“Whatever you choose to do in life, be resilient. My name is Quntelliaus Christian. I was born and raised in Shelby, Mississippi, a small town in the Mississippi Delta with a population of less than 2,000. We had one red light, a handful of gas stations, no fast-food chains and lacked many of the other amenities most consider basic. Due to a lack of funding, the public schools are among the most ill-resourced in the nation. For many families, government aid is how they subsist. Well-paying jobs are few and far between. People must often travel an hour to receive suitable employment. Most families lack transportation, and public transportation is scarce, which is a barrier to obtaining employment.
“In the rural South, Black residents are often born into poverty and struggle to escape it. Growing up in Mississippi exposed me to the harsh realities of cultural and systemic oppression. Fortunately, my community was close knit, extremely resilient and did their best to isolate our youth from the numerous challenges we faced. My family, coaches and community members played a vital role in my upbringing. I learned the importance of discipline and hard work early in life. These values and morals were instilled in me at a young age and molded me into the man I am today.
“Upon graduating high school, I left my hometown on a mission to defy the odds of young Black men from my community being incarcerated, unemployed and poorly educated. I briefly attended college and had to drop out after the first semester because of financial challenges. I relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, and began a career in mall security. Yes, I was ‘Top-Flight Security of the World’ for six years and loved every moment of it! When the Director of Security position became available, I was never seriously considered for the role, although I’d expressed interest in the position, was qualified, and interviewed for it. I placed my life on the line daily and continually demonstrated the ability to be an effective leader, yet I was still overlooked.
“That was an impactful moment in my life and served as a catapult to move on in my professional career, so I submitted my two-week notice. I believed in me and vowed never again to be overlooked. Shortly thereafter, I applied for a position as a Loss Prevention Manager and was hired instantly. I spent the next six years delivering amazing results that kept me climbing the ranks.
“Wanting more from a compensatory perspective, I accepted a new challenge in retail and became a Store Manager. Within two years I was promoted to District Manager. I relocated my family to Williamsburg, Virginia, and spent the next year-and-a-half broadening my horizons and managing stores along the Virginia/North Carolina coastline. Ultimately, my family grew homesick, and we decided to relocate closer to our extended families. Upon transferring back to Memphis, an opportunity presented itself at Canteen. Determined to keep my career in an upward trajectory, I accepted the offer and joined the Compass Group/Canteen family in 2018 as a Customer Service Manager. Since then, I have been promoted multiple times and am currently the District General Manager for one of the largest vending operations in the Southeast division.
“Black men in the United States face numerous and significant adversities. In recent years, various national reports have described Black men as disadvantaged, absent fathers, criminals, left behind, endangered, invisible or in crisis. While I’m far from having it all figured out – and certainly nowhere close to my end goal – I will continue to defy those odds. Hopefully, my story is an inspiration to someone who is currently fighting the stereotypes I encountered as a youth in poverty-stricken Mississippi and determined to escape them. There is no substitute for hard work. You must be determined, disciplined and dedicated to your success. Most importantly, whatever you choose to do in life, be resilient!“