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Diversity 24 Feb 2020

Bringing your authentic self to work: Celebrating Black History Month

There are more than 10,000 team members spread across BBVA USA’s footprint, each with a unique story to tell. This year, we’re introducing a new series to celebrate this rich diversity of experience: “Bringing Your Authentic Self to Work.” When we bring our authentic selves to work, we connect with others in a genuine way that allows ourselves to be truly seen and boosts our engagement, productivity, and well-being. To kick the series off, we’re celebrating Black History Month with employees’ personal stories about their heritage.

How does your heritage contribute to the person you are today?
I come from a large African-American-Creole family (I’m the fourth of six children) that fostered within me a strong sense of community, love, and respect of people. We worked hard together, took care of one another, and hugged on each other every chance we got. I’ve carried that sense of being part of something greater than myself with me throughout my life and my work. I think that’s helped make me successful in my career and enabled me to create a strong sense of belonging in the teams I’ve led.

What’s something you love about your heritage?
I love cooking traditional Creole dishes, like gumbo, boudin, and étouffée, from recipes passed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother and mother, and then to me. My father was a musician, so in the background, there was always zydeco music. I have great memories of my father playing the accordion and guitar, while my grandfather was on the rubboard.


How does your heritage contribute to the person you are today?
My parents helped shape me through their example of hard work, patience, and tenacity. They grew up in an era when African-Americans didn’t have as many rights as we do today. There were more barriers to success for them; they had to “work twice as hard to get the same results,” as my dad would say. He was an officer in the Air Force back in the ’50s and ’60s, when there weren’t many African-Americans who were given that opportunity. He had to fight misperceptions at work and often ran up against challenges that he met with humor and grace. I watched how he and my mother conducted themselves and was inspired by their strong work ethic, and that has in turn made me into the person I am today.

What’s something you love about your heritage?
I’m thankful for the contributions of those who came before me, like my parents and grandparents. Our heritage is made up of innovative people who succeeded and made incredible contributions despite the barriers they faced, like the famous entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker and surgeon and medical researcher Charles Drew. Their stories and others like them make me proud that this is where I come from.


How does your heritage contribute to the person you are today?
I was raised by a single mom who worked incredibly hard on a limited income to provide opportunities for my sisters and me. She shaped me into the woman and parent I am today, and I’m driven by the same goal as her—to create opportunities and a better future for my children. BBVA has been a big part of that narrative. I started working here as a bank teller nearly 20 years ago, when my firstborn was just an infant, and have risen to my current role as Manager of Talent & Culture Solutions. My hard work coupled with the opportunities the bank offers continue to help me realize my goals and the goals my mother had for me.

What’s something you love about your heritage?
As an African-American, I’m part of a powerful legacy. Because of the perseverance of those who came before me, I know I have the strength within me to achieve anything.


How does your heritage contribute to the person you are today?
My heritage has strongly determined who I am today. At the age of 10, I was introduced to my maternal heritage dating back to the plantation. The more I learn about my ancestors, the more vividly I can see where I get my character and determination.

What’s something you love about your heritage?
The thing that I most admire about my heritage is its resilience. After enduring hundreds of years of injustices, my people have still managed to survive and thrive in countless ways.


How does your heritage contribute to the person you are today?
My heritage contributes to the person I am in many ways. To be African-American is to be a part of a culture that has served this country in war, peace, science, education, business, and in every facet of American life. I carry that legacy with me in all that I do. It creates a drive in me because I never want to  fall short of the hopes and dreams my forefathers had for me. Every day, whether it is leading my team here at BBVA or giving guidance to my children and other young people, I reach back to my heritage to ensure I am on the path cleared for me.

What’s something you love about your heritage?
I love the profound richness of my heritage. The struggles and triumphs. The contributions to music and the arts, innovation, and technology. All of these things have a lasting impact on us all.


Featured employees:  Deborah Catley, Dee Brown, Ernie Smith, Harold Williams, Melodi Morissette

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