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Employee voices: Black History Month 2023

American history and Black history are inseparable, like the sides of a coin. We can’t understand one without the other.

Throughout February, employees across North America are sharing their reflections on the history of Black and African Americans. We’re proud to highlight some of these stories here. (This is the second in a series.)

David Nichols
Advisor, data management & governance, Dublin, Ohio
My father was born in 1925 in a Black sharecropping community in Georgia with no electricity; he migrated north during the Depression and met my mother, who’d grown up in a small White community in Ohio. They married in Cleveland, where I grew up in a culturally rich neighborhood, and, though I didn’t see this environment as special at the time, it made a big difference in my life.

My father’s education was limited, but he had a passion for Black history; my mother was a teacher. They both emphasized learning as I was growing up – we watched documentaries together and visited museums for vacations. My parents taught me that America has one multiracial history in which we all participate, and that American history and Black history are inseparable, like the sides of a coin, and that we can’t understand one without the other.

My third-grade teacher underscored the importance of learning from the past when she introduced me to Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born into slavery where literacy was outlawed, but he taught himself to read and write anyway. Words took him far: He escaped to freedom and became a great orator, author, advisor to Abraham Lincoln, and a potent abolitionist. He founded his own newspaper and was an early advocate for women’s right to vote. He lived to see the end of the Civil War, emancipation, and the first decades of reconstruction.

As an adult, I continue learning about important Black figures, particularly during Black History Month. For me, it’s an opportunity to express gratitude for the heroes who’ve come before. For example, one February, I challenged myself each day to learn about significant Black women in history. Many had names I’d never heard before, but all played a role in the American story.

African American history is painful, and still an unhealed wound for so many. Conversations about it can be difficult, but Cardinal Health encourages us to have these conversations. This is part of the company’s emphasis on creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture. Here, it’s about much more than race and ethnicity; it’s about building a place of respect for one another.

Our leaders recognize that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is about more than doing the right thing. To succeed as a company, we need the dynamism that diversity brings; we need lots of different minds at the table to make smart decisions. I’m proud to work for a company that places such a priority on inclusion.

Sunshine Punzalan
Manager, human resources business partner, Mississauga, Ontario
As a Filipina-Canadian, I knew very little about Black American or Black Canadian history until I married my husband, who is of Bajan (Barbadian) descent. When we gave birth to twin boys eight years ago, I recognized the issues of race and the importance of DE&I. Ever since, I have made an effort to learn what it means to be a better ally and advocate.

For my family, Black History Month is a time to celebrate, recognize and learn about Black history in Canada and the United States. We support Black-owned businesses, go to local events, watch documentaries, listen to Black Canadian podcasts and music, try new foods that represent my husband’s and my sons’ heritage, and reread books we love.

A book we find particularly meaningful is called “Trailblazers: The Black Pioneers Who Have Shaped Canada,” which profiles more than 40 Canadian figures in our country’s history. It’s a great book for both kids and adults.

We also love to visit museums together. Last year, we went to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, where we walked through the bus that Rosa Parks rode in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, refusing to give up her seat for a white man. Her simple act of sitting led to a Black boycott of public buses in the city that lasted more than 380 days. We also visited Ontario’s Amherstburg Freedom Museum. Amherstburg was an important destination for those escaping slavery in the U.S.; the museum celebrates that legacy and the rich heritage of African Canadians.

Soon after my sons were born, I created a website where I could blog about my motherhood journey. I gradually began incorporating more and more content about DE&I, and that’s really become my focus. I’ve also written a children’s book, which will be published in May. The book is all about my boys and their many adventures.

At work, I am a DE&I Ambassador and co-chair of the Multi-Cultural Community (MCC) in Canada, an organization that helps facilitate engagement by employees outside the U.S. in the company’s DE&I work. I’m so grateful for Cardinal Health’s focus on DE&I. It means I can live my values at work just as I do at home with my family.

Rechelle Andrews
Product manager, product & solutions marketing, Charlotte, North Carolina
I am a proud African American woman who celebrates my roots associated with Cherokee Indian, West Indian and Jamaican cultures. I grew up as a Navy brat and my family moved frequently. As a child I never really questioned race. I knew I was a happy African American child fortunate to experience different cultures through travels with my family. My neighborhood and schools were always a mix of races, and I never learned to see anyone’s color as different. I just appreciated good friendships, and I was always curious about the culture of the people around me. 

As an adult and mother, I raised my two daughters with a similar outlook on race. My girls were taught to appreciate people for who they are and how to rise above any ignorance that might impact them negatively. I have always shared our African American history and culture with them, choosing to focus my teaching on seeking a purpose in life and finding what their positive contribution to society could be. They have grown up quickly, and ask deep questions about who they are and about race in this country. I try hard to help them understand our world and how to navigate it as young black women. 

I celebrate Black History every month by being proud of who I am, of my culture, and of what we have contributed to the arts, music, education, science and business. I’m fascinated with the history of other cultures, whether they have positively or negatively impacted our present. I celebrate those who came before us – those who paved the way for opportunity as well as those that continue to set the example for the future of Black Americans. Learning more about my ancestral African history helps me develop an awareness of who I am and gives me a deeper purpose .

At Cardinal Health, the emphasis on DE&I is changing our culture; we are learning to become more open, more cohesive and more inclusive – and that is a great thing.

I truly believe that someday, at work and in the world, people will continue to share and be proud of their culture without volatility. It is my hope that there will come a time when the only race that matters is the one we are all part of – the human race.

Eugenia Page
Analyst, individualized care, Reimbursement Solutions, Hackensack, New Jersey
My aunt and I were raised by my grandmother, who was very progressive and independent. Though she didn’t complete high school and didn’t have the opportunity to have a professional career, she encouraged us to learn and to pursue our dreams.

When we were young, my aunt attended a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. not long before he was assassinated. She brought his messages back, and his words became the catalyst in our pursuit of excellence. He said, “If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree…If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

My aunt became an educator; I chose to pursue a career in healthcare. Today, I help patients access critical care and medications, and I know that the work I do matters.

I have always talked with my children about the importance of education and how many doors it can open. Today, my older daughter is an associate director at Rutgers University; my younger daughter owns an event planning business, and my son is getting a commercial driver’s license to better provide for his family.

I’m so proud of all my children. And I am proud to be a Black woman. Black people are resilient people; we have survived so much. And, though there is still racism in our country, I am hopeful about the future. We only need to look back to see how far we have come.

When I am feeling challenged or frustrated, I take inspiration from the words of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political activist, journalist and orator, who said, “Whatsoever things common to man, that man has done, man can do.” I have altered his words a bit to make them more meaningful for my own life: “What women have done, this woman can do.”

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