There aren’t many spaces for Black men to come together and share fellowship as professionals. Alfred Edmond Jr. saw there was a need and spearheaded the creation of the Black Men XCEL Summit.
The Black Men XCEL Summit is, on paper, a corporate and development opportunity for Black men. However, the event is much more — serving as a space for Black men to open up, be their true selves, and learn from one another.
“We found out from a variety of channels that nothing like this really existed,” Edmond Jr., senior vice president at the finance publication Black Enterprise, told HuffPost. He explained that the event was inspired by the Women of Power Summit, a leadership conference tailored for executive women of color.
“We kept saying, man, we need something like this,” he said. “We needed something that celebrates us. That sees us as a solution — as problem solvers and not problem bringers.”
The Black Men XCEL Summit is hosted by Black Enterprise, which bills itself as the “premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans” since entrepreneur Earl Graves founded the magazine in 1970. This is the sixth year for the conference, which returned to an in-person event after going virtual the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was the event’s first in-person conference since Graves’ death in 2020.
The three-day event — which took place at National Harbor, Maryland, and was sponsored by FedEx — saw authors, entrepreneurs, executives of Fortune 500 companies and others participate in engaging panel discussions (like “A Seat at the Table: Getting on Corporate Boards”), fireside chats and workshops.
The conference also presented the XCEL Awards, which honor excellence across several fields, including business and technology. This year’s honorees included former NBA player Grant Hill, former CEO of Carnival Corp. Arnold W. Donald and civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
The convention included novelties such as a place for attendees to get haircuts. But a major focus of the event is connecting Black men directly with corporate America’s leaders and stakeholders — particularly, those who are in hiring positions or know someone who is.
“If you’re really serious about equity inside your organizations, and getting back more Black men in leadership positions in your company and corporate boards, then you should be sending executives or your talent to an event like this because this will produce results that are different from ‘I removed a racist logo from my product,’” Edmond Jr. said.
But, according to the event’s attendees, the benefits of the workshop go beyond networking.
Jay Barnett, a former professional football player who is now a licensed therapist and author, participated in the authors roundtable. “Oftentimes as men, there’s always this battle to show our masculinity. But when you see us in these spaces, we don’t have to state the obvious — we’re all men,” Barnett explained. “For brothers to see other brothers being loved on, supported, and celebrated … that’s what this event is all about.”
Shawn Dove, author and founder of the Corporation for Black Male Achievement, concurred. “Black men want and need the same things everybody else wants and needs,” Dove said.
“That’s love, safety and belonging,” he added. “This gathering, for me, provides exactly that.”