What does Black History Month mean to you?
First, Black History is synonymous with America’s history. You can’t separate the two.
2020 was a tumultuous year that incessantly pecked away at my resolve to live a life of optimism and hope. And if nothing else, this past year proved that America is not as “evolved” as we’ve tried to convince the rest of the world into believing. We are full of it and we are true imposters. For Black History Month 2021, I am reminded of the many people who came before me who went through tremendous struggles and persecution so that I could carry the symbolic torch of pride, influence and accomplishment.
My 2021 Mantra: “I won’t stop starting!”
Why is it important to recognize and celebrate Black History Month?
Black History serves two amazing purposes: celebration and education.
CELEBRATION: Black History Month is a time for recognizing, celebrating and honoring the achievements of Black Americans that came before us who paved the way leaving hope for a better tomorrow. For one month of the year, the nation’s attention is drawn to the contributions of Black Americans and it is an opportunity to reflect on both the contributions and challenges of Black Americans throughout history.
EDUCATION: Throughout America’s young history, actions by the federal government serve as a blueprint to our nation’s treatment of Black Americans (e.g., the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights Act of 1964, etc.), and we cannot dispute the magnitude of the racial progress we’ve made. However, Black History Month seeks to deliver what our federal policies do not — eradication of systemic racism and the marginalization of people of color. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that our problems do not lie solely with policies, but with the character of Americans.
How has growing up Black in America shaped your perspective and influenced your life?
Growing up and even as an adult, I experienced racism and hatred in ways that still to this day make no sense to me. Children called me racial epithets, police pulled me over countless times (no citations ever issued of course), and I was constantly praised and labeled a top performer, but I was never given the opportunity to advance my career. This country, in the supposed “land of the free”, we have been reminded just how equity is subjective — including in the workplace.
GumGum is the first company I’ve ever worked where listening is being translated into a REAL call to action. It won’t happen overnight as we have to dig into years of data, start collecting new data, and we must be transparent as we engage our employees in a meaningful and truthful way. It is my hope we will all do our part to make GumGum a place where everyone feels valued, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability or age. My personal commitment to Gummers is to continue to challenge GumGum to do better, be better. And if nothing else, no matter my tenure, I hope to blaze a trail for black and brown future leaders to follow.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self navigating hardships or challenges you faced as a minority?
I would tell my younger self not to measure my worth and value by white America’s definition or standard of beauty, intelligence, wealth, or standing in this country. I am who I am, and my place in this world matters. So deal with it.
Is there anything you wish to say to those who strive to be effective allies for the Black Community?
Where there is no justice or equity, BUILD IT! Lead the new normal and increase your value and impact in the lives of our most underserved, especially children.
For example, coding is tough to come by in inner city schools, so teach a class, volunteer or host a Hackathon for these children. Their little minds are full of curiosity and wonder — they just need someone to care enough to seek them out and teach them.
Businesses should recalibrate their hiring/screening practices by looking at their HRIS systems, think outside their box and go where the diversity is! Start somewhere. No matter how small the start, no matter the current diversity standing, no matter the budget — just move the needle. And remember, we all have the power and duty to plant seeds. One seed planted with proper care and attention can produce enough fruit to feed GumGum’s appetite for creating an environment of true belonging and inclusion.
Is there a Non-Profit or Black-owned business you love to support and want to share?
Hands down, you have to visit Curious Tribes: 100 Black Voices!!! They have something for EVERYone.
Anything else you want to share?
Please recognize that equity fatigue is real! On the one hand, people of color are tired of leading the fight to fix a problem not created by us. And on the other, our white allies are tired of being told they’re doing it wrong. It’s no small wonder we don’t have equity or a sense of communion.
In closing, GumGum the seed has been planted, so let’s nurture it, protect it and watch it grow!