What Black History Month Means To Me
By Isaac Johnson, Crothall Healthcare Regional Director of Operations
Isaac has been a Regional Director of Operations for Crothall’s Environmental Services (EVS) division since 2014. Today, he’s responsible for EVS operations and oversees more than 50 managers and 800 associates who work at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC., and the Augusta Health System in Augusta, GA.
When I was 14 years old, I met Major General Frank Bolden – an African-American astronaut who flew on four Space Shuttle missions. It was an experience that changed my life.
My father was a Major in the United States Marine Corps, so I’ve lived all over the United States and abroad, attending many different schools. When Major General Bolden spoke to our class, I got to hear and speak with a real live astronaut who looked like me and sounded like me. For a teenager unsure of the future, it was so inspiring. (Pictured here: Issac (left), his father and sister meeting Astronaut Charles Bolden (right)).
He told our class we could achieve whatever we wanted in this life. But he said we had to take action. We had to set goals and work toward them. Because of that one experience, every year since then I’ve set goals for myself. I always remember how Major General Bolden inspired me to take control of my life.
Black History Month is a special time of year for me and millions of other African-Americans. It’s a time to rejoice and remember all those who have paved the way for a brighter day in America. It’s an opportunity to highlight and recognize the numerous contributions and the sacrifices African Americans have poured into this country to make it the great land that it is today.
I like to celebrate this month in a variety of ways. I make a point to support Black-owned businesses by ordering some of my favorite soul food meals from restaurants in the community. They need the support, and it’s especially important during the pandemic when their overall business has been adversely affected.
I also enjoy attending “Poetry Slams” with my family and friends at different clubs in metro Atlanta. At these events, African-Americans recite poems and perform songs connected with Black history as part of an open mic night.
It’s an energizing experience that fills me with pride. Men and women of all ages take this opportunity to express their passion for Black culture through words that help us connect with our past and understand how we can make a difference today.
I also celebrate this month by sharing our history at my church. Each Sunday in February, the pastor’s sermon will focus on speeches made by Black American leaders, such Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
In the workplace, I do my best to engage younger Crothall associates of all backgrounds about the contributions made by African-Americans to the country. Sometimes I can provide them some information about our history, and I’m often intrigued by their reaction, especially if they didn’t know about the event.
Issac featured alongside EVS associates at Duke University Hospital.
For example, around MLK Day in January, we were talking about The White House in Washington, DC. I mentioned that the house was built by African-American slaves. Many of the younger associates didn’t know that and even questioned if it was really true. Of course, it is. It’s a good example of how our conversations can educate and lead to a better understanding of the African-American experience.
There’s an opportunity for more education this month. Ambassadors on the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Council have provided toolkits that include a list of activities to engage associates.
The activities include a number of question-and-answer discussions about topics intended to raise awareness of the issues we face every day. We may discuss why it’s important to celebrate Black History Month and the barriers that still exist to achieving racial equality. It’s one of the first times the company has provided these activity kits to help bring us closer by discussing these issues.
I’ve been with the company for 17 years, and I’m so proud of our commitment to promote an inclusive and diverse culture. It has really started to take hold.
We’re promoting D&I in multiple ways, from the leadership in the organization supporting the Compass One Diversity and Inclusion Action Council to, for the first time ever, supporting a company-wide D&I survey. This type of support is not only words on paper; it actively helps all of us live the company’s values.
It’s been almost 30 years since my encounter with Major General Bolden. He’s retired now, but he will always be an inspiration. As we celebrate during the month, take time to make your words and actions count. You may be able to inspire others to set goals and achieve a better life.