Black History Month: Meet Some of B.I.G.’s Leaders

Black History Month is upon us and some of the leaders of Blacks in Groupon (B.I.G.)—our employee resource group dedicated to supporting people of color within Groupon—are here to introduce themselves, talk about their heroes, and share what they love about B.I.G. Blacks in Groupon’s mission is to cultivate inclusion and diversity for people of color, rebuild communal efforts and increase professional development.

VALERIE SMITH, Marketing & Comms Chair

Speaker, Trainer, Mentor & Professional Flautist

You’re busy! Tell us about yourself and your background.

I’m active within Toastmasters International—an organization where members become effective communicators and leaders. I’ve been a member of the South Loop Speak Freaks Toastmasters Club #7079 since December 2011 and have been involved in taking on leadership roles, such as President, VP of Membership, VP of Public Relations, appointed Area Director, and I’m currently VP of Education. I’m known as the “Social Media Queen” of my Toastmasters Club, where I’ve set up and run many social media channels. My passions are attracting and engaging followers! I also facilitate Social Media Workshops at Toastmasters International District Conferences in Chicago.

My greatest achievement will be receiving the DTM: Distinguished Toastmasters Award this Spring in April, the highest honor within Toastmasters International. I look forward to using my communication and leadership skills as the Marketing and Communications Chair for B.I.G.

KEVIN HOWARD, Community Advocate

Business Development Rep

Tell us about yourself and what’s on your agenda for B.I.G. this year.

I’m a current Business Development Rep for the Things To Do vertical here at Groupon. I started in March of 2017 after working in luxury retail for 7 years. I studied Public Relations and Marketing at the University of St. Francis in Joliet. Why did I join B.I.G.? It’s simple: I wanted to help represent people of color within Groupon and help bring awareness and opportunities to initiate positive change and make a difference inside and outside of Groupon. I want to aide in providing proper communication channels to shine light and awareness on issues that minorities experience in the workplace and elsewhere. Nothing unites us quite as well as adversity and sharing common issues we face will help engage positive conversations and drive better relationships to build brighter futures. I’m honored and excited to be part of this group and I look forward to building something great with everyone involved.


Business Development Rep

Name an entrepreneur who you’d like to recognize for Black History Month.

For BHM I’d like to give a special shoutout to Madam C.J. Walker, one of the richest and most successful African American entrepreneurs in her time. She was a first generation born-free African American: her parents were slaves set free. She manufactured and sold hair growth products from her knowledge of working as a laundress and experimenting with different soaps and concoctions. At the time she went from making $300 a year to $300 a month. She expanded her business and built an empire that included over 2,000 employees and had a net worth of over 600,000…the equivalent of 6MM today, making her one of the richest businesswomen of America during that time. With her income she advocated for African American and women’s rights with the NAACP and YWCA. I chose her because she is an inspiration for financial literacy, entrepreneurship, community advocacy, and paved the way for the modern hair care industry we now have today. Perfect example of “starting from the bottom and now we’re here!”

MUHAMMAD RIZVI, Marketing & Comms Chair

Business Development Representative

Tell us about yourself and why you joined B.I.G.

I’m absolutely honored to be a part of B.I.G. I was born and raised in Pakistan and my family still lives there. I came to America to attend college at Illinois Wesleyan University and ended up staying. I graduated with a degree in Economics and I’m currently pursuing an MBA at night. During the day, you can find me on the phones talking with local merchants for the Home and Auto team here at Groupon. You can read my full Groupon story here! My biggest motivation to join B.I.G. was because of the great things I’ve heard about the group. I envision helping the group transform into a system where there are more minorities, such as myself, so we can spread diversity and inclusion. I have been at Groupon for a year and a half and I want to make more of an impact here, starting with B.I.G.


LATRICE T., Community Advocate 

Member Experience Manager

Who are your heroes you’d like to recognize for Black History Month?

Amy Jacques Garvey. Pearl Cleage. CaShawn (Pretty Brown Girl) Thompson.

Amy Jacques Garvey—the second wife of Marcus Garvey—was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association of African Communities League. Amy, who was both a journalist and leader of the organization, used her words and ideas to further convey the mission of the UNIA-ACL. Through her work and her endeavors, she provided a new face and outlook to the role of women in activism.

Pearl Cleage was a member of the original Black Panther Party and is currently an author and playwright. She spoke the truth of being a Black woman in America during a time when women were not given a full voice in politics and community activism.

CaShawn Thompson is a mother, nanny, and the founder/creator of the Black Girl Magic movement. As a single mother of two, she understands that Black women are not always seen as magical and beautiful, but through her movement, she has popularized the concept that every aspect of Black womanhood has an inherent beauty and magic that continues to carry the community and one another to new heights.