February is Black History Month – a time dedicated to celebrating, recognizing, and remembering the achievements of the Black community in America. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, this year’s theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” was selected because it “acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.”
This Black History Month is especially significant because it marks the first in which Cadent has the Black Employees Network to lead the way in planning and organizing events to commemorate the heritage of Black Americans. As a part of our celebrations, we spoke with some of our Black colleagues to learn more about who they are, their experiences in and out of the workplace, and what Black History Month means to them.
DiShawn Vance, Broadcast Operations Specialist, has worked at Cadent for less than a year and has already made a major impact! As one of the co-leaders of Cadent’s Black Employees Network (BEN), DiShawn has helped coordinate several company-wide events including a Virtual Open Mic Night and Soul Food luncheon.
To learn more about DiShawn, check out our Q&A below.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Tell us about your role:
As a Broadcast Operations Specialist, it is my job to analyze the commercials that ran for an account and ensure they ran properly.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
My favorite thing to do when not at work is thrifting for clothes and bags or watching movies and shows with dark humor.
Are there any mentors or experiences that shaped your career?
There has been a slew of people in my life who helped me understand what it is that I want to do and how to get there. Most important among those people is my mother. She’s only had a couple of career changes in her life but in the last five years, she has started three businesses, finding ways to pursue her passions. She created a non-profit, made her own candles, and became a certified yoga instructor. She has been featured in television shows, newspapers, and radio. All this to say that she showed me you should go for whatever you are passionate about. Many people get comfortable being in one position and then find themselves in a rut. I was shy about applying to places like Cadent because I thought, “what if I’m not good enough?” My mother taught me to just be myself, do what I love, and the rest would fall into place. I am still learning and growing, but powerful people like herself have helped me see that I can only go up from here.
What does Black History Month mean to you and how are you planning to celebrate this year?
Black History Month means Black people are here to take up space. Black people are often overlooked when it comes to jobs, sparking ideas, and inventing new products, so it’s important for others to see that we are creative, intelligent, fun-loving thinkers. I feel like BHM gives us an opportunity to remind everyone of our impact on society and culture. My plans to celebrate involve helping lead Cadent’s Black Employee Network (BEN), an employee resource group (ERG). Outside of Cadent, I’ve used this time to brush up on some facts that I may have forgotten over the years. I will finally be watching ‘When They See Us’ – the true story based on five Black teenagers falsely accused of a vicious attack in New York City. I haven’t yet watched it because I knew it would stick with me emotionally, but their story is real and horrific things like what they experience are still happening today. I’ll also be taking the time to read, watch and listen to some of the suggestions that my peers have sent me for music, books, podcasts, etc. Ultimately, I want to make sure that BHM continues and doesn’t ‘end’ when the shortest month of the year ends.
Do you have any favorite movies, books, art, or music made by Black creators?
A couple of my favorite movies are Love Jones, directed by Theodore Witcher, and The Wood, directed by Rick Famuyiwa – I am a sucker for a good love story. Musically, I love SZA. She is my favorite artist and I’ve been listening to her for more than seven years. I love and relate so closely to all the things she sings about. As far as art goes, I’ll always love Jean-Michel Basquiat. However, some of the most amazing pieces I’ve seen recently come from Black creators on Instagram. It’s incredible when you can see and feel the emotion – and hard work! – put into a piece of art. I stumbled on a post from @thegrnwood of a man illuminated by the night sky and thought it’s beautiful when something so simple can make you experience different feelings or ideas.
This year, ASALH’s Black History Month theme is “Black Health and Wellness.” Can you tell us what “Black Health and Wellness” mean to you?
I love this theme because for so many years, in the Black community, therapy has been looked down – as something meant for ‘crazy’ people. In actuality, wellness means so many different things. I can go on and on about it, but some key things I want to point out are, first: representation is important. Black doctors, therapists, interns, should all be within reach. Children should feel empowered to dream big, our elders should feel comfortable sharing personal experiences about their health and bodies. Everyone deserves to be heard and understood when they need it most. Secondly, self-love can make or break your day. A sour interaction can make you feel like a dark cloud is hanging over your head, but if you spend time doing one of your favorite things, or reflecting, or just getting some sunshine – it can make all the difference.
What do you feel helps to foster a culture of inclusion? How have you seen those behaviors and practices successfully put into action?
It begins with a willingness to listen and learn about cultures and life experiences that aren’t your own. I also believe that there must be a friendly invitation. It’s simple, but for people to say, “Everyone is welcome,” or, “I think this meeting would be better if you were a part of it,” makes a difference. Overall, friendliness and genuine interest can go a long way.
I think when people know what they’re getting themselves into, it’s less frightening for them. When someone doesn’t understand something, it becomes intimidating. For example, when we say we’re having an interest meeting for the Black Employee Network, it can sound like this is a meeting for only Black employees and others may not feel comfortable attending. We made sure to let people know this is a group designed to be a safe space for Black employees, but we want to share our culture with you, we want to build allyship within the company, and we want others to know this is a peaceful place for everyone to gather and learn something new. Sharing the full scope of our goals is why we could have such an amazing turnout as we did for the Open Mic.
If you could have dinner with any important Black-figure – a civil rights pioneer, politician, musician, artist, author, activist, etc. – living or dead, who would it be and why?
This is a hard question for me because of the saying, “never meet your heroes” – I once met an artist I liked in person, and let’s just say, I wish I hadn’t. But, if I did pick someone, it would be Teyana Taylor, the model, actress, director, and dancer. I think dinner would be too formal and I’d be too shy to ask any hard-hitting questions, so instead, I’d want to have brunch at her Atlanta home. I feel as though it would be easier to build a connection in a more comfortable setting. In talking with her, I’d want to hear about her experience, chasing her dreams and defying norms, all while staying true to herself. Also, I’d like to learn how she knows when it’s time to take a break! As Black people, we often try so hard to prove ourselves to others that we need to realize that it’s okay to slow down sometimes.
What has been your proudest moment at Cadent?
My proudest moment at Cadent was being able to share some of my poetry for our Open Mic. Almost one hundred people joined over Zoom, so it was an amazing experience to allow my colleagues to see a very different, vulnerable side of me – while also educating, entertaining, and simply expressing myself. I’m so happy to be part of a company that is open to listening and sharing with one another.
What advice would you give to a younger colleague or a younger version of yourself?
To a younger version of myself, I would say that there is no need to dilute your personality or who you truly are just to fit in. That there is a way to be professional and not lose who you are in the process. It’s also important to go for the opportunities you deserve. It’s not enough to dream about being successful – you must be willing to go out and take risks. The people that we celebrate during BHM are those that carried this advice with them.