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Employee voices: Black History Month 2023

It’s important to understand where we’ve been to see how far we’ve come and imagine how much further we’ll be able to go.

Throughout February, we’ve asked employees to share their reflections on the history of Black and African Americans. We’re pleased to bring their stories to life here, in the fourth and last of our Black History Month series.

Abigail Kofete
Manager, Black Belt, Global Planning & Procurement, Dublin, Ohio
I am glad that we have Black History Month to focus on the monumental contributions that African Americans have made to our country, but I make it a point to never stop learning about the amazing people who have forged the path I follow.

I am the proud mom of four children, two sons, one who is grown with three children of his own and the other who is 16; and two daughters, ages 14 and 11. All of them are kind and smart and resourceful – and lots of fun to be around. We talk a lot about the contributions of Black Americans, and what it means to be Black in America today. I teach my children that they can have a different point of view and can ask questions of authority figures, but always with respect. When my older daughter, who is so confident in who she is, was in kindergarten, she came home from school one day and told me that she wanted pink skin and yellow hair like her friends. I told her that God makes people of different skin colors and hair types. He makes all of us the most beautiful way He sees us.

For me, my family members are my heroes. My mother just celebrated her 94th birthday; she is the last of six siblings. She is, and her sisters and my grandmother were, incredible examples of courage and determination. They grew up in rural Ohio with little money, but they gave back to their families and their communities; they were always welcoming and open to anyone who needed food or clothing or simply a kind word. And they always carried themselves with grace and humility. I did not get to know my uncle before his death, but I knew my aunts to be amazing women who led bold and meaningful lives in the face of many of life’s challenges. They were well loved and respected and left a legacy of love and honor that my own mother continues.

Colin Powell, the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” His words, as well as my family’s legacy, remind me to pursue both excellence and kindness every day, in everything I do.

When I joined Cardinal Health 11 years ago, there were relatively few Black employees; only one of them was a senior leader. But that has changed so much; today, it’s amazing to see so many people of color throughout the company.

Cardinal Health does a great job of celebrating diversity in the workforce; employees are even evaluated in part by their work to support diversity, equity and inclusion. That intentionality around DE&I is making a real impact, and it is wonderful.

Gwen Sample
Case manager, Lewisville, Texas
Every year I begin Black History Month early by attending the Martin Luther King parade in Dallas. I took my 3-year-old son with me this year; he didn’t understand what it was about, but he loved seeing the horses and hearing the bands.

When I was growing up, my family always watched the entire series of Roots – the miniseries based on Alex Haley’s novel – during February, and that’s a tradition we keep today. We believe it’s important to understand where we’ve been to see how far we’ve come and imagine how much further we’ll be able to go.

My grandmother grew up in a sharecropping family in Texas. She married very young, and moved with her husband to Dallas to build a better life. She raised her children to know that education was the key to everything. My mother graduated from the first integrated high school in Arlington, outside of Dallas. She was one of just five African Americans in her graduating class; she learned both the challenges and the benefits of diversity and inclusion. She started her working life as a secretary, and ultimately became an accountant.

When I gave birth to my son, I understood that his experiences as a Black male will be very different from my own experiences. I think a lot more now about what is safe and what isn’t. What I read and see in the news every day impacts me very deeply. At the same time, I know we have to keep moving forward. I believe that as Black people, we have more allies than at any time in the past, and I am optimistic about the future.

I believe that optimism is what has brought us to where we are today. Our ancestors had a belief that things would change, that the future would be better. They had to fight for everything, and to hold on to their optimism, but they did.

I don’t believe there will ever be a time when we won’t see skin color. Rather, I believe we’ll embrace color, because our different colors are what make us great as a people. Of course, we will and should acknowledge it. My dream is that skin color will never be a factor in the kinds of opportunities my son will have access to.

When I joined Cardinal Health a little more than a year ago, I began to see all the ways that the company works to make everyone included, from our many employee resource groups (ERGs) to a focus on encouraging difficult conversations, to lots of open discussions about all the things that are important to different cultures. So much diversity creates a positive culture ­and it makes me feel like I am part of something big.

Donnetta Gamble
Senior representative, Edgepark, Twinsburg, Ohio
Each year, I celebrate Black History Month by watching the movie Harriet, based on the life of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. I watch to remind myself what Black America once looked like. Tubman accomplished so much: After nearly 30 years in slavery in Maryland, she escaped to Pennsylvania, a  free state, and became a conductor with the Underground Railroad, where she freed more than 70 other slaves. She helped coordinate a military assault during the Civil War that freed more than 700 additional slaves. After the war, she fought for women’s suffrage and helped raise money for schools for newly freed people. Throughout, her faith in God inspired her, and her strength and motivation were remarkable. I aspire to model my life after hers.

As a Black woman who is also a single mom, I often feel that I need to work harder to achieve my goals. Society tends to put single mothers into a box, thinking us weak, dependent and absent as parents. I think the opposite is true. Sometimes we need extra help, as most people do. And when we shed tears, we are not showing our weakness, we are showing our humanity.

My children are 11 and 2 years old. I’m fortunate to have a good friend nearby who is also the godmother of my children, and I can turn to her when I feel overwhelmed. But most of the time, I just try to figure it out on my own.

I’ve been at Cardinal Health for two years, and I see DE&I everywhere. I’m so thankful that the company offers so many avenues for all employees to learn about different backgrounds and ethnicities. I’m particularly involved with the BOLD ERG for African American employees and their allies. I also have a mentor who is in BOLD; he is so helpful and encouraging. Cardinal Health provides opportunities for growth and development; I’ve been promoted once in my brief tenure here. I feel that my purpose at this company is much greater than it has been at places I’ve worked in the past.

There is a quote I love from the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was a friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” he said. It resonates so much with me: As a single mom and a full-time employee, I wear many hats, and sometimes it’s a struggle. But in the end, it all really feels worth the struggle.

Chauna Mason
Senior specialist, Quality Compliance, Dublin, Ohio
I am so proud to see people celebrating Black leaders, artists and creators throughout Black History Month. But one month isn’t long enough to celebrate all the contributions of Black and African American people, so I make a point of celebrating my Blackness and my history every day. I buy from local Black businesses, promote Black artists, and do all that I can to lift up other Black people.

We often see the same people honored repeatedly – and rightly so – but sometimes at the exclusion of those who are lesser known, like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, mathematicians who worked at NASA in the 1950s and 1960s, or Tarana Burke, who started the MeToo movement in 2006.

When I was growing up, I lived among people who looked like me. We didn’t talk about Black history much, but we did talk a lot about family. For us, family was everything: We understood that no one would ever take care of us the way our family members do.

As one of 11 children, I know how true this is. I worry about my siblings, especially my brothers. It is exhausting to learn about violence against Black people, especially Black men. My brothers look like many of the victims. It’s difficult to talk about, and I think it’s difficult for people who are not Black to ask about it. People don’t want to say the wrong thing.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful group of Black friends. Our lived experiences help us to share with and support one another. We talk a lot about difficult issues, and check in with each other regularly to make sure we’re all doing okay.

I have been with Cardinal Health for two years. My manager is a Black woman, and provides me with wonderful guidance. I joined the BOLD ERG right away, and I participate in the ERG’s mentorship program. DE&I here is a priority, and it’s not only about Black people, but also about women, Asian Americans, people with disabilities, Latinx people and veterans. The company’s leadership talks often about how building a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture is a work in progress: We’re proud of where we are, but understand there is always more to do.

Outside of work, I am often the only Black woman in the room. I work hard to walk into every room as if I’m supposed to be there, to be authentic and to speak my truth. Because at the end of every day, I want to look at myself in the mirror and be proud of who I am. I believe that being your true self opens doors. And, ultimately, I want to make a positive difference. I want to be a part of Black history, too.

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