GM Diversity and the 48th Annual Bayou Classic at Caesars Superdome

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Earlier in the year, General Motors outlined and began executing an ambitious goal to be the most inclusive company globally from every facet of industry and consumer engagement. These efforts include a significant focus on HBCUs, such as the sponsoring of SWAC Athletics and the famed Bayou Classic, which features the energetic Battle of the Bands competition and football game that pits the Grambling State Tigers against the Southern Jaguars.

After spending the holiday with friends and family, I touched down to New Orleans with my BAMG partner Greg Morrison for the Classic weekend. Nola was buzzing with enthusiasm, pride from Grambling and Southern merch, high school bands performing through the lively streets, and of course, the unique French, Creole, and African-inspired cuisines. Naturally, I eat plant-based and found my inclusion at i-Tal Garden, a Creole-style Caribbean vegan restaurant.

To aid in expanding the much-needed attention and resources required for Black communities to thrive, GM invited a cohort of urban media to The Big Easy to help tell their story of cultural awareness and multicultural growth. GM believes in investing in and supporting the Black experience. Therefore, it is important for them to engage with the future leaders of the Black community. “We champion diversity and inclusion on all fronts. Our commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities is paramount to strengthening our diverse talent pipeline and propelling the visibility of student athletes, alumni and each of the universities represented,” said Tarshena Armstrong, Director of Diversity Marketing & Development for General Motors.

Additionally, part of this resource initiation in Black communities focuses on electrification education since a mobility shift is vastly taking precedence over combustion engines. Whether it’s the new HUMMER EV or Cadillac LYRIQ, GM is ramping up its Ultium battery technology and community messaging. Likewise, GM’s next generation of EVs will continue to flood your newsfeeds and TV screens as the company prophesizes “everybody in” and a “zero emissions” future. We cannot afford to miss out on a technology wave that will see billions of dollars channeled towards EV development, manufacturing, charging infrastructure, education, and newfangled job creations. Black Americans need a high quantity of seats at the table. GM says they have established initiatives to attract talent from HBCUs such as Howard and North Carolina A&T geared towards stem and engineering. For example, the National Society of Black Engineers, Black Engineer of the Year, and Women of Color in Stem provided them opportunities to find both interns and permanent hires.

With twelve schools in play, the Southwestern Athletic Conference is the largest and premier HBCU conference and now positions General Motors as the exclusive automotive sponsor through 2024. The three-year partnership will increase cultural capital for GM and its brands and provide a talent acquisition portal for SWAC students. Current championship competitions offered for men include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, and tennis. Women’s competition features basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball. GM also holds the Alcorn State University Braves vs. Jackson State University Tigers SWAC Football Classic rights.

“Words can’t adequately express my excitement to welcome General Motors as the official automotive sponsor of the Southwestern Athletic Conference,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland.

The 48th Bayou Classic at Caesars Superdome was spectacular and exciting. The size of the Southern University Jaguars marching band immediately captured our attention. But it was an epic battle between the two HBCU bands on the eve of the football game. This multi-generational, African American event celebrates HBCUs and the pride and heritage they have manifested over a span of 45 years. The Bayou Classic brings together nearly 70K students, alum, and faculty and allows them to angelically connect with family and friends over the festive weekend.

While in town for any of New Orleans’ remarkable showcases, make sure to capture the city’s most prized and historic sites through a self-awareness walking or running tour before heading home.  I exercise almost daily, so running through town each day helped me gauge more of what NOLA had to offer. I enthusiastically passed through or by Bourbon Street, City Park, Jackson Square, New Orleans Museum of Art, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, Shops of the Colonnade, Canal Street, New Orleans Jazz Museum, and more.

Live the life you love, love the life you live!

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