The Black Men XCEL Summit Awards honored five Black men whose achievements, influence, impact, and leadership have helped to open doors of opportunity and present an inspiring example of success for others, especially men of color.
On Wednesday, the XCEL Summit Award show, hosted by FedEx, honored attorney Benjamin Crump; NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill; Citizens Bancshares Corporation Chairman Ray Robinson; GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald and Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald.
BLACK ENTERPRISE President and CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. began the night with an introductory speech that perfectly explained the Xcel Awards.
“That is what tonight’s Black Men Xcel awards are about and what our honorees represent, an undeniable, indomitable and unconditional celebration of excellence and leadership as Black men.”
The show started with a video tribute celebrating the life and legacy of Earl G. Graves Sr. and BLACK ENTERPRISE before the master of ceremonies Ed Gordon took the stage.
The first award recipient of the night was Citizens Bancshares Corporation Chairman Ray M. Robinson.
A seasoned business executive, Robinson is the living embodiment of the purpose of the Black Men XCEL Summit. Having led seven different companies, his current position at Citizens Bancshares Corporation is a reflection of his determination as he steadily climbed the success ladder. He joined the parent company of Citizens Trust Bank in 1999 and has served as chairman since May 2003.
Robinson previously served as the president of AT&T’s Southern Region where he was charged with marketing, sales, and promotions responsibilities for AT&T’s Business and Consumer Services. He also held management positions in operations, corporate relations, and regulatory affairs in Albuquerque, Portland, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Colorado Springs, and New Jersey.
“This award means a lot to me because of the founder of Black Enterprise Magazine,” Robinson said after receiving the award. “Earl Graves started the magazine in 1970, I got my undergraduate degree in 1970. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would meet Earl Graves, little did I know that Earl and I would become a good friend and for that this award means more to me than any other award I’ve received.”
GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald was the second award recipient.
McDonald leads more than 6,000 people dedicated to the next era of media where advertising better serves people. The City College of New York graduate is a key player in GroupM’s strategy to provide more powerful and effective solutions for clients through technology-enabled solutions.
The CEO has received numerous awards due to his notable career including Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list in 2018, Adweek’s 2014 “12 Stars of Ad Tech Who are Building the Future of the Industry Right Now” list and Business Insider’s 2014 “The 46 Most Important African-Americans in Technology” list.
McDonald was appreciative of the award and thanked Black Enterprise not only for its work but for taking the time to celebrate Black men and Black people.
“This is a moment where I think my imposter syndrome is real because among this audience this doesn’t feel like I’ve done enough to deserve this,” McDonald said. “I am humbled by this recognition and honor to be part of this magnificent celebration tonight.
“Thank you Black Enterprise, thank you for what you do, thank you for This Xcel Award, this recognition of Black excellence. Thank you for taking and setting the time aside to connect, re-energize And recharge ourselves but also strengthen the network that is formed through our connections
Arnold W. Donald, who served as President & CEO at Carnival from 2013 to 2022 was the third award recipient.
Donald spearheaded the operation of the largest leisure and travel company in the world. The corporate executive was paramount in keeping the Carnival afloat during the COVID-19 Pandemic when the cruising and travel industry was shut down for more than a year.
The Carnival CEO thanked everyone he’s worked with over the years for their hard work in helping him make Carnival great and to receive the Xcel Award.
“I have to thank the hundreds of thousands of employees I’ve worked with over the year from 145+ different countries in the world,” Donald said. “The investment, the dedication, the commitment, the ingenuity I had the opportunity to lead them but really by listening to them, to free them so they could create incredible results.”
Grant Hill is known across the world for his NBA talent, but he received an Xcel Award for his business acumen and dedication to Black men.
In addition to raising awareness for Black men getting tested for prostate cancer, the former Duke University guard runs Hill Ventures, which is responsible for managing and maintaining Hill’s marketing and promotional activities, community investment and foundation initiatives, website content and design, real estate portfolio, personal art collection tour, and other off-the-court activities and initiatives.
Hill said he was truly honored to receive the award thanking BLACK ENTERPRISE for honoring him, but it was his story about how he got into basketball that drew the crowd.
“My father played in the NFL for 13 years and I grew up always loving ball. When my dad retired he wanted to reconnect with his school, Yale University,” Hill told the crowd. “I remember in 1981 and 1982 going to Payne Whitney gym, at the time I had never been to a real basketball game but we watched and there was this guy out there who was about 6’3 and was just unstoppable. I went a couple times that year and later that year I got to watch Georgetown and Patrick Ewing, and so between Patrick Ewing and Butch Graves I converted From being a football guy to a basketball guy.”
The last award of the night was saved for Attorney Benjamin Crump, whose speech set the crowd on fire with his impassioned words.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized with these great Black men, brother Robinson, brother McDonald, brother Donald and brother Hill,” Crump said. “I think about you all when I think about Trayvon Martin what could have been, I think about Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Botham Jean, so many young black men taken from this Earth far too soon and too many young black sisters as well.
“What Black Enterprise does and we can never take it for granted, every day they remind the world that Black people are just as brilliant and intellectually capable as anybody else in the world and we have to continue to do that for our children because For every one of the gentlemen up here tonight they will try to point out dozens of other Black people who fell short nap because they were not capable but because society did not have expectations of them. So that’s what Black Enterprise does, it tells us that we are capable and we can be of corporate America.”
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