The month of February marks the celebration of Black History Month, which recognizes the achievements, contributions and central roles of African Americans in U.S. history. This nationally recognized celebration increases awareness of black identity and honors historic leaders of the black community.
Associated Bank’s Cultural Awareness Colleague Resource Group is committed to supporting our multi-cultural colleagues and creating an awareness of the diverse communities we serve. With six chapters across our footprint, the group works to promote recruitment, retention and empowerment of underrepresented colleagues.
Two Associated Bank colleagues share how they celebrate and reflect upon their cultural heritage.
Detra Rodgers, Director of Channel Sales & Engagement – Milwaukee, Wis.
How do you celebrate Black History Month?
History has always been recorded and recited from the perspective of the majority. That is neither right nor wrong, good nor bad—it simply is. For one month of the year, the nation’s focus is on the contributions of African Americans. It is a time to seek to understand what is not recorded in history that highlights the greatness of our country and richness of our collective heritage. This year, my family and I will watch a short film together, titled “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show.”
In 1968, black entertainer and activist, Harry Belafonte, took over the The Tonight Show for one historic week. During this time, the film chronicles an almost-forgotten moment in American history. At that time, Johnny Carson’s pioneering late show had become one of the country’s most influential platforms for white America. The experience was unprecedented, a ratings success, and an example of the concept of allyship and using your position of power or privilege to elevate voices that are not being heard. Our hope is to spark great debate and rich conversation with our children at our dinner table.
The virtual film is being shown by Milwaukee Film—sponsored by Associated Bank—throughout the month of February. Visit MKEFilm.org for details on more than 30 films honoring Black History Month.
Steven Jones, Portfolio Manager – Chicago, Ill.
How do you celebrate Black History month?
I have always ascribed to the mentality that Black History is 365 days a year, not just relegated to the 28 or 29 days in the month of February. With this mentality, I typically spend the month doing what I can to educate others—especially youth—about the contributions of black people, beyond the mainstream notables.
When you reflect on black history who is someone that resonates with you and what impact have they had on your life?
Since I was a child, I was taught that many black men and women have made significant contributions throughout history in every area including art, science, music, literature and more. Having the knowledge of a heritage of black achievement removed any fetters for success that either my environment or others may have placed on me as a black male.
How would you encourage others to get involved in supporting our black communities?
Many cities or counties have programs to support black community members. In the city of Chicago, there are a number of organizations like Black Star Project, My Block My Hood, Chicago Urban League, Breakthrough Ministries and more that provide services to close the academic, social and economic gaps for black youth and families.
Do you have a favorite author or book you recommend?
Walter Mosley is my favorite author, so I would recommend anything he has written. He is the author of over 50 books across multiple genres including Devil in a Blue Dress & Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. In 2020, Mosley was the first black male to receive the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a lifetime achievement award recognizing someone who has enriched American literary heritage.