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Celebrating Black History
By Ashley Arbuckle · February 23, 2023
Every February for more than 40 years, we’ve celebrated Black History Month in the United States and Canada, a celebration that for many of our European counterparts happens in October. And while we recognize the significance of this month and the importance of celebrating Black contributions to our global history, we’re also reminded this moment—this brief month of celebration—isn’t enough.
Black history and history, in general, aren’t separate entities. While it’s important we understand the countless contributions, difficult paths, and nearly insurmountable obstacles unique to Black history, it’s even more important to recognize these contributions year-round in tandem with all other studies in history.
At Trellix, we’ve spent the last year developing a program to tackle the talent gap and improve diversity in the cybersecurity industry. Our Soulful Work campaign starts with partnerships and investments in areas to make sure women, people of color, and individuals from all backgrounds get equal opportunity for education in this field, as well as the resources they need in the workplace to feel safe, mentored, and successful. Specifically, we partnered with the National Cybersecurity Alliance to nurture mentorships within Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), creating training for those students to navigate the cybersecurity job search process.
In continuing these efforts, we also launched the Black Heritage Voice employee resource group internally, and I recently had the opportunity to speak with the group’s leadership. Trellix Black Heritage Voice is focused on building a culture where Black colleagues are empowered, their voices heard, and their contributions valued, and the two women I spoke with truly embody that focus.
Sebrina Kepple is External Communications Manager, based in the UK, and Carmen DaCosta is Staff Program Manager for the Services Technology team in the US. These two dynamic leaders took time from their busy schedules to talk with me about the significance of Black History Month, Black figures who inspire them, and their thoughts on how Trellix can improve in uplifting Black voices and harboring a diverse and inclusive workplace. Here is a brief excerpt from the Q and A portion of our conversation.
Can you share some of your personal experiences or insights about the significance of Black History Month for you?
Sebrina: Here in the UK, Black History Month is in October. For me, it’s the only time of the year it’s part of the curriculum, and one of the only times where you see Black historical figures highlighted on the wider stage. It’s not always positive from my perspective because it often makes me think about why it’s not happening the rest of the year.
Carmen: As the child of an educator, I have a slightly different experience with Black History Month. My mom was a teacher, and I remember helping her with Black History Month bulletin boards; there was a sense of pride. I agree with Sebrina that it does feel reducing to have Black history just be one month, and I understand it needs to be called out because it’s not part of the regular curriculum. From my perspective as an American, Black history is American history. We talk about the Tuskegee Airmen during Black History Month; it’s Black history, sure, but it’s also a World War II story. It’s part of the bigger picture of American history. I appreciate the celebration and always took pride as a student hearing more about inventors and contributions that are specifically part of my history. Black history is global history.
Who is a prominent Black figure that inspires you, and why?
Carmen: For me, it’s Harriet Tubman. She escaped slavery and could’ve worked a job and lived free, but instead she went back 13 times [to help others] while she was hunted and wanted. She was such a powerful woman and a great leader, and when you talk about managing processes, Harriet Tubman managed the huge process of freeing people over and over again through the Underground Railroad. She was just this iconic woman leader with bravery, courage, and smarts.
Sebrina: I was born in Jamaica and a historical figure I learned about who inspires me is Nanny of the Maroons. She was a formerly enslaved African who fought for freedom in Jamaica against the British in the 18th century. Her military prowess led to successful resistance and a peace treaty. She inspired other enslaved Jamaicans to fight for freedom and built a community that still exists today.
How do you see the celebration of Black History Month evolving in the future?
Sebrina: It should be more than just one month of the year. Making sure it’s part of the curriculum year-round is key. I think that celebrating Black cultural events as a nation is important, particularly emancipation, as we celebrate the importance of freedom. Here in the UK, we don’t celebrate emancipation the way Juneteenth is celebrated in the US. In the UK, the Afro-Caribbean community all have individual celebrations of emancipation-based heritage.
Carmen: I think Black history is evolving in America because the heritage of Black people in America is broadening. What is being Black in America? It’s being Black and living in the US, but also from many countries and cultures. And it means we need to change the way we celebrate. We need to expand what Black history is.
In pivoting the conversation more toward our workplace, how has your cultural heritage shaped your perspective and experiences in the workplace and as a leader at Trellix?
Carmen: It’s engrained in who I am, how I perform, and in knowing full-well the history of stereotypes of Black people. I have relatives in my lineage who picked tobacco and cotton and I think about that a lot. I understand the legacy of what I represent in being here, and I carry that with me every day I show up for work wanting to perform and be thought of at the highest level.
Sebrina: I come from a long line of very hardworking and successful women who have done everything in their power to give me a great start. Growing up, I was always told that as a Black female, I need to work twice as hard—as men and as my peers—to get even half as much. Those moments have led to me looking for equality, not just for myself, but for everyone from diverse backgrounds, hence my interest in the Black Heritage Voice group.
How do you think Trellix can better support and uplift Black voices and stories year-round?
Sebrina: Supporting with words is one thing, but actions that show support are more important. Many businesses are publicly saying they’re allies but aren’t necessarily nurturing talent and equality once people are in those organizations. Transparency and advocacy are key.
Carmen: We need to highlight our peers at Trellix. I have a shared diversity with so many people in the company and I would love to know what they do and highlight our Black coworkers in leadership. I think looking at retention is important too, not only hiring Black employees but assuring they stay and are nurtured.
While we discussed so much more, these answers give an idea of just some of the ways we can all continue to improve. It was important to me to get a feel for what my Black colleagues experience at Trellix, which is why I was so honored to speak with Sebrina and Carmen.
While I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken toward a more nurturing and diverse workplace, I also understand that we as a company, as a country, and as a global society still have a long way to go. Until we get to a point where we’re talking about history in a balanced way, the observance of Black History Month remains a reason to specifically celebrate Black contributions and Black voices. It’s also a stark reminder to constantly recognize bias, privilege, and the need to tell these stories year-round. When we say we’re allies, we have to mean it. Then, we must back it up with our actions. In that vein, I’m committed to ensuring the conversation doesn’t stop here, and it doesn’t stop at the end of February. Watch for Trellix to spotlight our diverse team, including Black voices.
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