Black History is Me, a Black Man from Iowa

DiversityDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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Evan C. Sharp
February 04, 2022
3 min read
DiversityDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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This Black History Month, I have no stats. I have no research or data to share. If you follow me on IG, you will probably see some posts highlighting Black figures. But I have no revelations or grand statements that may cut through what I hope to be the robust celebrations and observances you might come across. What I have is me – a Black boy from Iowa. 

Coincidentally, over the last week as we approached February and Black History Month, I received a package from a high school friend. Curiously, I opened it up and pulled out the book in the picture, entitled “Studies in Iowa History – The Negro in Iowa” by Leola Nelson Bergmann and published by The State Historical Society of Iowa. Imagine. This friend, a white male with whom I have had several conversations about growing up Black in Iowa, came across it in a half-priced bookstore and thought I would appreciate it.

At first, I was puzzled. But then I understood. He thought I might find some value in exploring this history. A piece of my history as a Black Iowan. Well, he assumed right. As I get older (I can feel several friends and colleagues side-eyeing me now!) I appreciate history more – its lessons, its power, its ability to help us change the future if we are willing to dig deep and learn and commit.

As I cracked open the book, inhaled the scent of its age, and laid my eyes on the pages, my mind raced:

  • Black boy from Iowa grows up never thinking about life outside the state, but works hard in school, is mediocre in sports, and earns his way into Washington University in St. Louis.
  • Black boy from Iowa gets an internship at Goldman Sachs, less than one year after learning what an investment bank is and toughs it out in New York City.
  • Black boy from Iowa grows immensely through friendships and relationships and Wall Street mayhem, then pursues his MBA because “all the senior people have them.”
  • Black boy from Iowa meets his future wife (from Dallas) in NYC as well – who would have thought?
  • Black boy from Iowa goes into consulting at Accenture and – while my swag might have been increasing – is still figuring it all out…but family and friends point him to the world of executive recruiting and leadership advisory work.
  • Black man from Iowa today does what he never knew he would love so much – helping organizations find leaders that will change the trajectory of their businesses and helping people pursue professional and personal dreams with a great firm, Russell Reynolds Associates.
  • Black man from Iowa has found a career that he can be proud of, a career that he can share with his growing family, his parents, his sister, and loved ones.
  • Am I special? Not any more special than any of you. Am I black history? Yes, even if just a microcosm.

I pray that as we all celebrate Black History Month, we dive in with the fervor, curiosity, open-mindedness, and willingness to learn that we all had when we were kids. Challenge your own assumptions just like you challenged your parents. Seek out information like you’re on a scavenger hunt with your school friends. Study the diaspora as if your semester grade depended on it. Stumble into some facts and figures like you stumbled into your first middle or high school dance. Make it an adventure, make it a journey.

Make Black History as much a part of your life as any history. Make Black History YOUR history. I promise you – you have everything to gain.