It is everyone’s job to be an interrupter: Avanade Prism x INSPIRE Pride-Teenth Event

  • Posted on July 19, 2023
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
It is everyone’s job to be an interrupter: Avanade Prism x INSPIRE Pride-Teenth Event

On June 20, the Prism (LGBTQ+) and INSPIRE Black Employee Networks co-hosted a compelling Pride-Teenth marquee event at Avanade’s NYC One Manhattan West office to discuss the intersections of race and sexuality in the workplace, and why inclusion and belongingness are key to a company’s success. This event followed Juneteenth and was part of our global Pride event. Pride-Teenth kicked off with a video introduction and message from Avanade CEO Pamela Maynard and was hosted by Hallam Sargeant, Avanade’s Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, who served as moderator for a discussion with guest speaker Darnell Moore, Vice President of Inclusion Strategy for Content and Marketing at Netflix.

Darnell’s strong track record as a prolific writer and fierce advocate is nothing short of inspiring. He is an award-winning writer, published author, media maker, educator and thought leader whose work on marginal identity, equity and social justice has enabled him to be a key member of the community creating impact in the U.S. and abroad over the past two decades. He has been published in various media outlets including the New York Times and Vanity Fair, and is a strong advocate for gender equity and sexual diversity.

Moore’s dedication to inclusive conversation and strong calls to action became clear from the start: “For me, queerness is not just about sexual identity; it’s a way of life,” he said at the event. “It’s a way of expanding the boundaries of our understanding of things. What that tells you is, when they’re supposed to be gay or straight, black or white, male or female, queerness is an invitation for us to take an eraser and begin to remove some of those arbitrary lines some others have created for us.”  

I left feeling empowered and inspired because of Darnell’s willingness to talk about the things we tend to avoid collectively. While it is vital to have proper representation in leadership roles – this can look like a Chief I&D Officer, Employee Resource Group Board Membership, and more – it is everyone’s job to be an interrupter.  

“If we’re to be able to interrupt, we have to recognize that something was wrong in the first place,” he said. “How are we going to get that recognition? That comes with us being a community to people who are ‘other’ than us. On a daily basis, I think of it as my job to speak up – and not just in the role.

“Let me be clear: people will rely on those working in I&D to do the speaking up, to point out a trend happening or when something is going down. But it is the job of all of us to name when there is something that is going awry that is not in the benefit of everybody – not just the person that has Inclusion or Equity attached to their role title. In so many ways, whether I am in a role like this or in a dominant group or not, I’m making sure that I am not only speaking up for the people who are not in those roles, but that I am providing solutions to make their experience much more official and effective than it already is.”

Powerfully spoken. Read that over, then read it again. This responsibility falls to each and every one of us to speak up and take intentional action, regardless of our background, position, race or sexual orientation.  

It was an uplifting atmosphere as members of Prism and INSPIRE, as well as allies from across the business, gathered to take part in a thoughtful discussion. However, none of this would have been possible without the dedication and long-standing effort of Prism co-chair Sheldon Carpenter, INSPIRE co-chair Dikasse Zalla and global Public Relations Lead Fredrick Douglas Williams.

Together with Dikasse and Sheldon, Fredrick recalled how they got started.

“This past January, Sheldon had already been feeding me some general ideas around what he wanted to accomplish for June Pride Month and who potential speaker(s) could be. Yes, he plans that far ahead in advance,” Fredrick said, laughing.“So, I promised him I would try to find someone who could be a good fit, which he was super open to. I deeply connect with those like him and Dikasse, who also yearn to create visibility from any marginalized view.”

Fredrick is a member of both Prism and INSPIRE. As the event was refined, it seemed only fitting to them to think about intersectionality. The three collaborated around the idea of “Pride-Teenth” -- a portmanteau of Pride and Juneteenth – to produce a historical achievement between the employee networks.

As we wrap up, it is important to understand that this is an ongoing conversation. Hallam Sargeant said it best: “’I&D is a never-ending journey, and even as Chief I&D Officer, I am still learning every day. Letting go of defensiveness, surrounding myself with people who have different experiences, and think differently, encourages discussion and enables the psychological safety to bring an opposing opinion respectfully. Today’s conversation was a great opportunity for me to lean in, listen to understand and embrace a growth mindset.’"

Sheldon also reflected on learnings from the event: “As I think about what is next for our communities and how we will continue to paint the landscape of the future, I think about Avanade and our unique, yet unwavering spirit,” he said. “We are growth-minded, we live our company values, we care for others in and around our teams, and bring so many diverse perspectives to the work we do. Through that, we form a space where everyone belongs.”

And personally, a vital fact shared by Pam Maynard in her video introduction was striking: that in this year alone, the American Civil Liberties Union reported a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the U.S. The impact of this is devastating and terrifying to many, and the need to make a united stand is critical now more than ever. Darnell’s lived experience and gathered expertise should serve as proof that advocacy and leadership is about more than a single action or initiative; it is an ongoing commitment and a way of life that has the opportunity to bring us to beautiful places as a collective.

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