Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight

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Select Quarterly Observances 2020

 April

April is Celebrate Diversity Month, started in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. By celebrating differences and similarities during this month, organizers hope that people will get a deeper understanding of each other.

April is Autism Awareness Month, established to raise awareness about the developmental disorder that affects children’s normal development of social and communication skills.   Additional resources for Employers:   Understanding Autism - An Employers Guide , Employment Toolkit with An Employers Guide to Hiring and Retaining with ASDs, and Autism- Empowerment Kit

 

 April 2: World Autism Awareness Day, created to raise awareness of the developmental disorder around the globe.
 

April 8-16: Passover, an eight-day Jewish holiday and festival in commemoration of the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.

 

April 12: Easter, a holiday celebrated by Christians to recognize Jesus’ return from death after the Crucifixion.

 

 

April 17: The Day of Silence, during which students take a daylong vow of silence to protest the actual silencing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and their straight allies due to bias and harassment.

 

April 21: Yom HaShoah, Israel’s day of remembrance for the approximately 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

 April 22: Earth Day promotes world peace and sustainability of the planet. Events are held globally to show support of environmental protection of the Earth.

May

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks on the project were Chinese immigrants.

 

May is Older Americans Month, established in 1963 to honor the legacies and contributions of older Americans and to support them as they enter their next stage of life.

 

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes the diverse contributions of the Jewish people to American culture. 


May 5: Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). This day celebrates Mexican culture and heritage, including parades and mariachi music performances.
 May 17: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a global celebration of sexual-orientation and gender diversities.
 May 25: Memorial Day in the United States, a federal holiday established to honor military veterans who died in wars fought by American forces.
 May 28-30 (sundown to sundown): Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that has double significance. It marks the all-important wheat harvest in Israel and commemorates the anniversary of the day when God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai.

June

 

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June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, established to recognize the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on the world. LGBT groups celebrate this special time with pride parades, picnics, parties, memorials for those lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS, and other group gatherings. The last Sunday in June is Gay Pride Day.   Today, LGBT Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots
 June 14: Flag Day in the United States, observed to celebrate the history and symbolism of the American flag.
 June 15: Native American Citizenship Day, commemorating the day in 1924 when the U.S. Congress passed legislation recognizing the citizenship of Native Americans.
 June 19: Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It is observed as a public holiday in 14 U.S. states. This celebration honors the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas and Louisiana finally heard they were free, two months after the end of the Civil War. June 19, therefore, became the day of emancipation for thousands of African-Americans.
 June 28: Last Sunday in June: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Day in the United States. It celebrates the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969.
 

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A Moment Or A Movement – 891 Days

The first organized bus boycott in the United States did not happen in Montgomery, Alabama. The first organized bus boycott started on June 19, 1953 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Earlier that year in January 1953, after fares rose by 50%, activist Reverend T.J. Jemison, pastor of the largest black church in the area, complained to the city council, which passed an ordinance in response to his complaint, allowing black riders, who made up 80 percent of the riders in the cities bus system, to sit in the unoccupied “white” seats if the bus was not crowded. When two white drivers were suspended for not obeying the ordinance, the union went on strike on June 14, 1953. Four days later the ordinance was overturned by the State Attorney general, claiming that it violated the state's segregation laws, and the white drivers returned to work on June 18th. That same day Rev. Jemison and other black business and community leaders called on black residents to boycott the city buses. Eight days later the boycott ended after a compromise was reached between the Rev. Jemison and the bus company. The system remained segregated and Rev. Jemison was criticized by some for his decision to accept the compromise.

The efforts of Rev. Jemison and the newly formed UDL (Urban Defense League) did not go unnoticed. The Baton Rouge bus boycott was being monitored by NAACP activists throughout the South, which included Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. The efforts in Baton Rouge provided a blueprint for black leaders throughout the South on how to effect change. When Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the ground work had been laid for what became the most memorable organized bus boycott in US history The Montgomery bus boycott began 891 days after the Baton Rouge bus boycott came to an end.

On May 26, 2020 Minneapolis streets were flooded with people demanding justice for George Floyd, when a video of his murder surfaced, showing it was done by Minneapolis police officers, during an attempted arrest. The nights of protests were reminiscent of ones in the past that came about as communities of color demanded justice for the unlawful killing of Black men and women in cities across the country. In the early hours of the protest focus quickly shifted to the traditional narrative, looting, rioting, buildings on fire, a militarized response by the police, impending chaos seemed to threaten our streets. However, as protests began to erupt in cities all over the country, in the middle of a global pandemic there was something noticeably different this time. Media outlets began to capture agitators, instigators and police inciting violence against peaceful protests. Journalists and White protesters began to experience the same brutality that communities of color had been complaining about for generations. Uprisings began to emerge in other parts of the world in support of the protesters, the moment seemed to be reaching a turning point. 

Videos continued to emerge of the brutality occurring in cities like Atlanta, Louisville, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Buffalo, just to name a few. The evidence could no longer be ignored, it couldn’t be written off as an isolated incident. As these messages and videos cascaded our social media feeds, people stuck at home in a pandemic with their children couldn’t look away with the usual distractions. There was no class, lecture, work, practice or meetup for the youth. The potential energy of being on lockdown was released in a kinetic wave cascading across all 50 states of our nation. Without realizing it, we had been primed for this moment, opportunity and preparedness collided, Black Lives Matter was now welcomed into the mainstream.

It has been 2510 days since it first appeared on Twitter as a hashtag, after a Facebook post was written by one of it’s co-founders Alicia Garza, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. In that time, we’ve had countless incidents that occurred in this country resulting in murder of Black men and women. Protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago seemed to have done little to shift the narrative. Government, corporate and media interests were hesitant to amplify the message, some actively colluded to stifle any progress.

However, history teaches us that these moments are all part of the larger movement. Without Baton Rouge, Montgomery may not have been as effective. The results in Baton Rouge led to progress throughout the south and the larger nation. Leaders and activists that are now legends of that time were mere participants with no idea of the lasting impact of their efforts. It is important to remember that the demands of the protesters in Montgomery evolved overtime, the outcome was not inevitable, and the boycott lasted over twelve months.

We are living in a moment that history may record as a movement. We don’t know how it will shape our future, we must remain steadfast in our conviction, and continue to press forward despite the resistance of those in power. There will be times when the moment seems to fade, and you start to feel like the change you desire is not happening fast enough. History records events as if they are a straight line, wrapping things up into a neat little package, this can cloud our perspective in the moment. Things will get messy, our feet will get tired, we’ll lose people along the way, we’ll have to learn from moment to moment, more importantly, we can never go back. Black Lives Matter!


Roger A. Meertins

Director of Administration

Venable LLP