Teri Williams - What Black Excellence Looks Like
Last month, we had the pleasure of meeting President and COO of OneUnited, Ms. Teri Williams, in a very intimate setting (shout to theBOM and WeOfColor for making that possible). And frankly, if you hadn’t heard of OneUnited or Ms. Williams until reading this, you’d be in the majority. Personally, we found ourselves admitting aloud, “how aren’t more people talking about her?!”, which caused us to reflect for a moment on the many ways in which women of color are often silenced and overlooked despite moving metaphorical mountains again and again.
“Sometimes being a woman is like being black twice.” - mumufresh
For oneKIN, it is important to elevate women like Ms. Williams by amplifying their voices and shining a light on their magic. So, allow us to sweat her for just a lil bit.
Accomplished author, community-influencer, pioneer and trailblazer, Ms. Williams dropped a lot science on topics we’ll cover more in future blog posts including:
(1) The importance of leveraging lived experiences in charting your own path, where she lamented not always appreciating as a kid the simple lessons of shadowing her entrepreneurial grandmother, but now embraces how those experiences still manifest themselves in her current work;
(2) The power of your deposit, where she challenged everyone to investigate how their deposits are being used and what industries or causes they may be indirectly supporting; and
(3) The role of the black-owned bank in helping to re-circulate dollars in the community.
Despite the brilliant and empowering knowledge-share, her real power was her ability to be very present, deeply grounded, and accessible. She connected with everyone in a very real way.
Representation has been a recurring theme of late. It goes without saying that seeing oneself in positions of influence and power in media, business, politics, etc has an immeasurable psychological impact. By the end of the talk, most people seemed to leave with a sense that they could, too, build a $700M bank with a $1M initial investment [and yeah; she did that! #MovingMountains], or accomplish some equally enormous feat.
She was very normal admitting that upon entering Brown University, she had no idea what an Ivy League was; and that despite her amazing success, she never set out to do anything particularly history-making…like build the largest black-owned financial institution [#MovingMountains]. Instead, she prioritized following her heart above all else.
“People who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love.” – Condoleezza Rice
She epitomized black excellence not only in her commitment to personal success, but in her deep engagement in community and in her willingness to fuel the imaginations of the next generation of entrepreneurs and history-makers.
oneKIN honors President Teri Williams, and all the Teri Williams-es in the world, who shut it down every single day and seek no special recognition because being excellent is who they are.