'Transformational Change': Born a Star Fest 2023 with H-E-B's James Harris

By Kevin Barnett

'Transformational Change': Born a Star Fest 2023 with H-E-B's James Harris

Born a Star Fest, CoolxDad’s annual celebration of fatherhood event, shined brighter than ever in its third year.

This year, about 200 people came out to the festival June 17 at Mo’ Better Brews in Houston to enjoy musical performances by Sia Amun, Keith Jacobs, The Biggest Brandon, and the musical stylings of DJ Elevated. 

It was our biggest attendance yet, and that’s in large part thanks to the community partners who came out to support the festival, which for the first time included H-E-B. In Texas, you know we’ve got major love for H-E-B, and it seems the feeling is mutual. 

James Harris, the senior director of H-E-B Diversity, Inclusion & Supplier Diversity, came out to the fest to make a few statements about the importance of the spaces CoolxDad creates, community support, and fatherhood in communities of color. He worked for several companies in the food industry, including Kroger Company and The Minute Maid Company, before landing at H-E-B, where Harris first served as the Business Development Manager for African American, Continental African, Cajun, and Creole products and community engagement. 

“I leverage this experience to identify, connect, and drive transformational change for the local, small, and minority suppliers of goods and services across the company,” Harris said. 

We chatted with James real quick after the fest to talk about the CoolxDad and H-E-B missions.


Brandon, wearing a black T-shirt and dark Aviator style sunglasses with medium-length dreaded hair, sits at a keyboard playing and singing. Another man, in a white T-shirt and sideways cap, stands behind him with a guitar.

H-E-B's Be the Change initiative engages with diverse suppliers, many of whom in turn support nonprofits. Any Texans you've met through that initiative, or anecdotes from the program, that stand out to you as really exemplifying the impact?

Our Be the Change initiative is supported by three pillars: Be a Better Employer, Be a Better Retailer and Be a Better Community Partner. The Be a Better Retailer pillar allows us to give voice to the diverse suppliers we use across our supply chain. Our internal research has shown this business process creates a powerful ecosystem. The suppliers we work with buy from local suppliers, provide meaningful employment, and support local tax revenues, non-profit organizations, and Texas-based food banks. As a company that gives 5 percent of its pre-tax earnings to nonprofits, which includes food banks, we understand this ecosystem.


You spoke at our Born a Star Fest for the first time. Tell us what you thought of the festival and its impact.   

I think the festival has tremendous upside potential and certainly speaks to a societal ill. There aren’t enough African American role models for young men of color, who perhaps are growing up without the presence of a father or positive male influence in their life.


James Harris, a Black man wearing a white button up collared shirt and light blue dress pants, speaks into a microphone. He has one hand in his pocket. Kevin, in a black T-shirt and a ball cap, stands behind him on a stage. It's a sunny day. On the stage also are drums and a microphone stand.


That’s right, so how does CoolxDad's mission and H-E-B's Diversity and Inclusion efforts align? 

CoolxDads mission aligns and resonates with me personally. My wife and I raised our children, who now have children of their own. I believe you must be the positive representation of what you want your children and their children to see. The root of H-E-B’s Be the Change initiative is “Be a Better” and it’s all about growth, empowerment, and positive differences in the lives of others.


We ask everyone, what's the most underrated – but totally necessary – dad skill? 

The most underrated and necessary dad skill is love. Love, when it’s real, means sacrifice, role modeling, commitment to your child’s success, denying yourself to ensure they are whole. It means a husband and wife on the same parental page, and most of all, it means introducing them to God.