His first academic year was complete, but Demarre Johnson ’24 had one more assignment: Address the Babson College community on the future of Black justice as the student speaker at the College’s celebration of Juneteenth, and do so in no less than eight minutes.
“I had to talk about current events, I had to educate people, and I also had to find a way to make a call to action,” Johnson said. “(I thought to myself,) I’ll make a poem.”
Read The Future of Black Justice by Demarre Johnson ’24.
Though it was only the second time he had written a poem, Johnson’s exhortation—in which he called on his captivated virtual crowd and people of today to be the ones to make a difference—drew emotionally filled responses from staff, faculty, students, and alumni.
In that moment, it was easy to see why this Arthur M. Blank Scholar strives to pursue a career not only as an entrepreneurial leader but also as an activist—one who can use his platform to create equitable opportunities for Black men and women.
“I want to impact the lives of people who look like me,” Johnson said. “I want to say that I made a change for people like me, and I made the world a better place. The only way I can make the world a better place … is by getting on the stage, letting people know who I am, and letting my voice be heard.”
The Making of an Entrepreneurial Leader
On Monday, three days following the College’s Juneteenth ceremony, Johnson spent a few minutes reflecting. This month alone, he had traveled across the country, New York to New Orleans to Austin, for activism related-events, including a 60th anniversary commemoration of the Freedom Riders and a protest against limiting voting rights.
“It all starts with us, with education,” he said. “You can act like it didn’t happen and proceed as is. Or you can take a stand and teach your kids.”
Johnson has long had a candid ability to communicate in front of large crowds. In the third grade, he won a Martin Luther King Jr. oratorical contest, and later throughout elementary school, consistently finished at the top of his class in spelling bees.
“I want to say that I made a change for people like me, and I made the world a better place.”
Demarre Johnson ’24
But, he also grew up in an area that lacked socioeconomic equity. Born and raised in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, Johnson said it was common for students in local schools to be using obsolete textbooks in classrooms with mold on the walls.
His teachers believed in his abilities, and Johnson believed in himself, too. Come high school, he attended The School of Business and Management at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center, and took several courses at The School for the Talented and Gifted, ranked 13th in the nation and first in the state of Texas. As he neared graduation, he got his first real taste of entrepreneurship when he began consulting for local businesses, including a hair salon and other companies affected by COVID-19.
Representing the Blank Scholars
Johnson is one of the select few Babson College students to hold the honor of being a Blank Scholar. Through his undergraduate experience, he hopes to bring even more acclaim to this elite group.
“Put people first, be entrepreneurial in everything you do, look to give back to your community … (these are) values I see in every Blank Scholar,” Johnson said.
In October, when Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98 visited campus, Johnson had the opportunity to speak with the legendary philanthropist and Home Depot co-founder about business and entrepreneurship.
“He was telling me … ‘You can have a business, but if you don’t have a passion for what you do, you won’t go as far as the next person.’ I’ve been more passionate ever since.”
An Opportunity to Educate
When Johnson was asked to be the student speaker in the weeks leading up to Babson’s celebration of Juneteenth, he viewed the opportunity as a moment to educate his community peers about the holiday and the oppression that minorities face.
“I saw it as the perfect platform to get my message across,” he said. “This is how you can help weather inequalities Black people face in America you may or may not be aware of.”
Johnson’s ultimate goal is to lead a Fortune 500 company where he will have greater ability to create change. He also hopes to continue his education beyond graduation and build up his credentials, including becoming a chartered financial analyst and certified public accountant, and earning a Master of Business Administration degree.
“My ancestors weren’t able to get letters behind their name,” he says. “I’ll see if I can get as much professional accreditation I can while the opportunity is available to me.”
Posted in Entrepreneurial Leadership