By Lester Booker Jr. and Raeven Henry
The General Motors African Ancestry Network (GMAAN), in partnership with Cadillac, discovered “The Power of Reinvention” during its 13th annual Black History Month Program. This year’s theme acknowledged the power of our collective history born out of many experiences.
“Cadillac is a brand of substance and quality that has been a pioneer of reinvention, and we are honored to have the brand as this year’s sponsor,” said Telva McGruder, president of GMAAN and director of Facility Engineering and Manufacturing Operations in Sustainable Workplaces. “As we recognized the achievements of community leaders and employees, we were inspired by stories of perseverance, dedication and courage that have opened more avenues of growth in our society. The evening crystalized the ways innovation manifests today and reminded us that it is woven throughout the fabric of the African American community.”
Cadillac has a long history of supporting African American doers, innovators and artists through strategic brand partnerships.
Telva McGruder, president of GMAAN and director of Facility Engineering and Manufacturing Operations in Sustainable Workplaces; Barbara Whitaker, 2019 GMAAN Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient; and Tonya Hallett, executive director, Global Manufacturing Human Resources.
Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival, has been a part of the Cadillac family for nearly 10 years. He waspresented the 2019 Trailblazer Award for excellence in leadership, outstanding achievements and community engagement.
“A reinvention moment sparked a career change for me as I discovered a burning passion for black storytelling,” said Friday. “There needed to be a platform for young, black film makers, writers, directors and actors to tell stories specific to our experiences. In 1997, we had our first black film festival with 90 people. Now, in our 23rd year, the five-day festival attracts nearly 10,000 guests.”
Other 2019 honorees included:
Lifetime Achievement Award Barbara Whitaker, retired GM executive, Chairman and CEO of Diversity Connections LLC. Career Achievement AwardRev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Chapter National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Excellence in Medicine Award Dr. Clarence B. Vaughn, medical doctor specializing in oncology Community Enrichment Award Tarence Wheeler, founder and CEO of the Tarence Wheeler Foundation. Inspiration Award Dr. Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, Assistant Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan. Entrepreneurial Spirit Award Nailah Ellis-Brown, Founder and CEO of Ellice Infinity LLC. Marketing Excellence Award Deborah Wahl, Chief Marketing Officer, Cadillac.
The GMAAN Black History Month Program draws approximately one-thousand people annually and is a much-anticipated community event in Metro Detroit. As a special treat, this audience was one of the first to experience the complete family of Cadillac SUVs displayed together in one place.
Additionally, this year’s event featured: Master of CeremoniesJohn Henry, Dominican-American entrepreneur, investor and host of Viceland’s unscripted series, HUSTLE, co-produced by Cadillac; a fire-side chat with Yvonne Orji, Nigerian-American actress, comedienne, writer, and star on HBO’s comedy series Insecure; musical guest Dr. Karen Clark-Sheard, four-time Grammy, multiple Stellar and GMA Dove award winning vocalist, songwriter and entrepreneur; and, musical performance by Brandy, multi-platinum, Grammy award winning R&B/Pop singer and actress.
GMAAN’s mission is to be a resource leveraged to provide a competitive advantage in attracting, developing and retaining African Ancestry employees; while engaging our communities to drive GM business priorities and performance. To learn more about GMAAN, please click here.
Telva McGruder, president of GMAAN and director of Facility Engineering and Manufacturing Operations in Sustainable Workplaces; Jeff Friday, 2019 GMAAN Trailblazer Award Recipient; and Raymond Warren, senior manager, Cadillac Media.