Black History Month, celebrated in February, is a time to celebrate the invaluable accomplishments of Black Americans in United States history. Although we are still far from racial equity, the active work of these talented Black speakers, educators, social justice advocates, and activists helps to bring more to light each and every day.
Inspire your audience this Black History Month with a prominent speaker, no matter your industry or desired impact. There are inspiring Black leaders and changemakers in all industries and facets of society, from tech experts to activists, athletes, and authors, who bring diversity to the forefront of your program by amplifying Black voices today.
Black Leaders in Tech
The lack of diverse racial representation in the technology industry has consequences far beyond workforce diversity and company culture. Implicit biases and skewed priorities can show up in products, software, and artificial intelligence in ways that can negatively affect users with different backgrounds than the creators. Many companies have started to make diversity and inclusion in both the workforce and in systems more of a priority, encouraging more equitable access.
Black technology speakers who have made their way into the field despite the persistent challenges can share personal experiences and valuable insights on the importance of bringing more diverse perspectives into the industry. Beyond their own efforts and achievements in the tech world, many of these entrepreneurs, experts, and investors also work hard to create more opportunities for other Black professionals, in order to secure a more inclusive future for the industry as a whole.
Check out some of the featured technology speakers speaking about their experiences being Black in tech:
Startup Investor & Award-Winning Tech Diversity Advocate
Over the course of a 20+ year career in the tech space, Jason Towns has advised and invested in dozens of courageous entrepreneurs, solving problems around the globe. He previously served as Managing Director of the Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator, a partnership with Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates. Towns is passionate about driving capital and resources into under-served innovation ecosystems.
Founder of Backstage Capital, Tech Inclusion Activist & Host of “Your First Million” Podcast
Arlan Hamilton is the Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or part of the LGBTQ+ community. Started from scratch in 2015, Backstage has now raised more than $15 million and invested in more than 180 startup companies led by underestimated founders. In 2018, they launched a four-city accelerator program in Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, and London.
Inspiring Black LGBTQ+ Speakers & Advocates
Much of the modern LGBTQ+ movement was founded at Stonewall, a rebellion that would have not happened without the strong leadership of Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie. The fight towards gender and sexual equality is inextricably linked to racial equality, as the intersectional lens continues to be necessary when talking about any efforts towards a more inclusive future. Being able to safely and proudly present as one pleases, and love who one chooses is a necessary right in making everyone feel they are taken into account and respected by society. The courage to fully embrace one’s truth, regardless of one’s profession or the spaces one inhabits, is truly remarkable and inspiring. These athletes, podcast hosts, bestselling authors, celebrities, and educators are here to share stories of their challenges and triumphs.
These Black LGBTQ+ advocates and speakers are sure to inspire your audience this Black History Month.
Pulse Nightclub Survivor, Activist, Changemaker & Thought Leader
Weeks after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, where Brandon Wolf lost some of his close friends, he began sharing his story of survival amidst efforts to shift gun policy in America. He became a powerful surrogate for Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy’s successful bid to unseat an NRA-backed incumbent and joined the Advisory Board of The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, an LGBTQ gun violence prevention Political Action Committee. In August of 2016, Wolf joined then-candidate Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in calling for change. Wolf’s passion for progressive action led him to serve as the top national surrogate on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign, crisscrossing the country to stump for Warren’s candidacy. Wolf’s work has been shaped by the life and legacy of his best friend Drew. In the summer following the tragedy at Pulse, he helped to found The Dru Project, an LGBTQ youth organization that cultivates inclusive school environments and provides college funding to emerging queer leaders.
Author, Feminist, Transgender Rights Activist, TV Host & Founder of #GirlsLikeUs
Janet Mock is the New York Times bestselling author, as well as the writer, director, and executive producer of the Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated drama series “POSE,” for which she made history as the first trans woman of color to write and direct for television with the landmark script, “Love Is the Message.” A feminist activist tackling stigma through storytelling, Mock broke ground in 2014 with the release of her pioneering and profound memoir “Redefining Realness,” which was the first biography written from the perspective of a young trans person. Her second book, “Surpassing Certainty,” was a memoir about the years in her life when she was not public about being trans. Mock also founded organizations #GirlsLikeUs and #TransBookDrive that help to empower transgender women in all communities.
Motivational Black Athletes
Coming together over sports is a classic American tradition that everyone experiences at one point or another. Because of the mere scope of influence and viewers on a day-to-day basis, competing athletes are able to have a valuable impact on the viewers, use their platforms to promote social change and equality, and inspire the next generation of athletes who will represent their teams and countries.
This Black History Month, hear from motivational Black athletes as they address determination and the pursuit of athletic excellence, while also sharing personal stories of how their background and race affected their lives on and off the courts.
First Openly Gay Player In Major League Sports; Retired NBA Player; Equality Advocate
Jason Collins is a retired 13-year NBA veteran, having played center for six teams including New Jersey, Memphis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, and the Brooklyn Nets (formerly the New Jersey Nets). After the 2012-13 NBA season concluded, Collins publicly came out as gay in a cover story for Sports Illustrated, becoming the first male active player in any of the four major American professional sports to announce that he is gay. Collins has traveled the country with the mission of empowering people to live their lives as their true selves and has become an active member of numerous charities, foundations, and organizations.
WNBA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist & Author of “Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You;” Coach of Ice-Cube’s BIG3 Basketball League
Lisa Leslie is undoubtedly the most recognized player of both the WNBA and Team USA, who brought considerably more than a stunning visage and statuesque body to the court. Throughout her storied career, Leslie was the absolute most dominant player in the women’s game. She carried the gold-winning Team USA in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. With the 2008 gold medal, she became the first team sport athlete to win four consecutive Olympic Gold Medals. In 2001, Leslie was the first WNBA player to win the regular-season MVP, the All-Star Game MVP, and the playoff MVP in the same season. Leslie became a commentator for ESPN in 2004 and has since been an in-studio sports analyst for ABC, Turner, Fox Sports Net, Fox Florida, and NBC.
Inspiring Black History Month Authors
One of the most impactful ways of understanding the perspective and unique struggles of being Black in America, beyond just Black History Month, is through reading the stories and literary choices of Black authors. Some authors speak directly about their experiences through memoirs or personal narratives, whereas others make a difference by offering their voice in genres such as sci-fi, poetry, fantasy, and more. Emphasizing and talking about diverse works is crucial in increasing visibility and representation of Black people and their experiences, no matter the subject material.
These bestselling Black authors each have unique stories to tell and will provide your audience with invaluable insight on creativity, racial issues, social inequality, and the importance of diversity.
Poet, Educator & Best-Selling Author
Nikki Giovanni is one of this country’s most widely read poets and one of America’s most renowned poets worldwide. Her poem, “Knoxville, Tennessee,” is arguably the single literary work most often associated with that city. Giovanni has received numerous awards in the course of her career, including seven Image Awards from the N.A.A.C.P., more than two-dozen honorary degrees, the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Medal for Poetry, and the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. Additionally, Oprah Winfrey recognized her in 2005 as one of twenty-five “Living Legends.” She continues to teach, write, and publish books. Her newest collection, “Make Me Rain,” was released in October of 2020.
Best-Selling Author of “I Can’t Date Jesus”
Michael Arceneaux is the New York Times bestselling author of “I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé.” Additionally, he is a regular contributor to Esquire, Elle, Essence, NBC News’ THINK, and MTV News. In the past, you could find Michael in his most natural state on The Cynical Ones, a humor blog filled with commentary on politics, pop culture, and personal anecdotes. The Root once named Michael named one of the Best Black Bloggers to Know. ESSENCE magazine named him one of the top #BlackTwitter voices to follow.
Black Leaders in Politics
Having representation in the political realm is a necessity in making sure that all voices are being heard equally, and that all citizens are being rightfully represented. Black political strategists, commentators, politicians, and advocates use their sharp communication styles and cutting-edge ideas to create social change that will ultimately benefit the diverse society of the United States. Those who are able to provide a voice and become role models for young Black individuals looking to get involved with active change in their communities play a uniquely important role in recruiting the next generation of change-makers. These popular Black voices are illuminated brighter during Black History Month and are here to show us that a difference can be made if enough people choose to listen.
Veteran Political Strategist, Bestselling Author, Former Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee & FOX News Contributor
Donna Brazile is a veteran political strategist who has devoted her life to working for progressive change, responsible governance, and the advancement of all people in a society that is fair and equitable. Brazile has twice served as the interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” and the 2004 best-selling memoir “Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.” She is a co-author of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics,” which won the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Nonfiction. Brazile is also a contributor to the recently published “400 Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019.” She is the founder and director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy, and training firm based in Washington, DC, and currently an ABC News Contributor.
CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN host, Emmy Award-Winning Producer & NY Times Best-Selling Author
Van Jones is a CNN host, political commentator, Emmy Award-winning producer, and author of three New York Times bestselling books: “The Green Collar Economy” (2008), “Rebuild the Dream” (2012), and “Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How we Come Together” (2017). Jones has also found success as a social entrepreneur, having founded and led many thriving enterprises including the REFORM Alliance, Color of Change, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Dream Corps, which works to close prison doors and open doors of opportunity in the green and tech economies.
No matter the event you’re planning to host this Black History Month, showcasing a leading Black speaker to give your audience perspective and insight will make it all the more memorable. Although this celebration is officially in February, the impact of sharing the perspective and stories of Black people year-round is necessary for our collective work towards a more inclusive and diverse society.