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Why Jordan Brand’s Larry Miller Says James Whitner of A Ma Maniére Is a Powerful Voice of Black Culture

The A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3 was much more than a sneaker. It represented making the most of an opportunity when they were few and far between, as well as the ability to overcome struggle.

Before James Whitner of The Whitaker Group accepted the FNAA Collaboration of the Year award, Jordan Brand chairman Larry Miller — who appeared on stage alongside Jordan Brand VP of footwear Kris Wright — applauded the beloved retailer on being a stellar voice for the Black community.

“I’d like to thank James for always maintaining a focus on making sure that he represents the voice of Black culture,” Miller said. “A lot of times she represents that voice in environments where it’s not necessarily heard, and he is one who makes sure that it is heard. I’m truly proud to see a young Black man achieve the success that James has achieved and to do it while still maintaining a connection to his community and his roots.”

Rather than deliver a speech, Whitner said he was “just going to have a conversation” with attendees, and shared a belief that is common among the team at The Whitaker Group: “We actually believe that we can change the world.”

“The thing that I’ve learned is that my pain has been my biggest privilege,” Whitner said. “You grow up poor and you’re in the projects and you try to figure out, ‘What is this about? Why is this thing of ours so unfair? The world’s fair right? Why is it? Why is this so f**ked up for us? Why isn’t there opportunity for us?’ But you can get to a point in life where you can tell our stories, you start to feel embraced by the world, you start to get an opportunity and level the playing field.”

For 35 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards ­— often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2021 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide.

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