Exchange BRIDGE Special Emphasis Group

Exchange Leaders Reflect on Juneteenth During Virtual Lunch-and-Learn

Juneteenth poster

To celebrate Juneteenth, the Exchange’s Building Resources in Diversity Growth of Employees (BRIDGE) Special Emphasis Program held a virtual lunch-and-learn, led by Central Region Senior Vice President and BRIDGE Executive Champion Marla S. Randolph, June 19.

Nearly 200 Exchange associates celebrated Juneteenth by attending a virtual lunch-and-learn organized by the Exchange’s Building Resources in Diversity Growth of Employees (BRIDGE) Special Emphasis Program.

Titled “A Time to Reflect, A Time to Connect,” the June 19 event was hosted by Central Region Senior Vice President and BRIDGE Executive Champion Marla S. Randolph, who gave attendees an overview of the history of Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of American slavery.

Western Region Senior Vice President Shelly Armstrong, Vice President of Corporate Policy and BRIDGE Co-Executive Champion Denise Hunter, Vice President of Services Darryl Porter, Mid-Central Region Vice President Antonio Porter, and Vice President of Community Outreach Fredrick Hannah joined Randolph to answer candid questions from the audience, many of which focused on how to most effectively communicate with others about the modern-day Black experience.

“All of our roles are to educate, have sympathy and be compassionate to all people,” Randolph said. “I don’t think we can change people, but we can change ourselves, and that can influence people. When you take time to educate people in a way that’s receptive, that doesn’t dilute your message, you will see changes in how they accept you.”

The questions were direct and often personal, with one African-American associate seeking advice on how to balance one’s private emotions regarding the death of George Floyd—an incident that has sparked nationwide protests against police violence—with the professional “mask” she feels she must wear to make others in her workplace comfortable.

“It’s not always necessary to wear a mask,” Armstrong said. “It can be good for people to see how it’s affecting you emotionally. By not wearing that mask, you can have the conversation about why it’s impacting you. Sometimes we hide what people really need to see, but the more we share, the more people understand what’s going on in the world around them.”

Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull joined the discussion as well, tying the country’s ongoing struggle with racial equality to the Exchange’s core value of courage to use good judgment: If people see wrongdoing, he said, it’s incumbent upon them to correct it.

“When you think about the days of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and all the other stalwarts of equality, you realize that we still just have so much more work to do,” he said. “We have to continue to work to establish equality for all with a sense of unity, compassion, love and peace.”

Missed the lunch-and-learn? No problem! A full recording of the event can be viewed here.

To learn more about BRIDGE, contact Program Manager Judy Hathaway (hathawayj@aafes.com) or Assistant Program Manager Renee Clark (clarkrm@aafes.com). Associates can also visit the EEODI portal for more information or respond to this survey to join BRIDGE.

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