Shawn M. Graham is the interim chief executive officer for the National Black MBA Association, Inc.
Shawn M. Graham is the interim chief executive officer for the National Black MBA Association, Inc.

Hip-hop was born during a Bronx house party in August 1973 with DJ Kool Herc getting the credit for its birth. Where were you when hip-hop was born? While Shawn M. Graham missed that party, she was at Cedar Park for many park jams where DJ Kool Herc used to deejay. She was taken in by the rhythmic pulse and style of this new sound – hip-hop. “I was entrenched in hip-hop as a young girl. During my earlier years growing up in the Bronx near Cedar Park where DJ Kool Herc played,” she reminiscences. “So hip-hop was an integral part of my childhood.”

Growing up watching rappers and groups like Cold Crush Brothers and Grandmaster Caz, Funky 4 + 1, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Crash Crew, Kool Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three, to name a few, gave Shawn a sense of how the freedom of rhythm and flow when mixed just right can create a bridge to success. This flow would carry over into her professional career. 

Stepping into the NBMBAA, Graham’s presence is magnetic, an embodiment of the fusion between hip-hop’s vibrant spirit and strategic acumen. A petite yet powerful business professional, she embodies the ideals championed by hip-hop pioneers half a century ago, now finding their crescendo within the hallowed walls of the association. As the CFO and Interim CEO, Graham embodies the essence of hip-hop’s message—breaking barriers, defying expectations, and forging a path that transcends limitations.

Her knowledge as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the foundation she uses for the management of the financial complexities of NBMBAA while infusing the raw energy of hip-hop to balance books and beats. The result of this unique combination is both innovative and inspiring attracting professionals seeking to bridge the gap between artistic expression and commerce.

However, Graham’s journey stretches far beyond balance sheets and board meetings. Rooted in the vibrant history of hip-hop’s birthplace, the Bronx, she personifies the transformative evolution of this genre. Hailing from Soundview, another Bronx neighborhood that witnessed the birth of hip-hop 50 years ago, Graham’s story becomes a living tribute to the movement’s resilience, creativity, and unyielding spirit.

Her breakdancing roots, as a B-Girl in the Bronx, have imprinted an indelible mark on her leadership style. Just as hip-hop artists defied conventions with their innovative beats, Graham dances through corporate challenges with the same audacity. “It’s about making every move count,” she affirms, a mantra that echoes through her career trajectory. The same tenacity that once drove her dance moves now fuels her fearless approach to tackling corporate complexities.

Shawn M. Graham is the interim chief executive officer for the National Black MBA Association, Inc.
Shawn M. Graham is the interim chief executive officer for the National Black MBA Association, Inc.

Yet, Graham’s influence extends beyond her dynamic leadership style; it is a guiding force of mentorship and empowerment. Just as hip-hop has been a platform for amplifying marginalized voices, Graham uses her position to empower the next generation of leaders. Through mentorship, she encourages them to embrace their aspirations and authenticity, nurturing a harmonious blend of creativity and professionalism.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop’s inception, we find its spirit alive and thriving within Shawn M. Graham. Her journey — from a B-Girl dancing to a rhythm that would change the world, to a dynamic leader steering the course of an influential association — is a testament to the harmonious marriage of hip-hop culture and business excellence. 

As the curtain rises on the 45th National Black MBA 2023 Annual Conference in Philadelphia from Sept. 12-16, 2023, anticipation reverberates through the air. The theme, “Thrusting Forward: The Evolution of Excellence,” is a tribute to the conference’s mission but also to Graham’s remarkable journey. For more information, visit

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