Feb 11, 2021
Black History Month: Honoring the Past. Inspiring the Future.
Black History Month is a time to honor centuries of contributions from the Black community and inspire future efforts to build a more equitable society.
“We are glad for the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the many contributions the Black community has made in North America, and to our organization. As a company rooted in science, innovation and sustainability, Henkel owes a huge debt to all the innovators that paved our way,” says Steven Essick, President, Henkel North America. “We recognize the importance of providing equal access to education, so young people from all backgrounds can become the innovators of tomorrow.”
Past, present and future, we salute all those who make it their mission to “be the change” in the world — including those who work at Henkel. In honor of Black History Month, we invited leaders across our company to share their perspectives.
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Share your views of Black History Month.
ANASTASIA: Black Americans are an integral part of the foundation of the United States. There are unsung heroes who have helped shape our history, and their contributions have a lasting impact on our lives and aspirations to this day. Despite obstacles we still face today, including systemic racism, Black History Month reminds us to take inventory of the hidden figures from the past, celebrate those who are making history today, and dare to dream big and defy the odds, just as many Black Americans did who came before us.
CEDRIC: There is a quote that states, “Knowing the past opens the door to the future.” It is essential for the greater good of society that everyone understand and acknowledge African-Americans’ past achievements and the challenges and hurdles they had to overcome. By doing this, you not only honor those who made these significant contributions and sacrifices, but you also demonstrate to the Black youth of today that someone who looks like them has made incredible accomplishments — and they can too.
DELIA: Black History Month means offering reverence to all the African-Americans who have removed so many roadblocks for us. And it’s a prime opportunity to educate society on challenges that still affect our communities and privileges not shared equally by all.
TOUSSAINT: Black Americans have made more contributions to society than many realize, and it is imperative to highlight those contributions during Black History Month. It is especially important for the next generation of Black girls and boys to know their history and feel empowered to dream big.
Why is equal access to education so important?
CEDRIC: Access to education is key to addressing the disparities between African-Americans and other cultures. From financial literacy to S.T.E.M, we must all help to close these gaps.
DELIA: Education for all is paramount. In an historic piece of Black history, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court stated that, “it is doubtful that any (individual) may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of education.” The contributions of Black Americans since this landmark case have been inspiring, but there is still so much work to be done.
TOUSSAINT: Equal access to education is important because we all have a part to play in this world. Someone with less access to education may be the next great scientist or inventor, but if they are not given the opportunity to pursue their dreams, the entire world loses out on their potential contributions to society.
Who inspired you and how do you pay it forward?
ANASTASIA: My family and community played a major factor in my personal and professional success. I credit my parents and siblings for embodying greatness and pushing me to excel, even when all the odds were against me. I try to pay that forward as Communications Director of Henkel’s Black Alliance employee resource group, where I engage with colleagues and create resources that can serve as dialogue starters. My sales team and I keep the conversation going and hold weekly team D&I sessions. I credit them for their commitment to D&I and their willingness to have open dialogue.
If we commit ourselves to open dialogue and no longer allow ourselves to be silent in the face of injustice, no matter how uncomfortable, we can move mountains and make progress together.
CEDRIC: I was inspired early in my career by a manager who taught me the meaning of servant leadership and how to use my position to drive Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace. She constantly preached about leading with love and driving quantifiable results through strategic culture change. I, too, hope to inspire others as President of Henkel’s Black Alliance, which helps drive positive change for Black people in the areas of networking, professional development, and community outreach.
DELIA: It is so critical for us, as Black community leaders, to push the interest of becoming a scholar. Companies need diverse, continued waves of thinkers and dreamers to keep business thriving. Through my roles with Henkel’s Professional Women’s Forum, the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana and Butler University Black Alumni Association, I am helping Black students and women of all races reach their full potential.
TOUSSAINT: My parents inspired me! They were not rich, but somehow they found the money to send me to private school from pre-kindergarten until 12th grade. They always told me, “your only job is to get good grades,” and that was what I did. They spoke to me about the value of education and going to college at a very young age. Having that solid foundation shaped my entire life. I know firsthand how cost-prohibitive higher education can be. As the scholarship chair for the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists, I am helping aspiring scientists gain access to higher education.
Employees like these embody Henkel’s commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Learn more.