While we are three months into Women's Month, it would be negligent if we didn't give you all the gold that happen during the last month of Black History Month (BHM). Instead of highlighting a Power Person of the Month for February, we will highlight a few individuals who accomplished a "First" for a Black person in their role. Instead of writing five separate articles, they will all be summed up below.
We begin with Ramona Hood. Ramona was named the newest CEO of FedEx. Hood previously served as the company's VP of operations, strategy, and planning. She began with the organization as a receptionist in 1991, serving in multiple roles in her almost 30 years with the company. She said, “I wasn’t thinking this was going to be my career and I’d be here for 28 years. I was a young mother. I wanted a job that had a stable shift that would allow me to do (college) courses as appropriate.” In her first few days as the company's CEO, Hood plans to go out and spend time with customers and independent contractors as she listens and learns from these stakeholders during her "Ramona Roundtables."
Next, we have 19-year old Armani Williams of Detroit, Michigan. Armani is the first Black driver in the history of NASCAR with Autism. Williams is a walking, talking and driving miracle, as doctors told him ans his family that he would be non-verbal at just the age of two! However, Armani did not let that stop him, keeping up with his NASCAR dreams. He began participating in go-kart racing competitions around the age of eight and with his success, he advanced to professional competitions. Williams broke numerous records and holds many titles including the first Black American to hold the highest finish in a series race and the first Black American to have the highest finish in the series championship in the ARCA Truck Pro Series. In 2018, Williams competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, officially becoming the first openly autistic Black driver. When he is not racing, Armani spends his time speaking to audiences, motivating and inspiring them by showing and telling that anything is possible!
Wharton Business School, the nation's number one ranked B-school just appointed Erika James as the new dean of the business school. James is the first African American and woman to serve in the role in the school's 139-year history. James brings experience and growth with her, as she most recently served as the head of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business. James said of her appointment, “Wharton has had incredible leadership over the years, so that will be a tall task. As the environment changes, there will be new opportunities to experiment in business education, and I look forward to being able to work with the faculty, staff, and students there on what that might look like.”
Not to be outdone on the university level, George Mason University is here to announce their First Black President as well. Dr. Greogry Washington, the current dean of the engineering school at Mason will begin his tenure as president on July 1st. He will be the school's eighth president and will serve over 38,000 students, Virginia's largest public institution. He said, “What attracted me to Mason was its reputation for having real impact, providing access and for its commitment to inclusive excellence. Those values are in direct alignment with how I operate as an academic leader.”
Last, but certainly not least, we have LaShyra “Lash” Nolen. Lash was just elected to be the class president of her Harvard Medical School class. The Compton, CA native said, “The city of Compton is one of the most resilient in the world. Growing up and watching [my mother and grandmother] struggle and work so hard to give me what I had in my life, I couldn’t help but do everything in my power to make them proud. I feel like Compton made me scrappy. I’m hungry for opportunity, I’m hungry for justice. I’m hungry to see my people win. So, when you put someone like me at a place like Harvard Medical School, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that vision a reality.” In her role, Nolen plans to currently work on different community outreach events to mold a narrative about who should be highlighted at Harvard. Through her work, she wants to inspire other Black girls who are pursuing their dreams.
Congrats to all these amazing individuals! They gave us hope this BHM, which was full of ups and downs. We know they will go on to do well in their careers and roles!