February 22, 2023

The DEI Download: A Love Letter to Black History Month

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Episode Highlights

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Camille Kennerson reads her love letter to black history month, with Robyn on the DEI Download. Check it out!

Episode Transcript

Welcome to Hirewell’s, DEI Download episode. This is episode three, I believe, and today we have one of my wonderful colleagues joining us. I’m Robyn Carney and this is Camille Kennerson. Camille Kennerson is joining us today because she has, what we have been calling, a love letter to Black History Month that I would love to hear more about.

Yes, I sure do Robyn, and thanks for having me. I wrote a little love letter, about Black History Month, so if you’re ready to hear it, here it goes. When I think of the significance of Black History Month, my mind opens to an array of people and events that made our vision of today possible. From the clothes we wear, shoes on our feet, the refrigerator for our groceries, the stove we use to cook, the bed frame we sleep on, the products in our hair, the stoplight to get to work, even the smooth whiskey we drink after a long day’s work. All that is Black History. Had it not been for Ann Lowe to be the first well-known black fashion designer or Jan Matzeliger creating shoes, or our fashion sense may be skewed today.

Our refrigeration would not be possible without John Standard, nor natural gas for our stove thanks to Alice Parker, nor the gas burner being invented by BF jackson. Or what about Henry Boyd, being such an outstanding carpenter, we may not have the best support for our back when we slumber.

And when we awake the next morning, what will we apply to our hair had it not been for Madam CJ walker? The inventions of Garrett Morgan and Lewis Latimer help create the stoplight so that our way of transportation would be easy for the common man. Lastly, for those unaware, patenting was not in our favor. So Nathan Nearest Green is rarely acknowledged as the recipe maker for our beloved Jack whiskey.

There are so many creators and successors and black people, but what is most extraordinary to me is that despite the challenges they all faced, their situation did not stop them from making these inventions. These inventions continue to live on today.

Black History Month is not a placeholder for the month of February. It serves as a reminder to look around, stop and think about the creations of black inventors all around you. It’s in our houses, on our streets, and every day when we see one another, we know we come from greatness. My love for Black History Month is greater than one time of the year. I choose to celebrate all year and my celebration is reflected in my actions daily. Won’t you join me in celebrating this year’s Black History Month?

And that’s the poem. I love that. I love that. I think that’s really great. I like knew some of the names and didn’t know some of the other names, so I always love learning a little bit more. Madam CJ Walker is like one of the first self-made millionaires, women. For sure. Yeah. I was like, wait, I know this. Hold on a second. And she’s also black, which is really great. There’s like that really cool photo of her,

in her like 1910 Ford. It’s really great. Yeah. I love it. I did like, I know that it’s not a rhyming poem, but you know, I understand that there’s just, the point of it is just to put the names to the inventions.

They may not have gotten their respective acknowledgements back then, but for sure it’s available to us today. Just doing a quick Google search. Even today, like a lot of companies for Black History Month, they wonder how they can get involved, what are some ways they can support? It’s definitely worth a Google search just to look into what businesses you could support.

Like I’ve been to virtue this year. Even Kitchen and Cocktails are one of the black-owned restaurants. I know if you’re vegan, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat, is awesome. Yeah. And also joining some volunteer opportunities or donating to the youth or anti-racism movements is definitely an option to companies as well. Yeah. I think that there’s a lot of things that companies can be doing during this time period. But also like keeping in mind that if you are starting to do the prep work in February, for February, you’ve already-

you’re behind the 8ball as it were. But it’s’ one of those things that when you’re thinking about Black History month, you know, talking about keeping it going all year round, it’s important to remember that this is a time to acknowledge and be aware, but it’s also not the only time of year that you should be doing volunteer work, looking into anti-racism, be looking into different organizations that you can partner with. Trying to remember about diversity when a company is thinking about suppliers can be like a very different sort of skillset. And if we’re talking about, so Camille kind of spoke a little bit about personal obligation. So I’m going to switch to talking more about what like companies can do, is start thinking ahead.

With Black History Month, you want to be spotlighting things that you do year round, right? You don’t want to just be scrambling and creating things and just being like, oh, it’s Black History Month. Here we are. Like, let’s make our posts on LinkedIn or whatever, like donate money and then call it a day, right?

You want to think about spotlighting organizations that you partner with or spotlighting with the work that you do year round and focusing in on that. So, it can be a good time of year to, to think critically about your own like company’s relationship with Black history or specifically like any sort of diversity within your company, things that you might want to work on or emphasize and develop a new plan throughout the rest of the year.

So Camille brought up a love letter to February’s Black History Month and specifically her poem because we’re in the POC ERG group together, and she had mentioned it and I was like, that’s great. We should showcase that. It shows that it’s really vital to have things such as the POC ERG group, which I’m an ally in. Camille and I are in it together and we meet once a month to talk about various things and work on different programs. And we can also do things like, hey, like let’s have this video where we talk about love letters to black history. I personally always get, because my degree was in history, I get hung up on like random historic facts from the 1700s. So I always like hearing kind of like a different array.

We are also, our book club, is reading a book written by a black author this month, was our like theme for the month. Which we’re reading My Sister, the Serial Killer. Great book so far. Real great. Lots of poetry actually. And yeah, these are just kind of like surface things like we’re not talking about the deeper things that we’re doing at Hirewell right now, just kind of talking about the fun parts.

But, you should be focusing on, at your company, on the fun parts and the not fun parts, right? Making sure that if you need to, you’re creating programs to talk about racism at work or creating different avenues where people can discuss and feel comfortable bringing up every aspect of themselves within the workplace.

Perfect. Exactly. Yeah. It’s about the intention versus the impact. A hundred percent. It doesn’t have to be too deep into it. Just a matter of building connections with someone who may be different from you at the workplace or. Even implementing new goals to bridge that gap when it’s getting near Black History Month or just in general throughout the year.

All these make an impact for those that are of the diverse group of the workplace, makes them feel a part. And honestly, it just helps. It creates a learning experience for everyone so. Yeah. I was going to say, yeah, shameless plug to Hirewell though, this is my first company joining where there’s a book club, that highlights that there’s a POC-

an ERG, I’m sorry-

strictly for people of color.

So the book club definitely was created because there was, you know, a lot of people who really like reading and haven’t had a chance to read. And we had our first book club meeting last month and it was, Bananas. It was great, but we went a little wild. So I’m very excited about to hear everybody’s opinions about this upcoming book next month. With a nod to Women’s History Month. We’re doing strong female characters, or women in power, I think is the theme of suggested books. And then we vote on our favorite one, and it’s great.

Thanks for suggesting doing a love letter. I love that idea. I thought it was very unique and I’m really glad you could be on today, Camille. Thank you for having me, Robyn, as always. It’s a pleasure.

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