0117: Black Excellence

"Black Excellence," Jack Nesmith


Black Excellence- Motivating Black Success

Ever since I was a child, the importance of success as a person of color was a life motivator to make a positive difference in society. When I was seven years old, I wrote on a sheet of paper “I want to go to college and graduate as the first member of my family” and use that as an inspiration to reach new levels of success in my life that I’ve never dreamed of achieving.

As a young Black Male, I have been able to reflect on the experiences that developed my identity and why my race is important to me as a person. Learning about black culture was inspiring to learn about people that I identified with overcome huddles and obstacles in America while being some of the best minds in society as well. Even with the hardships and historical setbacks to the African American community, I was proud of to learn of the rich history and accomplishments of black leaders. As a first-generation graduate with my Bachelors and Masters degrees, the importance of education as a black man was a motivate to overcome the odds and reach new heights of success. 

As a kid, I admired Dr. Martin Luther King as one of my favorite heroes who used an extreme amount of courage, peace, and wisdom to deal with some of worst social issues in our country. Despite Dr. King’s amazing message given to people of all backgrounds and the strides of diversity in our nation, the issue of attacks on social justice, racism, and negativity are still in effect for people of color within the United States.

For this piece, I wanted to reflect on the importance of Black Excellence and how African-Americans are making strides and positive impacts in the world. To have positive mentors, peers, and role models of color in media, education, and other forms of leadership around the world. Seeing the such of those amazing people can inspire others that feel trapped by the burdens of ignorance and hatred in life. 

Social Justice Awareness 

As recent events have affected our country, being a person of color is a society filled with racism, hate crimes, and a resist to accept diversity can be draining. When I hear the news of a black person attacked by the criminal justice system or false accused of a crime, I tell myself “not this again” and cringe at the negative aftermath on social media.

As every hashtag became a lost life of a black male, the cold reality of every step forward for myself, society was taking ten steps backwards. Despite how upsetting this can be for many African-Americans, these actions inspire me to reach out to other men and women of color and support them. From my friends in college, graduate school, and even as a professional, it’s awesome to see how far many of them have come in life.

Seeing fellow peers of color of all background creating positive change despite the negative barriers and stereotypes in society is refreshing. Even having peers that are not people of color being supportive and aware of these issues provide a bit of hope to hopefully put an end to all forms of hatred and spread knowledge to others to make a difference.

Why Black Excellence Matters?

In a time where negative actions towards people of color, I always enjoy seeing stories of men and women (and those who don’t identity with gender folx’s) doing well in life. Hearing about powerful leaders of color giving back to their hometowns, finding the cure to disease, going into government, and getting into institutions of higher education is one of the biggest forms of Black Excellence that I enjoy seeing. The stereotypes that are given to African-American’s in society are some that still cause pain, frustration, and setbacks can be disheartening however, I try to use it as a motivational drive to keep doing well and overcoming issues that are given by racial prejudice and racism in the country.

An example of black excellence recently was the powerful success of actors and actresses of color in television and movies. Seeing people of color of all backgrounds achieve success for their shows and efforts in arts was positive as some of my favorites reached new levels of acknowledge.

My favorite rapper and actor Donald Glover took home two awards at the event and had an amazing show called Atlanta (which is amazing and you should watch season 1 asap) about black culture in Atlanta. As a fan of Glover, his success outside of acting with movies like Spider-man Homecoming, Star Wars, and more of his own projects is a great of black excellence from a young person of color. Watching his rise of success from Mystery Team to big picture movies made him one of the people that inspires me to keep moving forward in life. 

For myself, I am a person that came from a low-income area and learned from the public-school system that I am proud of and feel made me a better person. To reflect on humble beings to where I am now helped me learn how to work for everything I wanted in life and help other succeed which is why people like Donald Glover, Derek Jeter, Serena Williams, and other people of color inspire me to make a difference because of who they are as a person.

hey are not only proud to be black, they also believe in standing up for justice, helping others in their community, and encouraging people to live their dreams as young black people. All of them faced hardships in their lives from racial discrimination to shortcomings that made them the amazing people they are today.

Even as a passionate wrestling fan, this pass year, wrestlers like The New Day, Sasha Banks, Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, and more overcome obstacles to inspire all fans including black ones to believe in their dreams. The #blackexcellence photo they took was inspiring to see five black champions in a company that was predominately white for many years and took ages for a black champion to succeed even during “progressive” times. 

Paying It Forward 

As I finish this piece, I want to share my goal of helping the future generation of leaders of color make a difference in the world. As a student affairs professional, I want to inspire everyone regardless of your race, gender orientation, status, or belief to beat the odds and keep being amazing. Being Black is something I love and is a part of who I am as a young person, scholar, and person of color in America. Despite the issues in our society, I aspire to keep my dream of helping others and hope to see more people of color dream, succeed, and overcome any personal setbacks in life.


About the art:

Jack is one of the best dudes I've never met. He's always supportive of people in our student affairs community, our wrestling community, and seemingly toward everyone in his life. And I love that. It's a trait that I admire very much in him.

I was glad that he was willing to share his story with us for this project because he always shares a wonderful perspective as a Black man in those communities.

Jack knew exactly what he wanted me to paint as well, which made this pretty cut and dry. He wanted a black and grey rendering of the Captain America shield. So I gave it my perspective and had fun mapping out the circles. For the largest circle I used a 10" vinyl record, the middle circle was an old jukebox 45 record, and the smallest circle is from the lid of a peanut butter container. Got real creative with those circles!

I suck at making stars look decent, so I hoped the rendering of this as a little more worn and dirty would give me a little bit of a break in terms of the form of the shape.

Alas, I think this piece looks cool and I'm stoked that it will go to Jack soon, as he begins his new job - fresh off the job search, just as I was exactly one year ago this week! Best of luck and thanks again, Jack!

- Craig.