In celebration of Black History Month, Columbia Bank will sponsor Rutgers University’s Black History Month Empowerment Forum: “Positioning Black Professionals to Continue Making History.” 

The event, to held on February 28 at the Paul Robeson Center at Rutgers University’s Newark campus, will feature Dr. Jeffrey Robinson and Dr. Randal Pinkett, authors of “Black Faces in High Places,” who will highlight key themes within the book along with ways Black professionals and students entering the workforce can be successful. 

Members of the Black Student Union at Rutgers  and the Bank’s Black Employee Resource Group (ERG) will be among those in attendance. The Bank’s Black ERG has invited the writers to Rutgers to lead a round table discussion, give copies of the book to guests and provide refreshments. 

The Bank’s Director, Credit Risk Review and Black ERG Chair Katherine Kinard said the event will provide essential strategies for success for everyone who attends. 

“The Black Professionals Empowerment Forum will provide energizing networking and professional empowerment, fulfilling the Black ERG’s mission of developing the leadership skills of our members,” Kinard said. “In celebration of Black History Month, we want to inspire Black professionals to continue the legacy of breaking barriers and making history in their respective fields. The dynamic discussion with the authors of this game-changing literary piece will equip attendees with the tools needed to evoke a great shift in their professional lives.”

More About the Authors – a True Dynamic Duo 

Some may remember Pinkett, who has become a highly-sought speaker on the challenges African Americans face in the business world, after he emerged as the only Black winner on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” and the controversy which arose. Despite having the best record and performance from among his peers, Trump asked Pinkett if he would consider “sharing the title” with the second place winner.

“I told Mr. Trump, ‘absolutely not,’” said Pinkett, the chairman and CEO of BCT Partners. “No one had ever been asked to consider such an option in the [then] 11 seasons of the show. Why was I, the only winner of color, asked to share the title? It all goes back to that old adage: Blacks have to be twice as good just to be considered equal.”  

Robinson, who has been a close friend of Pinkett since their college days (both are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.), serves as a distinguished professor at Rutgers where he is the Prudential Chair in Business and the academic director for the Center of Urban Entrepreneurship. 

Their book, the second that they have co-authored, features dozens of interviews with Black men and women who have been able to navigate various crossroads, reach the top and remain there. It represents a timely resource for Black professionals who may need a roadmap as they seek to rise in their organizations or industries. In addition, it includes insights from President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Cathy Hughes, Bob Johnson, Ursula Burns, David Steward, Angela Glover Blackwell, Ken Chenault, Senator Cory Booker, Geoffrey Canada, Don Thompson, Hill Harper, Ben Jealous and others. 

“We began to see patterns in the strategies they employed to both navigate the environment and to maintain a sense of pride without compromising themselves,” Robinson said. “We then came up with, as the subhead to the book suggests, 10 strategic actions for Black professionals to reach the top and stay there.”  

The authors said the book’s title and its focus were inspired by one of America’s most respected educators and a champion of civil and Black women’s rights, Mary McLeod Bethune, who once said, “My people will never be satisfied until they see Black faces in high places.” 

“Conversations about Blacks in high places have heightened over the past few years and we decided to reclaim the phrase but to put our own spin on it,” Robinson said. “For us to be a Black face in a high place, we must acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of giants, so we have to be a giant so that others can then stand on our shoulders,” he said. “We can never forget where we’ve come from and the sacrifices made by those who came before us.”

“Second, we must remain authentic, unapologetic and strategic in how we pull the levers at our disposal for the benefit of our community. And we must realize that if we  are not pulling those levels, others are pulling them for their own communities.” 

“Our first book was about Black faces in white spaces,” Pinkett said. “But this is a sequel – it focuses on the differences you experience between when you’re working to get to the top and when you arrive at the top – when the expectations change dramatically. At that point, it’s essential to have your compass. In fact, that’s strategic action #1 and on which all the others are based: self-determination – knowing who you are and where you are going. In other words, make sure you have your compass at all times,” he said. 

ThemissionofColumbiaBank’sBlackERG, one of the Bank’s eight company-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion ERGs, istoprovideemployeeswiththe opportunity to develop leadership skills, network and create visibility with colleagues, while enhancing cultural awareness throughout the organization tostrengthenrecruitment,retention,learningandadvancement. For more information about Columbia Bank’s products and services, visit 

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