“Black History Month is important because it’s a time to celebrate black excellence and the accomplishments of people of color,” says Steven White, Area Operations Manager, Gadsden, Ala.
Indeed, Black History Month is important to commemorate and honor the achievements of African Americans and recognize them for their central role in our country’s history. That’s why we’re honored to share Steven’s thoughts and perspectives on this important month.
Looking for the opportunity and a desire for a fulfilling career, Steven joined Car-Mart in 2013 in the company’s Future Manager training program in Poplar Bluff, Mo. After a few months, he was promoted to Assistant Manager. During his time at Car-Mart, he’s been a Manager Trainer, General Manager and Area Operations Manager. And he’s experienced numerous Car-Mart locations near El Dorado, Ark.; Woodstock, Ga.; Gaston, Ala.; Tupelo, Miss.; and Villa Rica, Ga.
Striving to be the Best
Steven is inspired by Rosa Parks. “I’ve always been intrigued by strong black women in history and in the present. Rosa demonstrates perseverance,” says Steven, while adding he played Rosa Parks in a school play at age 14. “That experience allowed me to learn what actually happened. Rosa was very simple, very tired. She had had enough. And her being very simple started a movement. And that told me you don’t have to be extraordinary to be the best.”
Here’s more from Steven:
What does Black History Month mean to you? Why is it important?
It’s an opportunity to praise the past and the present and look forward to the future. Growing up, in school, every year, we celebrated Black History Month, and I was always fascinated about what had been done and what has yet to be done. So, it’s a time to focus on all the accomplishments and know there’s still room for growth.
Hearing the stories of what my grandmother went through, and looking at where we are today, we get an opportunity to learn from it and be better.
How will you celebrate Black History Month?
My wife, Kaci, and I have a tradition of participating in a Black History Month parade. There’s always a parade in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
We, also, involve our children in Black History Month and let them get a little taste of history.
We ask them to select one black person in history and write a one-page paper.
Last year, my daughter, Alexandria, selected Madam C.J. Walker. My son, Hacen, wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. They read their papers to us, and we have a conversation about those people. It’s very special.
How does your heritage contribute to the person you are today?
I was raised by a single mom, and so I’m not the only person to be raised by a single mom. But my mom taught my siblings and me to work hard and to never let the color of our skin determine our path or limit. She told us, ‘don’t let anyone define you by your skin color.’
My grandfather was a truck driver in the military and then he was a factory worker.
He always told us to be disciplined in your structure and your life. He was in the military, and he always talked about being better.
What makes you most proud to be African American? What’s something you love about your heritage?
The biggest thing is knowing that isn’t my limitation. It’s who I am. It’s what I am. I don’t want to be the best African American anything. I want to be the best at anything. I have pride in being black, and that’s beautiful. It’s about being the best at everything.
And the food. I love the food. My mom makes the best chitlins.
My grandmother used to make fried cornbread, the homemade country stuff. And collard greens, neckbones, hog mogs and fried taters.
What career advice do you have for other African Americans?
Be better. Be smarter. Be stronger and be the most willed person in the room. That’s what it takes to get ahead. You’re going to have to work the hardest. Finally, be patient. Patience is a virtue.
I, also, suggest African Americans mentor others and find a mentor of a different race. I’m a mentor to my younger brother and cousin, and we have monthly calls and talk about their lives.
What can we do to create a more inclusive world?
Sit at the table with each other. Start inclusion by actually including – physically including. Have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you. It’s important to get different opinions, especially from those who look different from us. When we include, we can be more innovative with different perspectives, and we can then experience a more diverse community.
Also, be mindful. People listen and hear things based on their lives experiences. This allows you to get to know people before you get to manage them and teach them, and it allows you to better understand them.
Finally, we must find a reason to celebrate each other – every birthday, every holiday – find an opportunity to love each other!
Want to find out how other associates like Steven celebrate Black History Month at Car-Mart? Please visit us again here on the blog for more inspirational stories to be published this month.