Honoring Black History Month
By Michael Alicea · February 22, 2022
February kicks off Black History celebrations in the United States and Canada, and continues throughout the year to October in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Germany. In the United States, Black History Month (BHM) is a federally recognized celebration of the contributions African Americans have made and a time to reflect on the continued fight against racial injustice and inequality.
Officially recognized in the United States in 1976, this month has become one of the most celebrated cultural heritage months on the calendar, and for me, BHM provides an opportunity to immerse myself and learn more about an overlooked part of American history and culture. It is important that we take time to remind ourselves of the immeasurable contributions of African Americans and honor the legacies and achievements of generations past. We stand on the shoulders of giants.
Remembering Black Innovators
Shining a light on Black history is as important to grow stronger as a nation as it has ever been. Black history is often a largely repressed, rewritten and a condensed subject in the cataloging of American history. This is why I encourage the study of Black American history in its own right, and would like to pay a small tribute by highlighting a few of the innovators who changed the way we live, work and play.
When we think of the light bulb, it is true that Thomas Edison perfected it however it was Lewis Latimer who invented carbon light bulb filament that made it a possibility. Valerie Thomas created the technology that allowed NASA’s first satellite to send images from outer space, which is still used today. As a perpetual learner, I am inspired by Dr. Shirley Jackson who was the first African American woman to earn an MIT doctorate in nuclear physics. She contributed technologies that shape how we communicate – from touch tone phones to fiber-optic cables and many things in between.
Representation in Cybersecurity
According to a 2021 report by the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, African Americans make up only 9% of the cybersecurity industry. The report states, “Following the national reckoning on racial justice in mid-2020 prompted by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans, it became clear that current diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, however well-meaning, have not addressed the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of the cybersecurity field. The field remains remarkably homogeneous, both among technical practitioners and policy thinkers, and there are few model programs or initiatives that have demonstrated real progress in building diverse and inclusive teams.”
How can we continue to move in a positive direction with more representation of Black individuals in cybersecurity? We all have a responsibility, from corporations to professionals to offer and give more opportunities. Supporting initiatives like CyberStart America, a free national program for high school students to learn and master cybersecurity, is a start. Initiatives like these can be a gateway to the industry and can lead to college scholarships.
As a Chief Human Resources Officer, I am keenly focused on building organizations where our colleagues are empowered, their voices are heard and contributions valued. I am actively working on developing programs that give opportunity to traditionally underrepresented populations at Trellix. I challenge you to do the same. Let’s continue this important dialogue. What programs and initiatives are you collaborating with to make our industry more representative?
Resources and Ways to Celebrate & GiveBooks on Black Health & Wellness 19 Books to Read for Black History Month Black Culture Connection Black History IS American History - Netflix History.com Black History Documentaries Virtually Tour the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture Join the ASALH Virtual Festival Virtual Potluck - Soul Filling Recipes Eat Black Owned - Support Black Owned Businesses 44 African Americans Who Shook Up the World Volunteerism with a Black-Led Nonprofit 9 ways to celebrate Black History Month in 2022
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