Celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month by doing the work

By Sandra Etherly-Johnson 

As we find ourselves nearing the end of the shortest month of the year – the month adopted as Black History Month – we also find ourselves on the cusp of celebrating Women’s History Month. With this year’s theme for Women’s History Month as “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” I find myself reflecting on a woman whose own intersectionality shaped her advocacy as she spoke out for equity, diversity, and inclusion during the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. This woman is Sojourner Truth.  

Truth was an American abolitionist and activist for African American civil rights and women’s rights. She was born into slavery but escaped with her daughter to freedom in 1826. She made history in 1828 after going to court to recover her son becoming the first Black woman to win such a case against a white man.  

What I find interesting about Truth is that on that day in 1851 when she advocated for women’s rights, these were rights she still would not have as a Black woman even with her newly found freedom.  

Truth’s words that day in her speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” are a powerful reminder of the importance of inclusion. For some people, prior to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was no reason to consider the inclusion of others. That didn’t stop Truth from lending her voice for the rights and inclusion of all women. She had self-awareness of her position in the world and still had the courage to stand up for what she believed in. 

Self-awareness is an important component in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As the executive director of DEI and community relations for the Flint & Genesee Group, I practice self-awareness every day. I work to reflect on who I am and what I believe in to help better understand where others stand so that I can be more inclusive of those who may not be like me.  

In the workplace, although it may not seem as monumental as the work of Sojourner Truth, we still have the power to either include or not include individuals. This is why it is important to continue to build our DEI toolkit and learn how we can make the workplace more welcoming.  

For this reason, our team is repeating the Building the Foundation series offered in 2023. Our first training in that series will focus on self-awareness and participants will be able to learn techniques to improve their own self-awareness and how teams can benefit from implementing them in the workplace.  

When celebrating and reflecting on Black History Month and Women’s History Month, it is not only important to learn the history of what happened but to do the work and take steps to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion today. I hope you can join me on this journey. 

For more information and to sign up for a training, visit EducateFlintandGenesee.org/Career-Development/Business-Training-Workshops