Black History Month is a special opportunity to share the lesser-known stories of American History. Embracing the opportunity to learn about diverse cultures and their histories allows us to build understanding and grow personally.
This month, Seismic employees are celebrating Black History Month with a series of speakers, panels, and events. We’re also making a commitment to give back. We will match employee donations to Code 2040, an organization committed to the equitable distribution of power in an economy shaped by the digital revolution.
We’re excited for the opportunity to celebrate Black History Month with all of our employees. To share what’s in store this month, I recently met with Rayana Speller to discuss the planning that went into this month’s events.
Tony: Will you tell me about some of the events that you’ve helped plan for Black History Month at Seismic?
Rayana: The DEI Council put together a fireside chat with our CFO John McCauley and Deepcrawl CEO Craig Dunham to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
More than anything, we wanted to celebrate, but we also wanted to give back. This month, we are giving to Code 2040, a nonprofit that is focused on building Black and Latinx youth by helping them build the skills needed to get into the tech industry.
We’ve also planned a diversity in tech panel with Black leaders who will share how to make the workplace more inclusive for the next generation of tech employees. There will also be a Black History trivia event themed “Black History is American History,” which will celebrate Black Americans as an integral part of American history.
Tony: How did you select speakers? And what do you hope our colleagues will learn/take away?
Rayana: Donna DeBerry did the lion’s share of planning the panel. We’ll be joined on the panel by top tech industry leaders from Facebook, Google, SurveyMonkey, Reddit, and LiveRamp. We wanted to hear from leadership of color at large companies and have them talk to the Seismic staff about the importance and positives of diversity. We didn’t want to focus on the issues faced by people of color, but use this panel discussion to be a positive reflection about how diversity and inclusion enrich us all.
We invited Craig Dunham to speak because he is a Seismic alumnus. On my first day at Seismic, I walked into the office, not knowing anyone. Craig came out of his office and sat with me for 20-30 minutes and showed an interest in what I was doing, why I joined the company, and he made me feel comfortable and excited to start this journey. I knew that he had a strong hand in developing DEI here at Seismic and he’s also done a lot of work on the business side in terms of getting Seismic to where it is today. So, what better person to bring in than Craig? As a CEO, he has a different perspective and I thought his voice would be helpful and he was quick to say “yes.”
Tony: How important is it to celebrate diversity and diverse histories in the workplace?
Rayana: I think it’s very important. Most of us grew up in a society where a lot of what we learned wasn’t historically accurate. The history that we’ve been taught has focused on one group of people. So, celebrating Black history is important for us to understand everyone, as well as our shared history. It’s important for older generations who haven’t learned as much about race as maybe they should have. And younger generations have a different perspective – they’re open to learning and being exposed to more about other cultures.
This month, I want to take the focus off of slavery because that’s not our entire history–it’s a part of it, but our history is so much greater and it’s important for people to see more about other diverse histories like Asian American and Native American history. It’s important for our growth to know each other’s history.
Tony: What historical black figure are you most excited to celebrate this month? What would you like your colleagues to know about them?
Rayana: It may be cliche but I’d say Harriet Tubman. She was a fearless Black woman and it is always–as a person of color, particularly in America – there are different burdens for black men and women. What she did took bravery, commitment, and self-discipline to have the vision to say “I want the people who I left behind to have the chance to experience life as a free person.” The bravery and strength it took for her to do that is something that I aspire to.
I also look at my grandmother as an influence. She was a Black woman in the South with very little education and she was brave enough – braver than the men – to rally around the people in her community to help the freedom movement in that region of the South.
We’re grateful for the work that has gone into planning Black History Month at Seismic. We’re also excited to contribute to the great work of Code 2040. If you’d also donate, you can do so at code2040.org.