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Changing the Game: Broadening Perspectives During Black History Month

Zoom Soul, Zoom's employee resource group focused on the Black community, led a comprehensive initiative for Black History Month 2021.
8 min read

Updated on March 10, 2021

Published on February 26, 2021

Changing The Game: Broadening Perspectives During Black History Month

When we founded Zoom’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team last June, it was an acknowledgment of both the work that was already being done and the opportunities in front of us. It was never intended to be a moment in time, but rather the moment that marked a more intentional, strategic and long-term commitment to learning from each other, challenging our own understanding of DEI, and actively working to create a more equitable world — inside and outside of Zoom.

Though still early in our journey, we’ve already had a chance to learn with amazing leaders and forge impactful partnerships, such as our Race in the Workplace series with TIME and our five-year, $1.2 million partnership with Claflin University, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU). We’ve also used our platform to engage the broader community on issues like voter equity through our “Zoom Where it Happens” series spearheaded by a group of leading Black women artists. 

Part of our early focus internally has involved supporting our own employees’ efforts to promote DEI through the formation of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) focused on our Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, women, and veterans communities. Our ERGs are partnering to bring new experiences and education to our work and personal lives. With this in mind, I’m honored to shine a light on the amazing initiative Zoom Soul, our ERG focused on the Black community, recently led across Zoom in honor of Black History Month in February.

“Changing the Game” with Zoom Soul

Every week, members of Zoom Soul hosted conversations with game-changers in innovation, finance, education, and the arts who have disrupted the norm, to make a difference in the Black community. 

Members of Zoom Soul shared, in their own words, the planning process and purpose behind the events and activities celebrating Black history.

Game-changing speakers

During the first week of February, we were joined by tech and media innovators Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko Sow, founders of Blacktag, an interactive streaming platform that connects Black creators with audiences and brands.

Zoom meeting with Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko Sow, founders of Blacktag, for Black History Month
Clockwise from top left: Blacktag co-founder Ousman Sahko Sow; Zoom host Damien DeCuir-Delgado; Zoom’s Chief Diversity Officer, Damien Hooper-Campbell; Zoom host Nicole Gray; Blacktag co-founder Akin Adebowale.

In week two, we talked about finance — closing the wealth gap and creating generational wealth for the Black community. Julien and Kiersten Saunders of the personal finance blog rich & REGULAR shared their own journey to financial independence, and Lazetta Rainey Braxton, co-CEO of the virtual financial planning firm 2050 WealthPartners, offered practical guidance for taking control of personal finances.

Clockwise from top left: Zoom hosts Nicole Gray, Jamonique Fletcher, and Ericka Grant; Lazetta Rainey Braxton, co-CEO of 2050 WealthPartners; Julien and Kiersten Saunders of rich & REGULAR; Zoom events producer William Gil.

Week three gave us not one, but two sessions on education! Dwaun Warmack, Ed.D., president of Claflin University, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), discussed the significance of HBCUs to the Black community, companies, and the world. Our partnership with Claflin University is the first university partnership in our company’s history, so we were thrilled to welcome Dr. Warmack and hear his thoughts on the future of higher education.

Zoom meeting with Dwaun Warmack, Ed.D., president of Claflin University, for Black History Month
Clockwise from top left: Zoom hosts Nicole Gray and Jamonique Fletcher; Claflin University President Dwaun Warmack, Ed.D.

We also heard from author Claudia Walker and illustrator Jessica E. Boyd, who shared their children’s book, The ABCs of HBCUs. Learning about the intentionality with which they designed the illustrations in the book enlightened and encouraged us.  

Zoom meeting sharing screen of a page from the book The ABCs of HBCUs
Zoom hosts Anna John (right, top) and Tyren Thompson (right, second from top) listen to a reading of The ABCs of HBCUs by author Claudia Walker (right, bottom) and illustrator Jessica E. Boyd (right, second from bottom).

In our final week, we celebrated arts and culture. Artist and poet Morgan Harper Nichols talked about her artistic influences and creative process, and shared how she uses social media for storytelling and self-expression.

Zoom meeting with artist and writer Morgan Harper Nichols for Black History Month
Clockwise from top left: Zoom hosts Hailee Bastien, Nikki Dawson, Tyren Thompson, and Nicole Gray; artist and poet Morgan Harper Nichols.

To close out the week, U.K.-based chefs Craig and Shaun McAnuff, authors of the cookbook Original Flava, showed us how to cook a classic Jamaican dish. They also talked about the role cooking played in their own perseverance, cuisine across the African diaspora, and leaving a legacy through their cooking and recipes.

Zoom meeting with chefs Craig and Shaun McAnuff for Black History Month
Clockwise from top left: Zoom hosts Nicole Gray and Hailee Bastien; chefs Craig and Shaun McAnuff.

All in all, the Zoom Soul team hosted six hours of live programming attended by more than 1,100 Zoomies in total! A heartfelt thank you goes out to all our speakers who are changing the game through their words, art, innovation, and leadership. 

Black History Month kits

In addition to coordinating our speaker series, Zoom Soul partnered with our Happy Crew to curate and send special kits to Zoomies around the world. Each kit was filled with books, stickers, and other items to educate, inspire, and complement the Changing the Game theme. Even the box was thoughtfully designed to mirror the virtual backgrounds our brand team created to celebrate Black History Month. 

Books, stickers, and other items celebrating Black History Month

Always moving forward

It’s been an incredible month of learning and celebration. I’m especially grateful for Zoom Soul, and the Black History Month planning team, who put so much into creating an amazing program to highlight diverse voices and unique opportunities for all of us to learn.

But as February comes to a close, we are reminded that our work isn’t limited to certain months — it’s a year-round effort. At Zoom, we’ll continue to work toward creating an inclusive culture, one in which employees feel welcome to celebrate and appreciate their similarities and differences, all with the end goal of increasing understanding, growth and empathy. 

With Women’s History Month on the horizon, we’re excited to continue down this path and work with our employees, partners, and community on what’s ahead. Happy Black History Month!

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