nice set and view the beautiful portraits created in recognition of these great figures.
Inside AT&T, we celebrated our own employee future makers, as 36 of AT&T’s brightest were recognized at the 2021 BEYA (Black Engineer of the Year Award) STEM Conference in multiple categories. In addition to these honorees, AT&T’s Israel Smallwood, senior project program manager of AT&T Business, was awarded the Entrepreneurial Fellow Award. And David C. Williams, director, project program management of AT&T Business, was recognized with the Rodney Adkins Legacy Award. Congratulations to these impressive honorees!
At AT&T we also celebrate another milestone in our company’s work with diverse partners. We exceeded our 2020 goal of driving $3 billion in spend with Black suppliers in the U.S. Realizing this goal is an important part of our long-term commitment to empowering the communities we serve. The focus on creating economic and social opportunities is an often-overlooked aspect of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. And while his dream has not been realized for all; we believe that this mission can be achieved.
A central part of that mission is ensuring that Black and diverse youth are equipped and prepared for the careers of tomorrow. Launched earlier this month, AT&T University’s HBCU Future Leaders Program is a multi-year mentoring and workforce readiness initiative specifically for HBCU students. Starting in March, selected students will take part in a series of real-world work experiences that will empower them with tools for long-term success. One of my favorite parts of this initiative is the critical part current AT&T employees and former HBCU alumni will play in mentoring these students and forming relationships that will last well beyond graduation day.
The world has gone through immense change over the past year and, looking forward, I’m hopeful for the changes to come driven by Black future leaders both inside and outside AT&T. As we close out this Black History Month, let’s not lose this moment. Let’s continue to celebrate and raise our voices on behalf the of the Black community, because when we all stand for equality, change happens.