‘The Joy of our Voices’: Amazon employees share inspiration for Black History Month 2021
Black History Month is an annual commemoration of the history, achievements, and contributions of Black communities in the UK.
Every October, we’re delighted to celebrate Black history, culture and heritage with a host of activities available to Amazon customers and employees alike.
This year’s theme for Black History Month, selected by our employee affinity group the Black Employee Network (BEN), is ‘The Joy of our Voices’.
Tonie Odeniyi, BEN co-chair and Head of VMware Cloud for AWS Public Sector, EMEA, explains: “Black people globally have always found joy during challenges that continue to shape culture. Throughout Black History Month, we’ll celebrate Black artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators who have found opportunity during challenges, innovated when faced with adversity, and created barrier-breaking economic impact with the joy of their voice.”
To find out more, we spoke to BEN members across the UK to discover their inspirations during Black History Month 2021.
Georgia Akuwudike – General Manager, Operations
I love the theme ‘the joy of our voices’ because it emphasises the power and impact our voices can have. Last year was a tragic year for the Black community as the death of George Floyd amplified the racism, struggles and injustice Black people still face today. However, with our voices we united and found an opportunity to create a global movement for change.
Black community culture is an inspiration for me. As people we have been broken and tested, yet we still find joy, peace and hope for a better future, and continually strive to shatter whatever glass ceilings are in our way, to make history daily, and pave a way for the next generation.
My message during Black History Month is for us all to apply the Amazon Leadership Principle ‘Learn and Be Curious’. Be an ally, take some time during this month to educate yourself on the struggles and successes of Black history. Make a commitment to foster diversity and inclusion in your space, remember to have fun, and participate in the multiple events going on this month!
Byron Nana Taylor – Safety Co-ordinator
This year’s theme resonates with my firm conviction that our celebrations and remembrance of great achievements can propel change for everybody.
When we share these stories, they affirm the possibility that we can bring about transformational change and brighten our lives by staying positive and persevering. We may remember past obstacles, but ‘the joy of our voices’ means we also celebrate the opportunities created by those challenges.
We want to move beyond prejudice and deprivation by focusing on solutions – and this is true for everybody around the world, not just Black communities and cultures. The same idea inspires my work with an organisation called the Settlement Support Community Interest Company, which finds information and support services for people of colour integrating into British society for the first time.
I’m inspired by stories of people overcoming a range of different challenges – financial restrictions, lack of access to technology, social prejudice – to defy the odds and achieve greatness. Their struggles created opportunities for us today.
This October, remember that we can all achieve our ambitions. We can all make a difference when we commit to support each other. I hope these celebrations ignite your passion for self-growth, community development and social progress globally. You can be a hero in your own world!
Clieo Stephenson – Senior Store Manager, Amazon Fresh
This year’s theme, ‘the joy of our voices’, represents the challenges, difficulties and hurdles people may have faced that have shaped them to be the successful and inspirational people we see and hear today.
We’re celebrating individual stories and experiences, both positive and negative, to educate ourselves and inspire others. I don’t think people realise how much of an impact they can have on others just by sharing their story and speaking up!
Personally, this month I’m reflecting on a leader I used to work for – one of my inspirations throughout my daily work. She had an incredible ability to speak up on difficult topics regarding diversity and inclusion. Every day I strive to be an example of a leader like her in the hope that I can inspire the diverse associates in my team and be a voice for change.
I’m also inspired by stories highlighting the issues still faced by people of colour in our society. When I hear about direct and indirect racism, prejudice, and discrimination, it continues to educate me about issues that I might have been blind to in the past.
My message to colleagues and customers alike is to work hard to challenge the stereotypes that exist in society today. Give everyone a chance until they prove you otherwise. Question your preconceptions and biases, listen to those around you, and work together to build a positive, inclusive environment for all.
CJ Joseph-Browne – VAT Controls Manager
Black people globally have always found joy during challenges that continue to shape many cultures around the world. We use our voices to sing, we use our bodies to dance, and this brings us joy. During Black History Month, we’re proud to celebrate the positive contribution of Black culture globally.
As co-chair of Amazon’s Black Employee Network, it’s a privilege to see our members coming together and working hard to deliver a positive message across the business. We’re collaborating with teams across Alexa, Amazon Prime, Amazon Music and more for these celebrations with customers, partners and colleagues.
Our members also love seeing how Amazon customers and colleagues engage with Black History Month, taking the time to learn and to share ‘the joy of our voices’.
So this month, take time to join the celebrations – enjoy, learn, participate, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t stop the party after October!
Find out more about Black History Month 2021 at Amazon.