- February is Black History Month and RingCentral will be hosting discussions and events designed to educate, inform, and celebrate.
- Ed Odom, Senior Solutions Engineer sat down with us to discuss Expressions Out of Resistance, the theme for 2023 Black History Month.
We recently met with Ed Odom, Senior Solutions Engineer and Co-Chair of the BE@R employee resource group, to talk about Expressions Out of Resistance, this year’s theme for Black History Month. He shared his background growing up in the once-segregated South, some expressions of resistance that inspire him, and how RingCentral’s outreach and mentoring programs are changing the face of technology. In light of the recent Tyre Nichols tragedy in Memphis, this year’s theme of Expressions Out of Resistance feels more relevant than ever.
In 1926, scholar and historian Carter Woodson set out to promote and educate people about Black history and culture. His efforts to create a serious field of study and celebrate Black achievements were eventually recognized officially by President Gerald Ford, during the 1976 bicentennial. Black History Month is now celebrated in February because it’s the month of both Lincoln’s birthday, who was involved in emancipating enslaved people, and Frederick Douglass’ birthday, a renowned abolitionist.
Sharecroppers to Professionals.
Ed was in his Brooklyn office when we talked, a space resembling a library, featuring a bookcase overflowing with literature. His deep knowledge regarding Black history was evident both from his ongoing education and his personal experiences. Ed briefly described growing up in 1960s South Carolina, where railroad tracks divided his small town of 500 people. The grandson of a sharecropper, Ed attended segregated schools and went to a “colored only” doctor. In just three generations, his family has moved from sharecroppers to professionals and now he is supporting efforts to bring more underrepresented people into technology.
Expressions Out of Resistance.
Expressions out of resistance take many forms. Most people are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” as well as other more recent protests. Odom notes, “There’s never been advancement without resistance.” However, he added that addressing oppression and racism involves more than just protests. Food, art, literature, poetry, and music are also expressions of resistance. Some of Ed’s favorites include poets Langston Hughes and Amanda Gorman, artist Charles Gibbs (and his work The Keeper), author Lerone Bennet Jr. (Before the Mayflower), and musician Sam Cook (“Change is Gonna Come”).
“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you –
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
In the workplace, resistance begins with an acknowledgment that there’s still a long way to go to achieve equity. Employee support groups, mentoring, and outreach are just a few ways to make a difference and drive for long-lasting societal change.
Mentoring and Outreach Efforts.
We asked Ed how participation in mentoring programs and the BE@R (Black Employees at RingCentral) employee resource group have enriched his experience as an employee. His reply, “Indescribable.” We all know there have been inequities in society and RingCentral is trying to set a positive example and working toward a more equitable culture through outreach and mentoring. Ed believes, “One of the biggest fallacies is to just put your head down and work hard and you’ll advance.” On the contrary, it takes people willing to resist the status quo to bring real change and advancement for historically underrepresented groups. RingCentral’s efforts to create a more diverse culture include ongoing college campus outreach, a tech fellowship program (Transition N2 Tech), and a best-in-class internship program.
Black History Month Events.
This year’s Black History Month includes live and recorded sessions on resisting misinformation through education. The BE@R Black History Month committee will address colonialism, controversial topics (such as reparations), Black expressions and the future.
Schedule of activities:
- 4 live, virtual panel discussions on varying weekly topics
- 5 live, musical performances by our very own DJ E-Trane (Elliott Broadnax)
- Music programming:
- Week 1 – Black is Beautiful
- Week 2 – Controversy
- Week 3 – Then VERZUZ Now
- Week 4 – Future Beats
- Music programming:
- Onsite BE@R ERG meet-ups in our Charlotte, Denver and Belmont offices
- Pre-recorded sessions and weekly conversations
- And more!
Ed says the last two years since he joined RingCentral have been the most rewarding of his 38 years as a professional because he’s had the opportunity to make a difference. “One thing I think RingCentral will see as all these programs progress and you see contributions is how much better the company is because they opened it up—bringing in women, bringing in people of color, and bringing in immigrants—the various forms of thoughts and ideas from having a diverse culture make everything better.” We couldn’t agree more and look forward to hearing more from Ed during this month’s events.
Originally published Feb 01, 2023, updated Feb 02, 2023