Originally published on LinkedIn by Roy Weathers Vice Chair, Societal Engagement and Policy Solutions at PwC and CEO of CEO Action for Racial Equity. PwC is a Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.
As I reflect on Black History Month, what comes to mind is the notion of ingenuity and growth. Black History Month began in America as a way to raise awareness of the significant contributions Black Americans have made to the growth and progress of this country. Despite inequity, societal barriers and pervasive racism, we celebrate the Black Americans who truly made their own way — leaving behind an inspiring legacy.
Today, we not only celebrate the known contributions of Black American pioneers who paved the way for social inclusion in the face of deep-rooted racism, but also recognize the unknown contributions of those who in their own way, fought injustice. Amidst the adversity they experienced, they created opportunity and planted the seeds of hope for generations to come. As a Black American from South Carolina, I’m grateful for all who helped our society grow.
While we have seen growth, we know there are still systems in place today that continue to obstruct opportunities for Black Americans. Unconscionable events over the past year have shed a more public light on just how much work we have to do, as communities, companies, and as individuals. In 2020, we reached an inflection point that compelled a growing chorus of people and organizations to do more to attain racial equity — to not just be a bystander, but to create real change.
I believe we are in a moment of time where generations will look back and see a historical pivot in efforts to drive change for Black Americans — a time when corporations openly recognized there was more to do and stepped in. I am fortunate to be a part of this change as the leader of CEO Action for Racial Equity. We announced that we would be building a Fellowship to address gaps in racial equity public policy in July, and already nearly 150 organizations across America — including Boston Scientific, Cigna [No. 42 in 2020], MassMutual, and USAA — have provided over 250 of their own employees to join. Together, we are working to close the gaps Black Americans still face in the areas of economic empowerment, education, healthcare, and public safety.
Our mission is to identify, develop and promote scalable and sustainable public policies and corporate engagement strategies that will address systemic racism, social injustice and improve societal well-being. Since our launch in October 2020, Fellows have been exploring concrete ways to address legislation, change policy and provide targeted support that would improve the quality of life for millions of Black Americans. CEO Action for Racial Equity is bringing dedicated time and resources to the table, while also drawing on the business lens and experiences of our Fellows, to bridge persistent inequalities.
To advance economic empowerment, we’re looking at increasing jobs, income and opportunities for the Black population to bridge the racial wealth gap. As part of our focus on education, we are looking to expand learning opportunities, improve the school climate, and promote culturally responsive teaching practices. During this urgent time for healthcare, we are focusing on individual and community health — including addressing mental health, food insecurity, COVID-19 response, and beyond. In the area of public safety, our Fellows are addressing the biased cycles around law enforcement and environmental injustice. Across all of these challenges, we know that policy change can address the far-reaching impact of these inequities on Black Americans.
Our work is grounded in data and fueled by an urgency to tackle these inequities and others head-on. As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re reminded and inspired by the many leaders who made a lasting impact to the fabric of our country — from trailblazers like Congressman John Lewis to innovators like George Washington Carver. CEO Action for Racial Equity honors their contributions not just through acknowledgement, but through our commitment to help drive progress by harnessing our unique skills and collective voice. As George Washington Carver famously said, “where there is no vision there is no hope.” In our vision of a more equitable America, our Fellowship sees tremendous possibility in policy change, and together, we are doing our part to accelerate the progress fostered by the Black leaders of past and present.