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DALLAS (KDAF) – Cynthia Marshall is the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks.

In her time, she has helped turn the culture around within the organization.

She became the first black, female CEO in the NBA, but being the “first” is nothing new for her.

Cynthia’s family left Birmingham, Alabama and traveled to California when she was 3 months old. It was an effort to escape the Jim Crow South, but life in the projects on the West Coast wasn’t easy.

“When I was 11-years-old, some chaos broke out in our family, and I saw my father actually shoot a man in the head,” said Marshall.

While her father survived the incident, Marshal did not forget it.

She sought a “way out” by setting her sights on leadership.

At her sisters’ graduation, she noticed the only speakers were white boys.

“I was in the 9th grade, and I said ‘can a black girl be SR. class president? Can a black girl be student body president?’ She said, ‘Of course you can do anything you want to do.’ I said ‘OK I gotta get one of my buddies.’ I found out that had never happened before.”

Marshall became the first African American president at her school.

“It was historic and the faculty  was more emotional than I was. We’ve been blazing trails ever since then,” Marshall said.

Cynthia later became the first African American cheerleader at Berkley, and the first African American Delta Gamma at the school.

Yet, even at almost 40-years-old, she found herself not being accepted for who she was.

When offered a position as an officer at AT&T, she initially turned it down.

“When you fundamentally try to change who I am, when you tell me I can say blessed, when you tell me I’m too loud, you’re actually telling me you don’t want me to be a black woman.”

ATT&T reversed course and she took the job.

Now, as CEO of the Mavericks, tasked with transforming the culture, she’s making sure nobody else experiences that.

“If nothing else, I’m proud of the speak up culture we have. Our people have a voice. The level doesn’t matter. I had a meeting with every single person in the organization when I got there.”

“We have got to embrace all cultures. February is the month we do that and embrace the Black culture, and see what more has to be done. It’s a time when the whole nation gets to do that.”