Black History Month is the designated time of the year where we celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of people in the African-American community. We celebrate those things that have changed and revolutionized the world. We celebrate those people who have made a lasting impact on society and us as a people. People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and George Washington Carver, to name a few, are some of our “go-to celebrities” for this month. We also get to celebrate lesser known African-Americans whose contributions were just as great. But I wanted to take this time to share with you four people who are African-American, and are lesser-known on the national scale, but who have made an impact on my life. Not only have they made an impact on me, but they have made an impact on the community, as well as, any and everything they have touched. These are the people (listed in no particular order) that I choose to celebrate on this month, just to say thank you, hope you enjoy!
Carl Brazley. I first met Carl my freshman year of college at the University of Kentucky when he came to speak at a National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) meeting. Even though I was not an accounting major, this group was for all African-Americans in the College of Business. Carl and I made a great connection, and it’s a connection that still exists today. In getting to know Carl, I found out that we both graduated from Seneca High School – although different years! He also played 13 years in the Canadian Football League, and used his time and connections there to start his business career in marketing. When I went through a season of unemployment, the relationship that he and I shared allowed for him to offer me contract employment until I could find something more permanent. Carl has recently become the CEO of New West Advertising in Louisville, KY, one of the largest minority-owned full-service communication firms in the United States, and continues to serve as a role model and mentor for me.
Emmett “Buzz” Burnam. I first met Buzz when I was in middle school, as he was a long-time friend of my mother and father. When I got to high school, he was the main recruiter for the University of Kentucky trying to lure minorities east of Louisville, and he did a good job of that. There wasn’t an African-American on campus that didn’t have some type of connection or interaction with Buzz. After I was initiated into Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., we shared an even greater bond, one of brotherhood. I grew to know Buzz as one of our advisors, but later came to find out that he was one of the first African-American football players at the University of Kentucky in the late 60s/early 70s era. To this day when I see Buzz, he’s still just as cool as he was when I met him back in middle school.
Rev. Thurmond Coleman, Jr. I’m not sure where to begin about Rev. Coleman. Anyone who has lived in Louisville or Jeffersontown long enough knows his smile and his voice. He accomplished so much for the church and the community during his time as pastor at First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown. But my history with Rev. Coleman dates all the way back to my grandfather, as they attended Lincoln Institute together. Lincoln Institute was a prominent school for African-Americans during segregation. Rev. Coleman has always been a close family friend, but I’m sure a lot people can say that. He is also the man who baptized me back in 1989! Although “Rev” is 88 years young, he and I still have conversations when I run into him. He asks about me and my family, my brother, my father, my aunts and my grandmother. Such an awesome man he is, and I’m blessed to have crossed his path.
Jan Brown-Thompson. Anyone who went to Seneca High School knows Jan Brown-Thompson aka “Mrs. Brown-Thompson” aka “Mrs. Jan”. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and was a close friend of my mother. I remember talking to her at all the AKA functions that my mom would take me to, and she was always giving me hugs and kisses and speaking positive affirmations over my life. But it wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I got close to Mrs. Jan. When I was in college, she would reach out to me to check in and ask me to come back to Seneca and speak to her kids. Last year, she reached out and asked me to come speak to some youth at her church about life, college and being successful. Teachers make a big impact on kids’ lives and I’m happy to still have a relationship with one of mine.
I think someone once said, “If you appreciate someone, give them their flowers while they can still smell them.” Black History Month is about celebrating our past, present and future, and thankfully, the four people I mentioned above are still present today – Happy Black History Month.