The power, pride and future of the Twin Cities was in full force at Delta Air Lines’ MLK Celebration last month. Delta’s Black Employee Network (BEN) hosted almost a dozen local performers and artists and over 70 guests. Local artists included Lyndora Turner, Maya Marchelle, Shaun Burns of Ministering with Hands and Feet, Daniel Felton, DJ Huh?What? of WEQY 104.7 FM, Zay, and Darnell Davis and the Remnants. The performances touted self-love, Black-love and love for God. The music was bumping, smiles were everywhere, and the audience did not hesitate to dance and sing along.
The keynote speaker was James Burroughs and he was inspiring and insightful. Burroughs, who was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton in April 2016 to serve as Minnesota’s first ever chief inclusion officer, stressed accountability and full inclusion. Burroughs stressed, “If we don’t reflect the people we serve, then there’s no reason for us [diversity and inclusion programs] to exist.” Additionally, he explained that accountability means working with, supporting and encouraging Black businesses, something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stressed in his “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech. In explaining the difference between diversity and inclusion, Burroughs shared, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited, picking the song, asking someone to dance and showing them the dance.”
Delta’s Black Employee Network is working to further the mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in the community. Delta has over nine diversity and inclusion groups. BEN currently has over 3,400 members and growing. They work with communities around the country to celebrate and build diversity through networking and civic engagement programs. One such program is the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), which strives to bring STEM exposure to youth around the country. Richard Strong, president of BEN and host of the MLK Celebration, stressed that BEN wants to figure out “what [they] can do to make a change and to make sure Delta is a part” of that change. The overall goal is to make sure people can bring their “entire selves” to work and not feel the need to be changed, but rather appreciated.