The Black Experience Employee Resource Group
The Black Experience Employee Resource Group works to support the development and engagement of Black Vonage team members while promoting a corporate culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. Olivier Bertogal, Manager, Sales Development, and Co-founder of The Black Experience, said “Following the death of George Floyd, our company had a moment of silence during an All-Hands meeting. As I was reflecting on this horrific tragedy, I realized that not only the world was listening but Vonage was listening. This is what inspired me to reach out to Richard Okwesa, Director, Global Ecommerce and Co-founder of The Black Experience, to start this ERG.”
This ERG also aims to make Vonage a destination place to work for Black talent and seeks opportunities to represent the Vonage brand throughout the Tech community. This is a group made up of more than 120 members with a hands-on leadership team who have worked diligently to not only create an environment where the voices of Black team members can be amplified, but develop a consistent virtual community to offer support during COVID-19. The group centers around four pillars: Community, Mentorship, Empowerment and Inclusion, each used as a guidepost to inform the actions of the Black Experience.
Making History Come Alive
As part of the Black Experience’s Black History Month programming, the group welcomed Dr. Anthony B. Mitchell, Sr., Ed.D., from Penn State University as its guest speaker. Dr. Mitchell is currently the Associate Teaching Professor of African and African American Studies, History and the Co-founder of the Stewart and Jones Scholar Leadership Program. Ingrid Dillon, Principal, Revenue Assurance Analyst and a member of the Black Experience’s Leadership team, thought it was important for the Black Experience ERG to host this program because, “Vonage has enabled a platform to provide an environment where diversity and education around the contributions of Black people are supported.” Okwesa echoed sentiments about Black History Month, “This is a great teaching and learning moment for my colleagues and for me about African American history.”
Over the course of an hour, Dr. Mitchell took attendees on the historical journey of the rise and decimation of Tulsa’s predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood, affectionately nicknamed as Black Wall Street. This area was a thriving community born out of the Jim Crow segregation laws of the time, populated with doctors, lawyers and small business owners.
Black History Month 365
We believe acknowledging Black History Month is an important part of working to repair the damage caused by hundreds of years of enslavement, segregation and the effect of systemic racism. Elevating Black voices and experiences is a positive outcome from recognizing Black History Month. There is still more that all of us can do. We should give a nod to history but also focus on ways we can lend our support in the future. In the face of racism, we must all take an anti-racist stance and move toward not just equality but equity. Dillion hopes that Black History Month “will become a more widely celebrated time and embraced as a part of all of our lives. The end goal is for it to become ingrained year-round and not remembered only once a year.”
The dedication from the Black Experience Group helps to elevate and celebrate voices long underrepresented in history throughout the Company and we are honored to support their ongoing initiatives.