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This Black History Month, we are intentional about having a conversation on the critical role that black people have always played and must continue to play in our community and nation-building. Throughout our history, our black communities and culture have been predominantly depicted with negativity, stereotypes, and unfair assumptions that haunt the black community's advancement, where racial and economic equality are concerned. So, it may surprise you when we say that even with battling social and economic injustices, Black Americans have always given of themselves, talents, and resources in exceptional ways to foster community development and encourage entrepreneurial opportunities. 

 

Yes, black people give a far more significant portion of their wealth to charities than any other racial group in America. One could even go as far as saying that even before the black man had much to give in financial resources, he was undoubtedly contributing to building his community through his voice, pen, talent, strength, and influence. 

 In honor of our great men who have catapulted the black community into believing in themselves, here are six impressive black men who have impacted the black community with their altruism and classic sense of style:

 Looking Back to Look Forward:

Our top impactful and classic men of our black history who we believe led with grit and sophistication can also be found at the intersection of entrepreneurship and diversity and have helped raise a platform on which the black community stands and continues to build on.

 1.   Martin Luther King Jr.

 

                 

Dr. King was undoubtedly a man of incredible achievement. A leader of the civil rights movement, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a key player in the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Selma- Montgomery March in 1965, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. And after Dr. King’s assassination, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a federal holiday, and a monument in Washington, D.C.

 See what we mean? Impressive and outstanding men!

 But have you ever taken a good look at one of MLK’s photos? We mean a perfect look. He was a brother with style! Yes, MLK was a real classy fellow. He understood that how you carry yourself will always communicate how you feel about yourself. MLK understood the power of a well-fitted suit and indeed the power of a classy timepiece. When he fought against social prejudices, racism, and bigotry, Dr. King understood that the demand for respect and equality meant that one had to respect himself. He knew style played a huge role in the appearance of self-respect and strength. Dr. King valued and respected time and knew that the man who owns and wears a classic timepiece would always be taken seriously; this is perhaps one reason when he met with President Johnson why he was sure to accessorize with the most sophisticated piece of jewelry a man can own - A Watch.

 

 2.  Muhammed Ali

 

Ali is considered the greatest boxer of all time. His style, power, ring savvy, and winning of an Olympic gold medal and the world heavyweight title three times was unprecedented.

Ali was always ahead of his time both in his sense of style and his confidence - in a time when young black men were going off to fight for their country, he refused to serve in the Vietnam war, noting that it was the “white man’s fight.” When Ali evaded the draft and became very vocal with his opinions on the war and integration in the ’60s, he paid the hefty price of having his title and license to box stripped away. 

 Though Ali became hated by those who endorsed war efforts and supporters of Dr. King, who at that time was the face and voice behind equality through integration, the fight that epitomized his genius was the “Rumble in the Jungle,” the bout against heavyweight champion George Foreman. Ali was the underdog in this fight but, his “rope-a-dope” technique baited Foreman into throwing wild punches and exhausting himself. In an eighth-round knockout, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title.

 Muhammad Ali understood personal branding long before personal branding was defined. He knew that to be the best, he had to act and dress like it. To become a real ‘icon,’ you must look like one. There’s a reason why influential people in society still wear suits and ensure that they accessorize for the occasion.

 He brought style to the sporting world and was always on the mark with his choice of attire. Ali did all his press conferences in a suit, which showed his pride in his appearance. He displayed with every inch of his being the absolute star that he was.

 

Long before public branding and image management became a part of an athlete’s M.O, Ali innately dressed like a man who knew all eyes were on him. In the prime of his career, he wore sunglasses to press conferences and ripped the sleeves off his training sweatshirt. His personality, skill, and willingness to stand up for what he believed made Ali a stand-out and sometimes standalone man.

 

3. James Baldwin

 

 

James embraced his responsibility to be a voice of his nation, a novelist and playwright James knew very early and understood that it fell to him to reveal the truth about race and country. He never once shied away from speaking about racism, inequality, and the poverty that plagued the black community during his life. He was courageous in everything he wrote, every interview recorded, and every poem recited to confront American racism with honesty and boldness through his literature.

 And he did it with style. His brilliant prose combined his own experience with the best — and worst — of that of the black life around him: the joy, the blues, the sermons, the spirituals, and the bitter sting of discrimination. As he said in his essay The Creative Process, “a society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”

 James is best known for Giovanni's RoomGo Tell It on The Mountain, and Another Country. He was committed throughout his life to improving the cultural and socio-political landscape of the United States. 

 Like many other visionary writers who came before and after him, he was stylish. Stylish in his writing and contemporary, in his sense of fashion. Baldwin stole the accessories show in the ’70s with his black mustang sunglasses! He was always known for accessorizing with his scarves, timepieces, bracelets, and the occasional ring.

 

4.  Jay Z

 

 

Jay Z is an influential businessman with an estimated net worth of $610 million. He is an owner of Tidal, a streaming music service, and co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records. He served as president of Def Jam Records, founded entertainment company Roc Nation, and became part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets before giving up his stake in the NBA franchise to establish his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports.

 And lest we forget! He’s married to Queen Bey - Beyoncé.

 He has lived the American dream of reinvention and second chances, from hustling in the hardcore streets to the music mogul we know today. Some may say that maybe his rise to fame in 1996 was in a time when Hip-Hop was being choked by rivalry and violence, but even so, Jay Z has earned his spot and kept it!

 

Though he’s never been one for the fashion magazines, we can now see that the rapper has settled into his role of hip-hop’s elder, and he’s finally dressing the part. Jay Z is never overly accessorized, but we can almost always count on him to be donning a pair of sunglasses and a classic timepiece.

 Jay Z continues to evolve in his efforts to give back to charity, and his Shawn Carter Foundation, founded in 2003, is built on improving the opportunities for at-risk youth. His foundation has given back over 4 million dollars to communities to education scholarship programs. Jay Z continues to use his powers for good to support several causes as far as Africa.

 

5. Barack Obama

 

Our Forever POTUS!

 Barack Hussein Obama’s stride into history has been as confident as it has been unlikely.

 He had little support from established politicians, and many black voters did not even know who he was! But his campaign became a movement. His soaring speeches promising hope and change inspired millions. Less than two years later, a record crowd gathered on the National Mall to witness what was once unthinkable: the inauguration of the first black president of the United States.

 Through two terms as president, he tamed the Great Recession, rescued the struggling auto industry, and enacted a health care reform law that had eluded Democrats for decades. He was disciplined and deliberative, even-tempered, and level-headed. He was often described as the smartest person in the room, which everyone knew he knew.  In the eight years since he was elected to office, President Obama has become one of the most highly regarded politicians globally and the best-dressed American politician in a generation.

 That’s right! As if there was any other way for this black president to serve America but stylishly.  His wardrobe is a masterclass in uniform dressing. Moreover, he’s shown that he’s a man that knows what looks best on his body - and dresses accordingly. We know he may not have been one for indulging in the accessory options for men, but if it’s one thing that we know - he loves a sophisticated timepiece, and his sunglasses collection is quite impressive!

 

6. Lebron James

 

 

 

Lebron James is a championship-winning NBA athlete, actor, and entrepreneur. He founded the Lebron James Family Foundation, which has spent $41 Million to send kids to college. LeBron James also partnered with the city of Akron to create his public school, I Promise.

 James has a very diverse fashion style and, in an interview with GQ Magazine, made it known that pretty much all of his suits are custom made and that as a big guy, he likes to look good! He also noted that as he gets older, he appreciates the benefits of dressing well.

 Lebron’s style is 100 % self-confidence. He knows that a man who is confident in himself looks a lot better. 

 When Lebron spoke about his accessories, he stated: “ I've got a lot of watches. I'm an ambassador for Audemars Piguet, so I wear the Legacy and the Grand Prix. I have the Carbon Fibre Royal Oak and - it's nice. I got a little watch case - a watch winder - to put them all in at home.”

 Like A Few Wood Men, Lebron is quite serious about the value of a good timepiece or many! We particularly love Lebron’s versatility in rocking all his looks. Obviously, he’s on to something with this ‘confidence first’ tip because he doesn’t have just one style.

 These six black leaders and entrepreneurs are but a fraction of the representation and support that our black community has had. The numbers are rising, even now, of young entrepreneurs who are changing the world. This is just a glimpse at the work some of our impressive men have been putting in then and now, and each has a much larger story than what has been written here today. 

 Love them or hate them, the list of people above has used their talents, wealth, and celebrity to challenge the status quo and give back to our community, and that’s worth mentioning. Do not think that you have to be impressive or exceptional to impact your community or even be wealthy to carry yourself with style and dignity. 

 You don’t have to be a millionaire or have a soapbox of any kind (Though these things make it easier to be effective and deeply impactful); start where you are, give back, and support your community genuinely and authentically. One of the easiest ways to take care of yourself and take care of our community is to support black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Only by investing in our community do we also invest in ourselves.

 

February 15, 2021