What Black History Month Means to Me

African American leaders at Henkel North America share why this month matters to them on both a personal and professional level

Culture Culture Feb 18, 2020
Black History Month February 2020

This article was originally published on Henkel Spotlight North America.

Each year, America celebrates Black History Month in February to honor the achievements of the African American community. To celebrate the occasion, Henkel North America’s African American Alliance (AAA) – one of the many Employee Resource Groups formed by employees with common interests – is augmenting its year-round efforts with a number of new educational, and inspiring actions. “When we create a culture that welcomes new points of view and values unique experiences, innovation can flourish,” says Angela Curley, Leader of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion and Corporate Citizenship at Henkel North America.

But this month isn’t just about organized group activities. While common ground is the objective of Henkel’s Employee Resource Groups, the individual viewpoints of employees are the threads that give them strength. In that spirit, here are personal reflections on the importance of Black History Month from influential African American leaders throughout Henkel North America:

Patrick Davis
Senior Vice President, Laundry & Home Care
Stamford, Connecticut

“During Black History Month, we remember those leaders and pioneers – Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglas – who paved the way or at least made it a bit straighter. But it’s also about our personal heroes. My grandfather was the first African American to own a business in his small segregated South Carolina town, and my mother was in the first class to integrate her high school in the 1960s.

It’s up to every generation to add our contributions to advancing the position of African Americans. I’m particularly encouraged by the work of the Henkel Employee Resource Group to address some of the challenges keeping African Americans from advancing their careers and making our work teams more diverse and effective.”

Angeline Louis
R&D Innovation Senior Scientist, Beauty Care Hair Professional
Culver City, California

“Black History Month is a reminder that people who look like me have significantly impacted the world. It encourages me to be resilient and make my mark on an industry where I am underrepresented.

I was granted my first patent in 2013 for co-inventing the first one-phase, solvent-free gel polish that is easily removed with acetone in five minutes.”

Anthony Johnson
Regional Key Account Manager, Adhesive Technologies, Transportation
Madison Heights, Michigan

“Growing up as an adolescent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Black History Month was a great time to learn about the contributions of African Americans outside of the limited information that was available at my grammar school and high school.

Today, I am a member of Henkel’s African American Employee Resource Group. We develop and implement activities from the African American perspective, and this month provides an opportunity to uncover and share knowledge of African American culture.”

Abubakarr Tunkara
Director Sales Strategy, Laundry & Home Care, Heavy Duty Detergents
Stamford, Connecticut

“For me, Black History Month is about giving thanks and showing gratitude to my forebears. It is about understanding that those before me went through a tremendous amount of struggle, sacrifice and persecution and that because of their struggle I enjoy the rights I have today.

I want to make a difference in my career by representing their legacies to the best of my ability and making sure that I pave a path for other minority leaders to follow.”

Velma Echols
Senior Director Sales, Zotos Professional, Henkel Beauty Care
Rosemont, Illinois

“History books highlight the contributions of dedicated, committed African American leaders who were humble enough to be guided by a moral compass. The essence of these disciplines contributes to my continuous desire to lead with compassion and integrity.

My career in Professional Hair afforded me the opportunity to focus on operational excellence, being a change agent and making investments in my community. I welcome the opportunity to continue make meaningful contributions and to experience the fullness of this journey as a Henkel/Zotos family member.”

Chandra Coupet
Director of Regional Controlling, Beauty Care Hair Professional
Culver City, California

“Have you ever dared to think what the world would be like if there wasn’t a Martin Luther King, Jr., a Rosa Parks, a Jackie Robinson, a Thurgood Marshall, or countless other ground breakers? At the time they were making great strides, I’m not sure that they realized what an inspiration they would be to others. They were simply displaying their own brand of authentic leadership.

As the years go by, I still enjoy learning new things during Black History Month and sharing that knowledge with my own children – because it’s not only black history, it’s an integral part of American history. So, at this time of year, I challenge everyone – as a I challenge myself – to be inspired, be mindful and be thoughtful about how you as an authentic leader will inspire the next generation and create an even bigger world of possibilities.”

Adam Warren
Vice President, Product Development, Laundry and Home Care
Trumbull, Connecticut

“Black History Month was created to acknowledge a shared history that has been historically marginalized and often appropriated. Today it represents much more – it’s symbolic of modern culture, influence and accomplishment.

As leaders at Henkel, we must make the extra effort to learn about, embrace and utilize the unique perspectives from our diverse employee base. When creating and advertising products, we need to challenge ourselves to look beyond the aggregate consumer need and offer solutions that are meaningful to shared culture and experience.”