Uplifting Voices: Black History Month Reflections From Northwestern Kellogg MBAs

Northwestern Kellogg Black Management Association members. Courtesy photo

We earned our way to make it to this top floor,
to take everything we deserve and more,
to soar past these ceilings
and finally become the stars that we knew that we could be
by just believing.
And finally start seeing a world
where black kings, queens, boys, and girls
can begin to ignore
all ceilings.

“No Ceilings,” a poem by Kellogg MBA Osamase Ekhator, Class of 2024


Black History Month is for celebrating the resilience, creativity, and achievements of Black people throughout history. MBA students at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management see this month as a time for uplifting voices — for “Renaissance: The Rebirth of a Resilient Generation.”

That’s the theme of the month’s activities organized by Kellogg’s Black Management Association, a group comprised of Full-Time and Evening & Weekend MBAs. All month long the group has hosted workshops, speaker series, block parties, volunteer events, and comedy nights open to all Kellogg students.

“Kellogg is a diverse community that features individuals from all over the world and all over the United States,” says Kellogg MBA and BMA member Bre Thomas. “The recognition and celebration of Black History Month helps educate the community on the contributions, past and present, that Black people have made to the United States and globally. It sets the stage for why we want to be seen, feel heard and be represented in business and society.”


BMA members shared their reflections on the meaning and importance of Black History Month with Poets&Quants.

MBA Bre Thomas

Bre Thomas is currently in Kellogg’s two-year MBA program. By culture, she is a mix of Creole, Southern Black, and Caribbean. “Blackness in the United States,” she says, “is more unique than people think. My heritage is unique, and I give space for my own uniqueness during Black History Month.”

Thomas vividly recalls learning as a child about important Black historical figures; in fifth grade she dressed up as Texas State Senator Barbara Jordan — the first Black woman to serve in the state’s Senate — and recited for her class selections from Jordan’s biography.

Thomas says she’s found freedom and safety — both physically and psychologically — among other BMA members at Kellogg. “I am freed from the judgment and perception that society places on me just because of my Blackness,” she says. “At Kellogg specifically, the BMA is my home base.”

She points out, too, that there is much diversity within the BMA community itself.

“We have Africans and Caribbeans who have various levels of familiarity with BHM and its importance to Black Americans and the United States. It has raised the importance of educating each other within our community and to the broader Kellogg community while also sharing in the celebratory nature of the month.”


Vice president of the BMA and Evening & Weekend student Denmark Reed knew as soon as he arrived at Kellogg that he would join the BMA. He says he grew up celebrating Black History Month every day of the year, continuously learning from his parents about the countless contributions Black people have made to the American experience.

MBA Denmark Reed

“Fast forward to adulthood, I take this time to make sure to support my communities by giving the youth awareness to things that are gate-kept from us, for example financial education, college prep and career readiness,” says Reed. “I find it especially meaningful to find impactful ways to give back to ensure that we not only prosper but leave a legacy.”

He says being part of the Black networks at Kellogg has contributed to his academic and personal growth in several positive ways.

“While at Kellogg, I’m constantly impressed and influenced by my Black peers,” Reed says. “Many of them come from a broad range of industries, entrepreneurial ventures and, like me, are considering their next path in life’s fruitful journey.”

He says this past year included two standout events: Gather Against the Gap, hosted by both Kellogg and Northwestern Mutual; and the Black Management Association Conference, which this year focused on the significant wealth gap suffered by Black Americans.

“Meeting hundreds of leaders, experts, and academics all passionately determined to make actionable change was moving in a way I will never forget,” reflects Reed.

One unforgettable quote spoken by the CEO of Gathering Spot, Ryan Wilson, at the conference stood out for Reed: “We didn’t make it this far, just to make it this far.”

“His words not only motivated so many of us,” Reed says, “but echoed a consistent sentiment within Black History when we acknowledge where our challenges become opportunities, take risks, and capitalize upon our wildest dreams.”


First-generation student and full-time MBA Osamase Ekhator has always made a conscious effort to learn not only about history’s great Black leaders, but also about those who have been forgotten. Co-president for the BMA, he says he has built strong connections and found support from both those in the organization and the faculty at Kellogg.

MBA Osamase Ekhator

“BMA has also given me the opportunity to grow as an outspoken leader and showcase my creative gifts,” Ekhator says. “For instance, the first time I felt empowered by the Black Management Association was when I received an invitation to perform poetry at the BMA Conference last year.”

He recited his poem “No Ceilings” in front of the Kellogg community, and he’s helping others to showcase their talents, too — keeping the creativity going as part of Black History Month.

“I have made it my mission to provide peers with other opportunities that uplift their voices,” says Ekhator. “Whether through curating Block Party, a night of performances where BMA showcases Kellogg students and local Chicago talent during BHM, or positioning student leaders in opportunities where they can bring their own ideas to life through BMA programming.”

For Ekhator, Black History Month contributes to a more inclusive and diverse educational environment at Kellogg by allowing all students a chance to experience African-American culture, engage in difficult discussions about race, and learn more about underrepresented stories and experiences.

After graduating, Ekhator says his short-term goal is to enter the footwear/apparel space through a strategy position. Long-term, his goal is to “become a CEO and/or founder of a creative agency that uplifts Black stories while driving business through meaningful products and events,” he tells us.

Ekhator says he has gained much support from mentors met along the way that have opened up opportunities and pathways, and who have helped shape him into a leader that can pay it forward and connect other Black students with these reputable mentors.

“Creating these meaningful relationships is the very essence of Black history,” he says. “By fostering collaboration between Black leaders, we will continue to improve the socio-economic experience of African Americans, as the unsung leaders did before us.”


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