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Voices of Construct The Present: Black History Month 2024

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

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Construct the Present is a Black woman owned diversity, equity, and inclusion firm based out of Portland, Oregon. February is a time for us to reflect on how other organizations approach Black History Month so we can learn how to better support our clients.

We pay attention to: 

  • Black leadership 
  • Anti-racism education 
  • Racial equity 
  • Intersectionality 
  • Emerging Black leaders
  • Cultural events
  • DEI initiatives
  • And more

It is extremely important that we uplight and highlight our very own Black leaders that drive the work we do on our own team. Meet them below!

Alexis Braly James is a longtime educator and innovator. She supports nationwide nonprofits, companies, and government agencies in activating contemporary responses to leadership development and employee needs through training, coaching, and team building. As a former classroom teacher, she is an engaging and empathetic trainer at meetings, board training, and mediations. Prior to starting her own consulting agency, she was the Program Director at a statewide literacy nonprofit, where she specialized in creating an inclusive culture through supervision training, data analysis, and diversity, equity, and inclusion implementation. Alexis has been born & raised primarily in Oregon, earning her Master’s Degree from Lewis & Clark College and most recently pursuing her MBA from Cornell University. When she’s not working you can find her dancing to Beyonce or spending time with friends and family at a Portland restaurant.

Jasmine Taylor (She/Hers) is a lifelong student and higher education professional. 

Jasmine identifies as a Black, cis woman,  born and raised in Portland, Oregon.  She attended Portland State University and received her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. During Jasmine’s time at Portland State University, she worked towards the goal of becoming a nurse.  Along the way, she realized that helping students reach their educational goals was her true passion. Jasmine switched gears and received her Master’s in Education Leadership & Policy at Portland State University. Over the last 9+ years, Jasmine has worked in Healthcare, Higher Ed, and Youth Empowerment. Jasmine is motivated by helping folks reach their higher educational goals, personal goals and gaining access to opportunities that will contribute to their personal and professional growth. Her current work is focused on engaging organizations in a continuous improvement process. She is your go-to person to create environments that cultivate success and growth. In her personal life, she loves to dance and you can find her singing along at concerts.

The lived experience of our team members is invaluable to the work we do. It is integral to our strategy and understanding of liberating the workplace. To learn from our team contact us for strategic implementation and training.  

We asked them a few questions about Black History Month: 

  • What makes BHM meaningful to you?
    • A: Growing up in a predominantly white suburb of Portland Or I never saw my Black community represented in school or on tv except in February. I was blessed to have a father and aunties who taught me about Black culture both implicitly and explicitly but I often felt othered in school. During Black History Month, I felt like an expert because I knew significantly more about the topics we discussed than my peers and sometimes my teachers. For those reasons, Black history month will always have a special place in who I am today.  
    • J: February is a month that I am always looking forward to. It’s the one month that I can celebrate a part of me that I hold close to my heart and wear boldly. While growing up in Portland which is known for being a predominantly white city, it’s the 28 or 29 days where this city feels more colorful than ever. Each day there is an opportunity to be arm in arm with Black people and be my most Black authentic self without having to apologize for being me. It’s more impactful for celebration, I have the opportunity to celebrate another year around the sun which isn’t always promised. BHM for me, is the gratitude to celebrate being unapologetically Black and the blessing to celebrate another year of life to make those who came before me proud.  
  • What advice would you give to leaders and decision makers about BHM?
    • A: Many of us are tired of having tpo have these heritage months. Tired because they feel like a check box and substantive change is still far away. My advice to leaders is to use BHM to elevate the work you do year round. Use it to acknowledge historical inequities and be accountable to the part you can play in healing them.  
    • J: BHM is more than 28 or 29 days. BHM is every day and it should be recognized as such. Make an effort to give Black folks a chance to be celebrated without being warned out creating a whole agenda for the month to check off a box for the one month that gives us joy.  Help Black folks heal! This is a season of healing and gratitude. Leaders should follow by giving attention to detail so Black folks can do so. 
  • What is something organizations can do to deepen their commitment to Black liberation?
    • A: The most concrete thing we can do to deepen our commitment to Black Liberation is to build authentic, deep relationships with Black communities. Not just the digestible, college educated Black communities, but the communities that still struggle with existing systems of oppression. People living in food deserts, direct service employees, sex workers, retail managers, and houseless communities. We need eachother more now than ever and we can afford to leave anyone behind in this frenzied scurry towards profitability.  
    • J: Make commitments you can keep and mean it. There have been too many times that Black liberation or the want to support the Black community has come to the table. It seems to fall short and falls on Black people to pick up the pieces. If it’s being brought to the table there should be educated commitment on how they will be made, what is the commitment, and how this commitment can have the stamina to be held more than just the shortest month of the year. Black liberation is for the whole community no matter the gender, religion, creed, socioeconomic status, sexuality, education status, etc. Let’s work on finding ways to liberate all Black folks and uproot injustice in systems in the process.

The lived experience of our team members is invaluable to the work we do. It is integral to our strategy and understanding of liberating the workplace. To learn from our team contact us for strategic implementation and training.

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