We are the dream of our ancestors

Blacks at Microsoft group shot at NASDAQ
Microsoft executives and Blacks at Microsoft leaders, award winners and chapter members rang Nasdaq’s closing bell to kick off Black History Month. In the front row, from left, Stacey Mahoney, Tekisha Thomas, Melinda Moyo-Turner, Amma Kwateng, Emmeline Jean, Rodney Williams; middle row, Felicia Gardner, Fanta Dicko, Albert Dankwa, Aissa Bautista, Mallory Banks, Erica Rhoden, Bianca Francis, Michael Dunner, Nicole Smith, Curtis Clay III, Brandon Clark, Kimberly Powell, Ray Wilson, Danielle Skeen; back row, Cassandra Young, Bambo Sofola, Ryan Trollinger, Travis Walter.

As I reflect on the importance of Black History month, the words from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise,” come to mind.  “Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.” Yesterday, my friends and colleagues proudly stood on the floor of the world’s largest stock exchange and rang the market’s closing bell, signaling an end to the day’s trading and serving as our kickoff for Black History Month festivities at Microsoft.

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There’s so much to celebrate during Black History Month, as it’s an opportunity to acknowledge and recognize the incredible contributions that our community has made to the very fabric of this country. While there’s plenty to celebrate, we must recognize that this is only possible because of the hard work and sacrifices made by our ancestors. Like many of us, I am a product of American history – a great-great granddaughter of slaves. Our ancestor’s struggles, triumphs, joys, perseverance and sacrifices have paved the way for our generation, and future generations yet to be born.

A spark of that same perseverance and strength inspired the vision of the Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) founders more than 30 years ago. We were the first of many Microsoft’s employee resource groups. As we rang that bell today, some of their dreams were being realized. We stand on their shoulders and recognize how hard they worked to create a community that has meant so much to so many, and with that, we’re eternally grateful.

For me, BAM represents our journey as black employees to learn, develop, grow and support each other through our collective community, with the ongoing support of many allies. That journey in turn, informs Microsoft’s diverse and inclusive culture which has a direct impact on our customers and partners as well. The journey is never complete, but the ongoing engagement and support of our collective community has had a lasting and positive impact on many, including me.

As we celebrate our history and the accomplishments of many extraordinary people this month, I encourage you to reflect on your own learning journey. We all have a responsibility to learn from others and lend our help and support to others who can benefit from the same. At Microsoft we are all striving to become thoughtful and informed allies to others. While Black History Month is one moment in time, this commitment can allow us to understand and support each other all year round. Now more than ever, we need to galvanize as a community to pave the way for generations to come.  

We’ve come so far, but we still have a long journey ahead of us. It’s more important than ever for us to come together and work toward opportunity, equity and equality for everyone.

Watch BAM team members in a “Behind the Bell” interview with Nasdaq on LinkedIn.

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