By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire 

(NNPA) – Approximately 50 young African American men from high schools across the country converged in Nashville for three days of career readiness experiences as part of the annual Nissan Ready program, which took place February 15-17.

In partnership with 100 Black Men of America, Nissan annually hosts this event in the home state of its Americas regional headquarters.

“This event is designed to provide young black men with an opportunity to have a glimpse into the inner workings of a global business and take away valuable professional planning tips and life skills,” noted Chandra Vasser, Nissan’s first vice president and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, and president, The Nissan Foundation.

“It’s our hope that this program ignites in these young men a desire to continually improve and strive for success.”

Local 100 Black Men chapters from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Jackson, Middle Tennessee, and Washington DC selected the young men who would participate in Nissan Ready based on a three component rubric—an interview, aspirational resume, and their social media presence.

Those students with top scores were invited to participate.

Nissan provides young black men career readiness immersion during annual event /NISSAN Special to NNPA Newswire

On the evening of their arrival, the young men heard from Emanuel Reed and Clint Gray, the entrepreneurs behind Slim & Husky’s, a black-owned restaurant chain with locations in Nashville, which provided pizza for all in attendance.

They also heard from Nissan’s Darrin Lucas, Director, Aftersales Supply Chain Operations for Nissan Americas, about his career journey.

Day two of Nissan Ready saw the young men travel to Nissan Stadium, Home of the Tennessee TITANS, for a day of presentations from black executives within Nissan and INFINITI.

Craig Keeys, Group Vice President, INFNITI, shared his advice on dressing for success. Erik White, Director of Business Transformation, Nissan Motor Acceptance Company, presented on putting your best foot forward, and John Hardy, Executive Director of 100 Black Men of Jackson, Inc., provided an overview on proper dining etiquette.

A highlight of the day was a panel discussion moderated by Victor Taylor, Sr. Director of Manufacturing for Nissan Canton, on recreating the black male narrative.

A Nissan Ready participant enjoys exhibits at the NaJonal Museum of African American Music. /NISSAN Special to NNPA Newswire

“At each program stop along the way, Nissan representatives shared tidbits about their own education and career paths,” explained Vasser.

“They also shared a piece of advice they would have found helpful in high school. The young men really responded to this.”

To round out day two of the program, Nissan arranged for the young men to visit the National Museum of African American Music to experience the history and sounds of this Nashville treasure, followed by dinner and networking at Top Golf.

The final day of the program included a visit to Nissan’s Smyrna Assembly Plant where the Nissan Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder, Maxima and LEAF and the INFINITI QX60 are assembled.

The Nissan Ready participants toured the plant, heard from Matthew Overbay, Director of the Manufacturing Strategy & Planning Office for Nissan North America, and learned about the all-new Nissan Z from Brian Hoekstra and Chris St. Clair, Nissan Marketing Team.

“Everyone’s journey to success is different, but there are obviously common outliers that you want to have like a strong determination and strong mindset,” said Chidu Bemeze, a Nissan Ready student participant representing the Detroit chapter of 100 Black Men.

“You want to make sure you are active. You want to make sure you are inputting enough so you can get the output you want.

“Everyone who has talked to us, though their journeys to success are different, they all have had a strong determination toward what they wanted to do. That is something I admire.”


The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.