Zoom Soul, our Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on empowering, engaging, and strengthening the Black community at Zoom, works year-round to bring insightful and educational experiences to our colleagues. From guest speakers to book clubs to meetings and discussions, we’re proud to create a more inclusive environment that celebrates our culture and diverse experiences.
As we began planning our events to celebrate Black History Month in 2022, we centered our discussions around how we could help educate and inspire our members and allies, helping to build understanding, empathy, and awareness. From the cries of “No Justice, No Peace” often heard at protests, we came up with the theme, “Know Justice, Know Peace.”
Our Black History Month speakers are all making an impact in their communities and around the world through their activism and social equity work, and we sought to explore how they have fought for justice and found peace through their actions.
I’m honored to share with you some highlights from each of our events:
‘We can’t confront what we’re not willing to discuss’
We kicked off our Black History Month programming with a Zoom Talks session sponsored by our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team and Zoom Soul, featuring Minda Harts, author of “Right Within,” “The Memo,” and her latest book for young adults, “You Are More Than Magic.”
Myja Gary, Zoom’s internal communications manager and Zoom Soul workforce leader, hosted the conversation with Harts. “It’s so important as a Black woman in the tech space to not only embrace my history, but also educate others on Black history, culture, and experiences,” Myja said. “It’s a chance for me to use my voice in the workplace and help advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through education and allyship.”
The two dove deep into topics like psychological safety and workplace trauma. “How do we create psychological safety for everybody?” Minda asked. “It’s part of equity. We first have to start by saying, yes, there are some workplace behaviors that are harmful. We can’t confront what we’re not willing to discuss.”
Minda talked about how her career and experiences led her to become an advocate and leading voice for workplace equity, especially for women of color.
“I used to tell myself that I didn’t have a voice because I’m the only Black woman here. … I realized that by doing that, I was shrinking myself at the expense of my own well-being,” Minda said. “I realized I actually do have a voice, I just have to decide how I want to use it.”
‘The power truly is in the people’
L. Chris Stewart is one of the most prominent civil rights attorneys in the country, representing the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and other high-profile cases. “I’ve seen situations that are completely unjust, but I’ve also had situations where we’ve attained exactly the change we wanted,” Chris said. “Justice does happen. It is possible, you just have to fight for it.”
Chris urged our audience to take action and get involved in their community. “The power truly is in the people — we vote, we decide things,” he said. “The people who affect your life every day are your mayor, your police chief, your city council members. We’ve got to pay attention to our local elections.”
Hailee Bastien, corporate recruiter and Zoom Soul co-lead, hosted the conversation with Chris. “It is such an honor to be able to invite some of the most influential Black voices to our platform to discuss the wins and opportunities that exist in their fields,” she said. “My greatest hope as a Zoom Soul leader is that every attendee walks away having learned something, and feeling seen, celebrated, and moved by our speakers.”
‘If the system doesn’t change, the outcome won’t change’
One of the leading voices of the Black Lives Matter movement, DeRay Mckesson became involved in activism at an early age. “I spent my entire childhood seeing people put their lives back together and it has completely informed my belief in the power of community to heal people,” he said. At 14, he was a youth organizer in Baltimore, and he has since advocated for issues involving police reform, youth and families, equity, and justice.
DeRay stressed, “If the system doesn’t change, the outcome won’t change,” noting that programs can only do so much without systemic changes and policy reform. He discussed his advocacy for policy changes on police use-of-force bills and stricter rules around search warrants.
He also urged companies that took a stand against racial injustice in 2020 to double down on their efforts and live their values. “We want more companies to be neighbors, not residents,” DeRay said, explaining that neighbors care about bettering the entire community so everyone can benefit.
Our co-host Netasha Jones, inside sales account executive and Zoom Soul communications chair, shared her thoughts on being involved with Zoom Soul and Black History Month. “I have the opportunity to educate and inform my co-workers of my experiences, my struggles, and most importantly, my history,” she said. “It gives me the opportunity to be seen and heard, and the chance just to be me!”
‘You have to walk through the dark to get to the light’
For our final event, we welcomed Tarana Burke, activist, author, and original founder of the “Me Too” movement in the early 2000s.
“When people think about survivors of sexual violence, they talk about us like we are to be pitied,” she said. “We are everywhere … and because of movements like ‘Me Too,’ we can stand up and be vocal for those of us who are not ready to stand up and be vocal.”
Tarana talked about her journey writing “Unbound,” in which she recounts her experience as a sexual abuse survivor, working with survivors, and building the movement that galvanized millions of people around the world. “Part of being unbound is knowing that I’m open and willing, not led by my wounds anymore,” she explained. “You have to walk through the dark to get to the light — people are afraid of the darkness, but you cannot skip that step.”
In the same vein, she spoke about our “Know Justice, Know Peace” theme. “I think people want to get to the peace [part] without giving credence to the justice. We ask folks who have been oppressed to show grace, but we don’t extend them grace. You can’t have one without the other.”
Tyren Thompson, compensation partner and Zoom Soul workplace co-chair, led the conversation with Tarana. He shared his thoughts on our theme: “Our people have spent centuries advocating for ourselves and others. For me, to know justice and peace is to be able to reap the benefits of those fights. My hope is that we begin to regularly experience justice and peace — so much that we know them both intimately.”
Our amazing speakers gave us so much to reflect and act on during this Black History Month — we’re extremely grateful to them for sharing their stories with us.
I also want to thank our Zoom Soul leadership team for their hard work coordinating, hosting, and being a part of our events. And our DEI Team and Zoom for giving us the opportunity and platform to discuss these important topics.
As we wrap up our celebration, I encourage our Zoom Soul family and all our Zoom employees to reflect on our theme of “Know Justice, Know Peace” 365 days of the year. Black History Month may be just one month long, but we can use our voice and actions to help create justice and peace in our communities every day.