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“I embrace and honor the legacy of Black history, everyday”

February 2024: Sheri Collins is the Firm's Senior Manager overseeing Web and Digital, based in our Los Angeles office. As part of our celebrations to mark US Black History Month, we asked her to share her own story and reflect on the significance of this month.

Out of all 12 months of the year, this is the one month that the United States intentionally celebrates and supports us

Though my commitment to embracing Black culture extends beyond a calendar month, Black History Month is a special time where we take a pause to recognize and appreciate the heritage and contributions of Black individuals to this country.

Professionally, Black History Month serves as a powerful reminder of the critical importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It underscores the necessity for us to be not just present but seen, heard, and acknowledged for our valuable contributions.

The arts have been a profound influence throughout my life

The theme of "African-Americans and the Arts" for the 2024 Black History Month resonates deeply with me. Specifically, my passion for hip-hop, house music, and dance which has been a guiding part of who I am, shaping my creative journey.

This theme provides me with a unique opportunity to connect with the wonders of the African diaspora. It allows me to reflect on the immense contributions of Black artists in the world of fashion, visual arts, music, dance, and culture.

My primary role models have been my parents, yet hip-hop culture had a profound impact

Witnessing my mother's passion for equity within education and my father's work ethic are some of the factors that have shaped the person I am today.

Given the theme, another interpretation of a "role model" for me has been music, particularly hip-hop. In the realm of hip-hop and reggae, icons such as Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, Nas, and KRS-One have all been a source of strength and authenticity, offering inspiration when I needed it most. Those are only a few; however, their ability to embody style, evoke freedom and profound story tellers inspired me.

Celebrating Black people doesn't end on March 1

I embrace and honor the legacy of Black history, everyday. Seeing other people who look like me, doing the same or more senior jobs, really matters. We all still need to do better about empowering and uplifting Black people throughout the year, not just during Black History Month.

Giving back is important too. Recently the Firm demonstrated its commitment by contributing to the Know Your Rights app. The KYRC app is designed to address police-related situations throughout all 50 states and provides information about legal rights in each of those states. I've project-managed this initiative with the lead partner, and it has been rewarding both professionally and personally. Over 90 lawyers and business services professionals in the Firm donated more than 2,250 hours of pro bono time to support this valuable cause.

Combine a mindful approach with self-advocacy

When I'm advising junior colleagues, especially Black colleagues, I tell them to listen reflectively, speak thoughtfully, and exceed expectations by providing more than what is requested. Always strive to be ahead of the curve, foreseeing needs even before others recognize them. Identifying what is necessary before it becomes apparent is vital to ensuring that you're a part of the conversation.

Extend grace instead of passing judgment

Understand that everyone is on their own journey and has unique perspectives to contribute. Embracing our differences helps promote creativity and innovation in a supportive environment. That doesn't mean that it's always easy to be the only Black person in a meeting or professional setting. As Black professionals, sadly it's often the norm.

Envision your career trajectory and set clear goals

My other advice to the next generation of Black professionals is to stay aware of workplace and industry changes and seize new opportunities as they arise. Never try to blend into the background.

Cultivate meaningful connections within your professional network, as they can play a pivotal role in your growth and success. By following these principles, it can support you in navigating your professional career journey with purpose. Mentorship and coaching are also valuable to boost your professional growth.

At work, I've made connections within the Black Affinity Network and the Business Services Professional Community Committee. Both really help me stay grounded because it allows me to share in a safe space.

And lastly, remember that having a work life balance is crucial to maintaining a sense of peace.

Artwork in header banner ©Kip Omolade, Child of the Crown (detail), 2024