February 21, 2014
Pat Baxter 500px
Bi-Lo Holdings Senior Manager of Organizational Effectiveness Pat Baxter.​

When Pat Baxter’s father arrived in Miami from Puerto Rico in the late 1940s on his way north to play on a professional baseball team, he was shocked to find that he was treated differently because of the color of his skin. He was told that he would have to use a “colored” restroom.

“He was totally perplexed,” she said. “In Puerto Rico, he told me there is a rainbow of skin colors, but everyone sees themselves as Puerto Rican and as an American.”

It was leaders in the U.S. Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s that made such practices things of the past. Black History Month celebrates the work of civil rights leaders and all African Americans who have made a contribution to U.S. history. Baxter, as senior manager of leadership development, said their work serves as a guide for everyone who seeks to be an effective leader.

“To me, Black History Month is about leadership. All of us, regardless of ethnicity, race or social background, owe much to those who not only led the Civil Rights movement but also broke through the barriers that existed in society and in the workplace.”

Baxter cites Rosa Parks as an example. In Montgomery, Ala. in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger because she was tired after a hard day at work and was arrested for that.

“People saw what she did, understood what it meant and then followed. That people followed her example made all the difference,” Baxter said. “What it tells me is that you don’t need a title to be a leader. You can become a leader by doing something as simple as sitting down. I see leaders everywhere in our company and in our communities. They help associates understand and commit to our vision, values and strategy and then enable them to make things happen and make a difference for others.

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