As a teenager in Alabama, I was active in the Civil Rights Movement. I even walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the famous 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery.
Despite our progress on dismantling segregation, there were no real career opportunities for a black man like me in 1960s Alabama. Knowing this, my mom put me on a bus with $15, all the money she had, and sent me out of the Jim Crow South to live with relatives in New Jersey.
I knew my life had changed when I walked into a local McDonald’s and saw other black men managing and owning a restaurant which I could not even enter back home. Suddenly, I realized what real opportunity looked like; the chance to succeed regardless of the color of my skin.
This Black History Month, I want to reflect on how that opportunity became my career. I worked my way up the ladder until 1999 when McDonald’s made me the owner of my first store here in Raleigh.
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After 50 years with McDonald’s, I’ve learned the value of a good attitude and hard work, but also the importance of an industry that offers people a fair chance to succeed.