GMAAN and Chevrolet Drive Culture Through Innovation
The General Motors African Ancestry Network celebrated the importance of culture and innovation during its 14th Annual Black History Month Celebration. This year’s theme, “Driven by Culture, Defined by Innovation,” highlighted the historical achievements of African Americans in STEM and design while also shining a spotlight on current innovators.
“As a brand, Chevrolet values authenticity, confidence, optimism and ingenuity, which resonates with our theme and provides us with a strong partnership for this year’s celebration,” said Telva McGruder, president of GMAAN and director of Sustainable Workplaces, Workplace Engineering and Operations Solutions. “This event not only embraces our collective experiences – but our essence – and how those experiences have spawned many innovative solutions which have impacted our communities. Additionally, we honor professionals from various backgrounds that have made significant contributions to communities around the world.”
Chevrolet continues to demonstrate its commitment to the African American community by supporting organizations like UNCF and Focus: HOPE. This year’s program celebrated the brand’s unwavering commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities through the Chevrolet Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship, which is in its fifth year in partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Lonnie Johnson, founder and CEO, Johnson Research and Development, was presented with the 2020 Trailblazer Award for excellence in leadership, outstanding achievements and community engagement – upon the conclusion of his keynote address to the audience. Johnson, who holds more than 100 patents, is known as the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun which has been among the world’s bestselling toys since its release.
During his speech, Johnson recalls being very innovative and curious as a child. This curiosity came at the expense of his family’s possessions.
“I almost burned down my own home while making rocket fuel because I wanted to build a rocket. I was obsessed with it,” said Johnson. Guests learned that Johnson’s creative spirit spawned inventions that have touched toy, aerospace and the automotive industries. During the program, many other inventors of African ancestry were ceremonially honored, linking past and present.
Each year, the GMAAN Black History Month Program is a much-anticipated community event held in Detroit. Attendees not only enjoyed the program, but also had the unique opportunity to experience the all-new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray which was recently selected as the 2020 North American Car of the Year.
This year’s celebration also featured Master of Ceremonies Josh Landon, News Anchor, WJBK/Fox 2 News, and a special musical performance by American R&B group En Vogue.
The 2020 honorees included:
- Entrepreneurial Spirit Award—Cheryl Ajamu, founder and CEO Ajamu Group
- Community Enrichment Award—Renee Fluker, founder and president, The Midnight Golf Program
- Excellence in STEAM Award—Dr. Alecia Gabrielle, Chinonye Akunne and Dierdre Roberson, Motor City STEAM
- Marketing Excellence Award—Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president—Performance, Motorsports, Accessories and Truck Strategy
- Lifetime Achievement Award—Roy Roberts, retired GM executive
GMAAN is a GM-sanctioned employee resource group with the mission to provide a competitive advantage in attracting, developing and retaining African Ancestry employees while engaging communities to drive GM business priorities and performance. GMAAN welcomes members from across the GM community and creates positive change through employee development, product awareness and advocacy and community outreach.