Celebrating Black History Month With Unity and Hope
A message from Mark Kaplan, Duquesne Light Company’s interim president and CEO; and Sara Oliver-Carter, chief diversity officer.
Today, we begin honoring Black History Month and celebrating the achievements of African Americans and their important role in our history and culture.
The road to Black History Month started in 1915 when Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” and Jesse E. Moorland, a prominent minister, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Later renamed as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the group started Negro History Week in 1926. By the late 1960s, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month, which President Gerald Ford officially recognized for the first time in 1976.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we don’t need to look very far to find new inspirational leaders. On Jan. 20, Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to speak at a presidential inauguration. Her stirring poem, “The Hill We Climb,” called for hope and unity as our nation moves forward:
“We are striving to forge a union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”
It’s important that we remember Amanda’s wise words and use them for guidance.
Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Duquesne Light Company
As an electric utility that serves a wide and diverse region, we want to lead our community in embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Our company culture revolves around five core values where we strive to be:
- Energized to shape the future
- Bold in our thinking and exploration of new possibilities
- Collaborative in our approach to all challenges
- Responsible in our commitment to safety, management of our assets and finances, and interaction with others
- Selfless in serving the community, both on the job and through volunteerism
These words extend beyond our commitment to delivering quality service for our customers; we’re also striving to be a community partner for everyone we serve. However, we recognize that words only go so far, which is why we are proud of the actions we’re taking that reflect our core values and affirm our commitment to DE&I.
Last September, we launched our African American Business Employee Resource Group to provide professional development opportunities and community support. The group gives all of our employees a chance to engage in cultural awareness and heritage observances, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month. In addition, group members are working with our Talent Acquisition team to attract diverse talent to our company and across the industry.
We also launched a “Driving Change” discussion series led by our DE&I team. Through this series, outside experts are invited to lead candid and open conversations with our employees about race, equity and inclusion. We look forward to continuing the series this year and inviting more leaders to join our employees for these important dialogues.
With the pandemic having a disproportionate effect on Black-owned businesses, we also began a partnership with the New Pittsburgh Courier last fall to support local Black-owned businesses. Through our sponsorship of the publication’s Small Business Spotlight profiles, we are able to showcase and support various businesses across our region. Our hope is that this initiative will not only help these businesses thrive, but also secure long-term growth in our communities.
We often say our company is larger than light. In these difficult times, we hope to prove that not only through our words, but our actions.