Episode 14: Black History Month

Welcome to the fourteenth episode of the Community Collaborative series where we come together with Arizona’s inspirational leaders and change-makers. In this episode, we continue the conversation regarding the diversity and inclusion landscape in the businesses and communities around Arizona and beyond. As always, these conversations serve both as inspirational and educational, showing that meaningful shifts can be made with the right actions.

In light of Black History Month, this week’s episode is an important reminder that conversations surrounding racial differences, diverse experiences, and inclusive environments are something that should be happening all year long. Follow along as our hosts and special guests examine topics and questions imperative to moving the needle forward with diversity and inclusion efforts this month, and every month. 

Community Collaborative co-host/producer and Black Chamber of Arizona CEO Robin Reed is back with co-host/producer and Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Monica Villalobos to share their views on how leaders can approach Black History Month and the realities of racism and colorism at work and in the community. They come together to discuss the perspectives leaders must remember and the actions they can take toward establishing more belonging and inclusion this month and beyond.

In this episode, Reed and Villalobos sit down with this week’s special guest, Antonio Valdovinos, CEO and founder of La Machine Consulting, the inspiration behind the hit musical, Americano! Valdovinos shares his incredible story of passion and perseverance, highlighting the power of inspiration and mentorship. He is a great example to show that with heart and determination, change is possible. 

Additionally, the week includes special conversations with two of our local partners. Jackie Hunter, Sr. Director of diversity and inclusion and talent pipeline at Banner Health, leads the discussion on colorism and how to approach the topics in diversity and inclusion training. Emelda Baca, Director of Consumer Lending at Arizona Federal Credit Union, comes in to help celebrate what the Credit Union is doing to help advance diversity and inclusion efforts in the community, and how others can follow their lead.


Before fully diving into the conversation, local artist Kylelashay Draper returns with another original slam poem, “In This World.” Draper beautifully recites powerful lines that reiterate that “we can do anything we put our minds to.” Her poem reminds us of the power of resilience and change. Watch her moving performance in the video above.

The Power Of Belonging

Hunter kicks off the first diversity and inclusion segment by sharing how Banner Health has been able to make important internal conversations translate over to impactful external ones.  She begins by exploring what colorism is and the important role of diversity and inclusion training when it comes to addressing the topic in the workplace. 

Colorism, she explains, stems from the perceptions people have of others based on the shade of their skin tone. It’s a form of discrimination that goes deeper than black vs. white. To illustrate, Hunter examines how people within the same ethnic or racial group discriminate and develop a prejudice against those with a darker skin tone (8:54). 

“It’s complicated,” she admits, noting the complexity of addressing colorism in the workplace (10:55). However, “we have to have patience, forgiveness, understanding, and resiliency to be able to change,” she says. Therefore, leaders have to be passionate about and dedicated to the change they are seeking (12:22). 

Villalobos joins the conversation on colorism by noting, “it can be far more insidious within a community” (13:11). For this reason, discussing colorism is an important educational opportunity for both white and minority populations. When it comes to addressing instances of colorism she calls for “patience” and asks people to recognize the educational opportunity in these moments (13:55). 

“This is global,” Reed adds, pointing out that communities and cultures all over the world use skin color as the basis for bias and assumption (14:13). As all of the leaders note how exhausting addressing colorism can be, Reed encourages leaders “to have honest conversations” despite the challenging topic and vulnerabilities it can expose (15:00). 

However, with the outpouring of support during certain times of the year, like Black History Month, Reed reminds leaders to show up consistently for diversity and inclusion initiatives (16:50). Invest your time and effort in “support that allows you to take a sustainable action.” Hunter agrees that action is an imperative piece of the puzzle. 

The Conversation Continues...

Valdovinos, this week’s featured guest, joins the conversation to share what he has learned about diversity and inclusion throughout his journey within Arizona’s business and political landscapes. While his story serves as the inspiration for Arizona’s hit musical, Americano!, his influence goes further than any stage. While sharing his family’s pursuit of the American Dream, Valdovinos emphasizes the struggle of being an undocumented immigrant (29:00). 

He discusses the experiences he had post-high school that steered him toward pursuing his interest in politics. Since beginning his own consulting firm dedicated to helping elected officials and aspiring leaders mobilize the diverse electorate, Valdovinos has taken it upon himself to increase the involvement of young people in the world of policy (32:00). 

“I believe an opportunity is in people believing in each other,” he states (31:58). He explains the reward he feels when he is able to start the influential journey of a future leader. 

While discussing the big news that the play inspired by his life is heading to New York, he explains the responsibility he feels to correctly represent his culture and both the perseverance and hope involved in achieving your American Dream (33:18). 

Villalobos commends Valdovinos for his ability to inspire others to make an impact on those in the community and around the country. Reed concludes by categorizing Valdovinos as a “pragmatic visionary.” 

Actions We Can All Take

Emelda Baca of Arizona Federal Credit Union joins us as our Rally Point Partner to dive into actionable advice about how businesses can advance participation in employee resources groups (36:58):

  • – Introduce employee resource groups with excitement.
  • – Position Employee Resource Groups as a place where employees can engage with and contribute to the organization on a grander level.
  • – Use Employee Resource Groups as a way to bridge the gap between your company and surrounding communities. 
  • – Ensure these groups give employees confidence and a sense of inclusion by making it apparent they do have a voice and that it is being heard.
  • – Encourage interaction and honest conversation among diverse employees to build a new level of understanding among each other and the broader community. 
  • – If Employee Resource Groups don’t already exist in your company, start the conversation today. 
  • – Engage and collaborate with Employee Resource Groups from other companies to learn how to better serve your employees and the community. 

Remember, this is an all-hands-on-deck type of mission. Keshia Peris, Senior Director at Kelton Global, wraps up the episode with astonishing statistics regarding racism in the retail world to highlight the need to keep moving forward with diversity and inclusion efforts (40:24). We can look to companies like Sephora as examples of retailers putting rigorous and measurable plans in place to hold themselves accountable for their efforts. 

This episode serves as a reminder for leaders to avoid getting swept up in the buzz of celebrating diverse populations as a holiday month denoted on a calendar.  We must remember the realities faced by minority populations on a daily basis. To do so, Villalobos calls on leaders to promote and take part in “meaningful engagement” as they integrate diversity and inclusion. True diversity and inclusion, she explains, must go beyond the expected proclamations during any one month of the year. 

We ask you to help us carry on the conversation in your company and in your community. Together we can make a change. As Hunter reminds us, “when you know better, you do better.” It needs to start with the vulnerable and honest conversations. “Those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it,” Reed emphasizes, and that’s why we’re here. 

About The Community Collaborative

Community and business leaders and individuals who want to educate themselves on diversity issues will find the series informative and educational. And anyone who wishes to get involved will have ready access to resources featured in each program.

The video series may be streamed for free through the STN app. Viewers may subscribe through STN’s website or by downloading the STN app on the App Store or Google Play.

Each program in the series will provide details on how to get involved in featured activities and initiatives. To be featured in “The Community Collaborative” series or other STN programming, contact us at 480.967.7088.

Every day, there are leaders on the front lines of the fight to improve life in our community. STN provides the platform to tell their and their communities’ stories with video series on leadership philosophies and active efforts to make positive change in our region.