Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

Celebrating Black Innovators this Black History Month – PART 2

This year marks the 45th anniversary of recognizing the many triumphs and accomplishments of Black Americans, which is recognized as Black History Month.

Every year in February, the United States reflects on the fight for racial equality. We post a social media message and engage with popular hashtags such as #blm or #blackhhistorymonth. For a day, some of us may also alter our profile pictures to solid black.

The famous and inspiring quotes from usual suspects—Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman—are often conveniently trotted out. While their lives and their gifts to our society have been tremendously impactful and will be remembered for generations to come, what could we do to give voice to the Black Innovators who’re making a difference TODAY? How can we amplify their messages and stories?

Those social gestures and celebratory quote-sharing do help amplify the collective efforts of diversity initiatives to an extent, the systemic racism continues to persist in our communities and workplaces. So how can we help celebrate diversity in workplaces, communities, and societies?

Seizing an opportunity to celebrate Black innovators who have blazed trails, made a difference or paved the way for change in their field or society, we’re celebrating by highlighting some leading lights in a 2-part blog series. Last week we published part 1 of this 2-part series. Here’s part two.

There’s no better workplace than a diverse workplace. One of the things that constantly inspired me when I moved from nuclear weapon security to government to innovation was how essential it was for us to surround ourselves with individuals who were different. And what drove me even further was seeing how people went out of their way to do something unusual and were intentional about it.

DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in the workplace

Black History Month is significant for employers and employees all over the US. This historic event provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and champion initiatives, policies and programs that promote these values. The ethos of Black History Month revolves around diversity and the way it shapes wider society, as well as our homes, local communities and workplaces. For entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and employees, celebrating Black History Month is a chance to cement ties, strengthen relationships and prioritize diversity.

There are several key benefits of diversity in the workplace. Research suggests that embracing and promoting diversity offers the following advantages:

  • Access to a larger talent pool
  • Opportunities to connect and engage with a wider range of customers and clients with shared values
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved team morale
  • Enhanced collaboration and cohesion
  • And innovation!

On a note of Innovation… We’re Celebrating Some More Black Innovators.

11. Zaylore Stout Esq.: Zaylore Stout Esq has a diverse resume. He is a renowned employment lawyer, author, speaker and HR consultant. A well respected attorney with over 16 years of experience in the administrative employment law arena, Zaylore provides practical advice and counsel on a broad range of employment issues. Aside from the legal services, he is also an DEI advocate. An author of Our Gay History in 50 states, an educational book that tells the story of LGBTQ+ American history, state-by-state, including significant people, places and “queer facts” so that the struggles and successes of our community are remembered and the contributions the community has made to our society are celebrated by future generations.

Zaylore now has his next book, Our Black History in Fifty States, releasing this year.

12. Cassandra Lane: Cassandra Lane is an LA-based writer and editor who has recently published her first book, We Are Bridges. Her stories have appeared in the New York Times’s Conception series, the Times-Picayune, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and elsewhere. A managing editor of L.A. Parent magazine, she has also formerly served on the board of the AROHO Foundation.

After studying and honing her craft for years, working as a journalist, teacher and editor ushering in other people’s stories, teaching others how to write and read deeply, all things I’ve loved, now, she says, “I feel myself emerging from behind the veil.” 

13. Natashia Deon: American novelist, attorney and activist Natashia Deon is also a professor at Yale. A two-time NAACP Image Award Nominee, practicing criminal attorney, and college professor at UCLA, Antioch University and Yale summer program, Natasha is also an author of the critically acclaimed novels, THE PERISHING and GRACE, which was named a Best Debut Fiction by The American Library Associations, Black Caucus and was named Best Book by the New York Times, Deón is a Los Angeles native, wife, mother of two.

As Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author, reviews the book, he says, “This isn’t a book. It’s a touchstone. It’s an oracle. It’s a mirror in which you will see your authentic self, reflected on the pages. The Perishing is one part lyrical mystery, one part history lesson you didn’t learn in school, one part time machine.”

14. Aerica Shimizu Banks: Aerica Shimizu Banks is the founder of Shiso who strives to achieve equity in institutions and organizations by combining expertise in tech and business policy with creativity. Aerica applies an intersectional equity lens to business development, tech, and policy challenges and creates systems and frameworks to elevate and restore equity in our institutions. With the data-driven approach that is creative, and holistic, shaped by her expertise in environmental justice, policy, and tech, Aerica believes in the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit.

15. Camille Stewart Esq: Camille Stewart Esq. is a cybersecurity and privacy attorney, strategist, national security adviser, foreign policy specialist and researcher. Multifaceted cyber and technology professional with substantial business, legal, and policy experience, Camille builds global cybersecurity, privacy, and election security/integrity programs in complex environments for large companies and government agencies. 

Camille is the Global Head of Product Security Strategy at Google advising Google’s product leads on federated security and risk, She is also on the Board of Directors for GirlSecurity and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and on the Advisory Board for Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, & Conflict Transformation (WCAPS). 

16. Jadayah Spencer: Executive Director at the International Youth Leadership Institute, Jadayah Spencer is an advocate for improving opportunities for young people. She is an advocate for improving access to opportunities that enhance the lives of youth, people of African descent, and indigenous people worldwide.

She has served on several international and local boards, including working as a Co-Chair of the UN DGC/CSO Youth Representative Steering Committee, and on the New York City Young Women’s Advisory Council which addresses policy issues that directly affect young women of color in New York City, and which has received $20 million in funding to implement policy recommendations.5

17. Ashifi Gogo: Ashifi Gogo grew up in Ghana and now owns Massachusetts-based Sproxil, a supply chain management company that is designed to prevent the supply and distribution of counterfeit goods. Sproxil provides consumers with the means to do a quick authenticity test by SMS or app to check a unique number on the packaging of products on its platform. 

Ashifi has a passion for solving complex international business problems requiring multi-stakeholder engagement. He is an entrepreneurial leader who builds high-performance teams to deliver solutions to problems facing billions of people. Named to Fortune’s 40 under 40 list, Ashifi was awarded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2014 by the Schwab Foundation and joined the Fast Company Most Creative People in Business 1000 community. In 2013, Sproxil was named the world’s most innovative company in health care by Fast Company, and #7 most innovative worldwide.

This is time that we come together to celebrate and salute the outstanding accomplishments of African Americans. It’s also the time to recognize contributions of “hidden figures” who’ve made significant contributions or sacrifices in their respective fields. And not only does Black History Month highlight the importance of diversity, inclusivity, equality and justice in homes, communities, workplaces and in society, it’s important to remember that pulling together will help us to achieve much more.

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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