As we enter the final week of an epic Black History Month 2021, we celebrate black exceptionalism in Economic Empowerment by honoring Marshawn Lynch and Rachel Williams, two Bay Area trailblazers.
Marshawn Lynch is always in “Beast Mode”. On and off the field he is constantly moving forward and challenging himself and those around to be their best. Lynch is best known for his accomplishments as an NFL Pro Bowl Running Back rushing for over 10,000 yards and winning a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks.
Beast Mode isn’t just a nickname. It’s a lifestyle that extends off the gridiron and an attitude he’s embraced as a philanthropist and entrepreneur. Marshawn is the owner of multiple businesses in his hometown of Oakland, California including Beast Mode Apparel, Beast Mode Productions, Rob Ben’s Restaurant, BPLK Real Estate, Beastmode Marketing, and a co-founder of Fam 1st Family Foundation.
Lynch attended Oakland Tech High School and University of Cal-Berkeley. He was recently named an Honorary Class Member of Princeton University’s Class of 2020.
Rachel Williams is a Bay Area native with more than 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley. Currently the Head of Equity Inclusion & Diversity at X – the moonshot factory, an innovation arm of Alphabet (Google), Rachel is focused on ensuring that equity, inclusion and diversity is at the foundation of the multi-billion dollar companies and products being built. Prior to X, Rachel held global roles at StubHub and Yelp. Rachel also lends her expertise as an Operating Partner to Zeal Capital, where she advises founders of color on strategy, product and culture.
Passionate about ensuring that blacks have equal access to wealth creation opportunities that the tech industry affords, Rachel has started her own consulting firm focused on helping early career professionals navigate corporate environments with success, negotiate offers and promotions and she consults businesses on transformative inclusive practices.
Rachel has spoken on her work and thought leadership at numerous conferences and universities like: SXSW, The White House, North Carolina A&T, Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, Northwestern Kellogg and MIT. An active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Rachel volunteers her time with her local chapter as well as serves as a board member of Creativity Explored and Ultimate Impact. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley and enjoys spending time with her more than 300 family members whenever she can.
Mayor London Breed
Mayor London Breed is a native San Franciscan, raised by her grandmother in Plaza East Public Housing in the Western Addition neighborhood. In June 2018, Mayor Breed was elected to be the first African American woman and second woman in San Francisco history to serve as Mayor. She was re-elected for her first full four-year term in November 2019.
She is leading San Francisco’s ongoing response to COVID-19, with a focus on equity and supporting the City’s economic recovery. Earlier this year, Mayor Breed announced her vision to fundamentally change the nature of policing in San Francisco and issued a set of policies to address structural inequities. Since becoming Mayor, she has focused on helping the City’s homeless population into care and shelter; adding more housing for residents of all income levels; helping those suffering from mental health and substance use disorder on San Francisco’s streets; ensuring that all San Franciscans have access to a thriving economy; making San Francisco a cleaner and safer city; and furthering San Francisco’s leadership in combating climate change.
Prior to public service, Mayor Breed served as Executive Director of the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition for over a decade. She also served as a San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Commissioner and in 2010 was appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to be a San Francisco Fire Commissioner, where she served until her election to the Board of Supervisors.
Mayor Breed served for six years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, including three years as President of the Board. During her time on the Board, Mayor Breed passed legislation to create more housing along transit corridors and prioritize residents for affordable housing opportunities in their communities. She helped to reform the City’s emergency response systems, secured funding for San Francisco’s homelessness support network, and enacted the strongest Styrofoam ban in the country. She also worked to implement the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program to rehabilitate and preserve thousands of long-neglected units of permanently affordable housing.
In 2013, Mayor Breed was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing District 5 for six years, including three years as President of the Board.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Tommie Smith was forever propelled into the worldwide spotlight in the summer of 1968 by a single courageous and unexpected historic moment at the XIX (Nineteenth) Summer Olympiad in Mexico City. Tommie became the Olympic gold-medal champion in the 200-meter event with a time of 19.83 seconds (the first time that the 20 second barrier was broken) after turning in a phenomenal track performance that shattered both the world and Olympic records. The Star Spangled Banner echoed in the background as Tommie Smith stood with silver medalist John Carlos on the victory podium draped with their Olympic medals. Suddenly, with a worldwide audience watching, they bowed their heads and raised a clenched fist covered with a black leather glove in an unforgettable symbol of Black power, liberation, and solidarity.
This action immediately became a symbol of African-American pride in the U.S. and abroad and elevated Tommie Smith to prominence as a human rights spokesman and activist. Cheered by some, jeered by others, and ignored by many more, Tommie Smith made a commitment to dedicate his life, even at great personal risk, to
champion the cause of oppressed people around the world. The compelling story of the “silent gesture” was captured for all time in the 1999 HBO TV documentary, “Fists of Freedom.” Tommie’s autobiography, “Silent Gesture” was published in 2007.
Tommie’s path to history began simply enough, when he was born June 6, 1944 as the seventh of 12 children of Richard and Dora Smith in Clarksville, Texas. After nearly dying from a bout of pneumonia as an infant, Tommie went on to excel as an athlete in track, basketball, and football. He is the only man in the history of track and field to ever hold 11 world records at the same time. Tommie broke or tied 13 world records while competing in track in college. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science, with double minors in Military Science and Physical Education from San Jose State University and a Master’s degree in Sociology from Goddard Cambridge College in Boston, Massachusetts. San Jose State University awarded Tommie an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters in 2005.
Since the time of the 1968 Summer Olympics, Tommie Smith has continued to distinguish himself as a coach, educator, and athletic director. His leadership, talent, and continued activism have earned him well-deserved acclaim worldwide, as well as athletic and humanitarian awards. Dr. Tommie Smith’s historic achievements throughout his life have now earned him national and international distinction as an important figure in African-American history.
Tommie Smith, and his wife Delois Smith are staunch advocates for the advancement of marginalized youth through their non-profit, the Tommie Smith Youth Initiative. As an honorary member of 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, he has tirelessly promoted fitness and health among children through the 100’s Youth Movement program over the past 17 years. This year we honor Tommie’s growing legacy, and salute the 50th anniversary of his heroic protest in Mexico City in 1968.
In 2017, Nola joined Okta’s Legal team becoming its first Contracts Manager. In her role, Nola is a member of the Legal Operations team and the owner of Okta Contracts Management System (“Apttus”). She and her team are responsible for managing the large volume of inbound and outbound sales agreements working closely with the Commercial Legal and Sales teams to shepherd agreements through the negotiation process from initiation to execution. In addition, Nola has the responsibility of training, Sales Team, Legal Team members in the use of Apttus for their particular functions as well as working with other key business units (Finance, Renewals, Revenue, Deals Desk) to help operationalize processes linked to the contracts negotiation lifecycle.
Working in the Legal profession for over 30+ years, Nola is an accomplished Senior Contracts Manager and Senior Paralegal. Prior to joining Okta, she worked on the legal teams at Facebook, Gilead, Chevron and the law firms of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Latham & Watkins, to name a few.
In addition to her professional role at Okta, in 2018 Nola became a Co-Leader of the People of Color (“POC@Okta”), Employee Resource Group (“ERG”). A group dedicated to instilling/promoting a culture of equity and inclusion of all cultures, ethnicities and genders to serve as a place to build community and support, for ethnic diversity and inclusion at Okta. POC@Okta strives to represent and highlight Okta’s cultural and ethnically diverse employees. (Black, Asian, LatinX, Indian, Native American, etc). The POC vision is to “attract and retain people of color at Okta by creating a radically inclusive culture that fosters equity and belonging by providing visibility, support and opportunities for growth”.
Nola (“Coach Nola”) has been a mentor and coach of youth for the past 18 years. For fifteen (15) years she has worked as a Coach and Mentor for the Youth-Movement – Tommie Smith Youth Athletics Track and Field Program sponsored by the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area. She is the Head Coach of the Team Velocity track team, the Senior Head Coach of the 100 Black Wings track team and the Head Coach of the Team Oakland track team for international travel. She has demonstrated compassion and unlimited patience in working with youth. She has also been the Head Coach and a part of and/or Head of Delegation for seven international delegations representing the City of Oakland and the United States in Paris, France (youth cultural trip), Athens, Greece (youth international track competition), Lanarkshire, Scotland (youth international track competition) and London, England (youth cultural trip), Beijing and Shanghai, China (youth-student educational trip), a China-US Study Exchange Program, through President Barack Obama’s US State Department’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, Windsor, Canada (youth international track competition), Lake Macquarie, Australia (youth international track competition), Amsterdam, the Netherlands (youth international track competition) and New Taipei City, Taiwan (youth international track competition). For five (5) years she worked with the Students Run Oakland Program, a marathon training program for at-risk high school students. She was featured as one of the Coaches of the Program in the documentary, “Runner’s High”. In each of her five years with the program she traveled with 50+ plus students from Oakland to participate in the Los Angeles Marathon.
In addition to mentoring youth, Nola previously served as a Mentor of the Latham & Watkins Junior Legal Secretary Program in which she developed training materials, conducted training courses and worked with junior secretaries who desired to become more qualified effective legal secretaries. She also served as a Mentor of the San Francisco Bar Association and San Francisco Works’ Welfare to Work Program mentoring formerly unemployed women who recently entered the workforce. This program enabled women and men to make the transition from dependency on public assistance to becoming economically self-sufficient.
A native of Vallejo, California, Nola is a graduate of Vallejo High School, earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political, Legal and Economic Analysis from Mills College in Oakland and is a certified Patent Paralegal. She is a self-proclaimed “Sports Nut” and die-hard fan of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants.
EDUCATION & SCHOLARSHIP
My name is Rickey Jackson and I am from Oakland, California. I went to Oakland Technical High School, where I was involved in African American Male Achievement and the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area. I was able to travel to different places in the US to shine my light on the work I was doing. I was featured in a documentary by AJ+ that received critical acclaim. Also, I joined TEAM, where I received my license in sports analysis. I graduated from Oakland Tech in the class of 2016, and I recently graduated from California State University East Bay, as a business major with a focus in finance and accounting. I also recently was accepted to the Chicago Booth MBA program which I plan on attending this fall. Educating myself is really important to me because, as they say, it is something that can never be taken from you. I spend a lot of my free time reading, and I want my physical to be as good as my mental.
I am the youngest of five kids. They all have children, so when I have time I spend it with my family and there are always good vibes. I am also the first of my family to attend and graduate from college. I think it is very important to spend time with our youth because they are our future. I started working with the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area in my junior year of high school and have built a lasting relationship with many of the members and partnering organizations.
My name is Saryah Colbert, and I am a powerhouse. I am a 20 year old third year undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, business owner, firm believer in God, and a student of life. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and grew up surrounded by an abundance of family members. I learned early on that nothing is ever handed to you–I had to be proactive, and fight for what I wanted.
Ever since I can remember, self-improvement, progression, knowledge, and achievement have always been my priority. I was able to maintain above a 4.0 GPA, a top-10% class rank, Honor Roll, and Scholar Athlete every semester of my Skyline high school trajectory, while also keeping a part-time job at Pieology, summer internships at the East Oakland Youth Development Center, being Co-Captain of Varsity Cheerleading and Dance Production, and the prestigious HEAL internship at Highland Hospital.
I decided to attend college because I knew that a collegiate education would be essential to success in reaching my educational and career goals. In my first year of college, I joined Black Student Union, Flying Samaritans, worked two part time jobs, while trying to find balance adjusting to adulthood. Winston S. Churchill posits, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”My first and second year were very challenging, so I reprogrammed my mindset to recognize opportunity by finding resources, getting tutored, and enhancing my time management. All of those components resulted in my academic improvement. My grades have improved tremendously and I just received my second 4.0 in a row this past quarter.In the summer of 2020, I virtually interned at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. That internship opened the door for my being able to volunteer at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Claremont Clinic. I was able to address food insecurity while being involved in the fresh farm food delivery program, creating over 200 fresh farm food bags ready for delivery to patient families.
A prominent issue in healthcare is that youth in my community have statistically higher rates of diabetes, and obesity rates are even higher in Latinos and African Americans. This is due to the lack of access to nutritional foods in low-income communities, also known as “food desserts.” Since last year, I’ve been more intentional about how I plan to educate myself and others about investing into their health and wellness. Using traditional holistic medicine instead of over-the-counter drugs and medicine in stores has been a huge way I’ve changed my life and influenced others to do the same. I recently started my own Organic Juice business making drinks made from electric fruits and herbs that act to break down mucus in our bodies, strengthen our immune systems, and restore our health on a cellular level.
Growing up, my parents pushed me to strive for excellence in everything I do. My dad, being a retired professional athlete, and my mom being a lawyer, both instilled in me the desire to try my hardest in both athletics and academics. Throughout my childhood, I accumulated basketball tournament awards that I will always be proud of. In academics, I received a few scholarships to some colleges I applied to and throughout my high school career. Throughout this time though, my heart and passion were elsewhere – in the arts.
In high school, I got the lead in the school play as a freshman, which was very rare at the time. I knew from then I was destined to pursue this. I auditioned for two of the top 10 acting schools in the country, Syracuse and UCLA. Although I had a hard speech impediment, I was still determined to achieve what I needed to do. I got into both schools, and Syracuse offered me their top acting scholarship valued at $100,000. I was very grateful for everything I had worked for, but knew it was only the beginning.
Now in college, I have my own film company called Magnum Opus Media in which we make relatable films from the black perspective. I also have a clothing line called BRIGHTSIDE and am starting to develop my own separate acting career. Along with interning at HBO, I’m going to make sure I set myself up in the best way for the future.
I would not be here without the people supporting me through every step and that includes the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area organization. Without their scholarship, I don’t know how I would have been able to pay for my books and transportation fees as a college student. Thank you for supporting me on my journey.
One of the accomplishments I’m extremely proud of is definitely the protest I organized for George Floyd. When I saw what happened to him, I was genuinely in shock and fear. I was outraged and I wanted to act upon it. My childhood friend, Akil, texted me saying he wanted to do a protest and he wanted me to help organize it. Without any question, I said, “Let’s do it”. For the next 5 days, I devoted all of my time to spreading the word and reaching out to different organizations about the protest. It was a lot of hard work that was more stressful than I thought it would be, but I would do it 10 times over for this cause. For Mr. Floyd. On the day of the protest, I thought there would be 1,000 people at most and I was very happy at the thought of 1,000 people coming out for George Floyd and BLM. At the end of it, more than 15,000 people came out. I was ecstatic and emotionally grateful, yet somber at the same time. My brother and I had organized one of the largest protests in Oakland history and sparked a generation of young protesters. After our protest, at least 100 protests were organized around the Bay Area by youth and I’m grateful that I was able to spark in them what George Floyd sparked in me. Although we are not done, I will always be proud of that event.
While participating in 100 Black Men Youth Movement and the 100 Black Wings and during a study abroad trip to Costa Rica, I discovered my passion to create sustainable products that improve current energy and food-production practices. I was inspired by how the Youth Movement educated us on Food and Nutrition, Health and Wellness, and the importance of education. While in Costa Rica, I was inspired by how engineers had figured out ways to provide clean energy to thousands of people without greatly disturbing the natural landscape. Suddenly, I thought how can I help people at home and around the world to get the resources they need while also protecting our environment.
Wanting to go to college started from an early age so while in high school I made sure to put my best foot forward when it came to my academics, in addition to playing sports, volunteering my time with different organizations, being a part of the Youth Movement, and 100 Black Wings. With the support of my family and friends, it helped me gain confidence, work ethics, and organizational skills that I knew I needed to be successful in college.
To make my dream a reality of implementing these environmental solutions, I must first graduate with my bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, with an emphasis in sustainable community development and landscape architecture. An innovative co-op program will allow me to gain important hands-on experience that will help me fine-tune my creations and propel me more rapidly into the industry, where I will be exposed to people of various backgrounds and ideas, helping to enrich my learning experience. With the support of my beliefs and passions, I can improve our interactions with the environment and influence others to develop creative ideas that will bring about a healthy thriving planet.