Formula 1 racing has become my new favorite sport – I was among the millions drawn in by Netflix’s hit series, “Drive to Survive”. Yes, Lewis Hamilton is the G.O.A.T. in my opinion.

Hamilton is the first and only Black driver the sport has ever had in its 74 years of existence and he’s made the most of that opportunity with seven championships. But the journey from driving go-karts as a young boy in England to occupying one of only 20 seats at his sports highest level was a journey not without obstacles. A lot happened behind the scenes before Hamilton became the driver we know today – and much happens between races for him to stay at his professional level.

Like anyone learning the intricacies of a sport for the first time, there’s the obvious and the not so obvious. In my experience sometimes it’s the latter where the real story lies. Often, it’s those backstories, those personal challenges or setbacks that actually are the stepping stones to future success. If you only focus on the obvious, you miss key turning points that are actually part of a foundation for a new future.

This brings me to Black History Month 2024, an important time for reflection but also a reminder that many of those successes and setbacks that occur within the Black community are part of a much longer story. The desire of mainstream media outlets and some corporations to focus only one month out of twelve on a group’s accomplishments before it’s time to move onto the next one (Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage, and Hispanic Heritage Month, for example) feels narrow-minded as if there are no meaningful achievements worthy of focus year-round. None of these groups honored by a month deserve to have that focus cut short.

When I reflect on what’s happened among historically marginalized groups who were initially wrapped with blankets of concern and support immediately after George Floyd and similar tragic events since, a large swath of that fervent support – that action – has subsided. In many cases it’s been retracted completely and it is worryingly (and increasingly) under attack (see reductions and elimination of corporate DEI teams, minimization of the message and even direct attacks from public figures like Elon Musk).

For many media outlets and for corporate America at large, it’s business as usual again when it comes to diversity efforts. I pray another George Floyd-type tragedy does not need to happen to get that attention back.

Despite that diminished support for the Black and brown professional communities, people have not stopped connecting, creating and innovating. In fact, we’ve dug our heels in more. While broader support has waned, it’s created a greater sense of urgency and drive to make sure we (yes, it includes me too) find success by creating it.

More recently in my own network, I’ve seen some standout organizations pushing DEI forward. For example, Moët Hennessy USA convened an Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisory Council and propelled its supply diversity program to educate and create a pipeline of diverse vendors. Leading Black-owned VC firm Lightship Capital brought its highly successful Black Tech Week to Detroit in October for an intimate experience called Black Tech Weekend which created meaningful connections and helped propel a new generation of startups to greatness. 

Returning to my Formula 1 analogy, winning or losing a single race doesn’t win championships. The season is long. It requires strength, mental fortitude, endurance and the drive to succeed.

If you’re not following and supporting what’s being created by the Black community for the next eleven months you’ll find yourself completely disconnected from new leaders of innovation who will soon be changing the world.

It’s not a matter of if, but when. And it’s not a matter of just surviving, but of thriving.

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