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Solidarity, the 70’s And African Americans In Human Resources

On the evening of January 21st, the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources hosted a re-launch celebration in Newark, New Jersey that, for me, conjured up memories of a time in the late 1970’s when Dr. King’s dream was continuing to be realized – in spite of his recent, untimely death. The spirit and energy in the room felt as if we were in some new millennium, single-minded Soul Train line.

In the late 70’s African Americans were getting hired into professional positions right out of college and being spoken into the then-affirmative, but not yet inclusive language of some truly name-droppable companies. We were connected to one another at work and left at 5 p.m. for happy hours where we consumed Singapore Slings (ugh – look that one up!) and “Jack ‘n’ gingers” - and peppered our language with phrases like “dig it!” and “right on!” to express emphatic agreement with one of the seemingly endless ‘deep’ discussions in which we were involved.

The next decade seemed to usher in a new series of professional survival lessons, however. We were less involved in shaping the cultures in our respective places of employment and more involved in figuring out how to get in and fit into whatever existed. But then along came Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, and Professor Cornel West – and then NAAAHR’s own trailblazers, Candi Castleberry and Nat Alston, along with so many other African American champions of diversity/equity/inclusion and human resource management.

Today, for many, it feels as if a chilled wind is blowing that might turn the page of this story backwards. But not so. We are poised to be better than ever, so let’s be that. We have multiple generations of smart, driven, HR trailblazers, all of whom will create, translate, and speak their unique language of success. Let’s continue to join forces to continue talking, learning and growing together. I am excited about what this NJ chapter, in concert with this National African American HR powerhouse, will do to keep the pages turning in the right direction.

Can you dig it?

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