Clear Channel Outdoor Americas (CCOA) is celebrating Black History Month -- and this year's theme, "Black Health and Wellness" -- in a major campaign across the country. It hits home on very personal levels for three members of the company's leadership team. Recently, they explained why in an interview with Vicky Chen, CCOA's Coordinator, Corporate Communications and Marketing. The threesome includes (pictured below, left to right) Ade Galloway, Vice President, Operations Counsel; Gwen Stokes, Vice President, Sales, Airports, and Kenetta Bailey, Senior Vice President, Marketing. An edited transcript follows.
Vicky Chen: What does this Black History Month mean to you?
Ade Galloway: In grade school, most of us were taught on the Black experience mainly in regard to enslaved African Americans, the American Civil War and parts of the civil rights movement. This month is an opportunity to showcase how African Americans have contributed to the many innovations of America, especially health innovations, and underscore some of the lesser known and unsung heroes of our ancestors.
Gwen Stokes: I grew up in the segregated south, so when I think of Black History Month, I think of the people who were able to help make history be made, including my grandparents and my parents, who marched during the civil rights movement.
It's important to teach future generations about our history, as it shows our resilience and what we've accomplished to get where we are today. And while we've come far, I still think about how far we have to go.
Kenetta Bailey: For me, this month is a time to reflect, recognize and celebrate how African Americans have positively impacted all aspects of American society and culture. Our community makes up such a huge tapestry of America. Eventually, I hope there's a day when who we are as a people is notably celebrated beyond a month, and we're fully seen as part of a collective American story.
Chen: Against the backdrop of the pandemic, how is the theme of "Health and Wellness" inspiring you to look at or approach your own health and wellness differently?
Galloway: I try to make a concerted effort to exercise at least three times a week, while spending as much time as I can with my family. Since navigating through the pandemic, I've started to take moments for my own mental and physical well-being. What I've come to learn, which was difficult for me at first, is that self-care is not selfish.
Stokes: I used to separate work from home as soon as I walked through those front doors into my house. So, when we transitioned into a remote work environment, it was tough, and I also missed that human interaction with people. I'm a proponent of mental health and that includes talking to a professional and finding an outlet to unload to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For me, that outlet is writing. I've recently finished writing a book and it's now in its editing phase.
Bailey: You can't take care of anyone or anything else unless you first take care of yourself. When I learned of this year's theme, I started to think about my own health a little differently. African Americans generally are at a higher risk for certain diseases in comparison to other racial and ethnic groups, so my sensitivity to my health has heightened. I've been even more proactive in making sure my physical and mental well-being are in line.
Chen: Are there any aspects of CCOA's Black History Month campaign that resonate with you?
Galloway: Something that jumped out at me was our display of the statistic that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) educate 40% of all Black healthcare professionals. I attended Howard University School of Law and am a proud HBCU alum. Seeing how the role of HBCUs in educating Black professionals is being resounded across the country by Clear Channel makes me even prouder.
Stokes: I went to Hampton University, so I'm also a proud product of an HBCU. In addition, I think about the story of Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who's highlighted in this campaign and was instrumental in developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
I reflect back on the polio outbreak in the U.S. and remember feeling afraid during that time. I also had fears during this pandemic, so Dr. Corbett's story and her contributions to the health of our society really spoke to me.
Bailey: While we [African Americans] have legends across the spectrum, from sports to entertainment, we oftentimes forget to talk about the legends who've made meaningful contributions and accomplishments in other fields like medicine. Many African Americans have made a mark in this area, so being able to find these gems, if you will, and highlight them in CCOA's campaign stood out to me.
Chen: How have you been involved in diversity and inclusion efforts at CCOA? What inspired you to become involved, and what continues to inspire you as a leader today?
Galloway: In the midst of the pandemic and ongoing protests for civil treatment in our country, it was easy to have underlying feelings of despondency and fear. To combat these challenges, I competitively applied to join the EDAC [Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee] in 2020 because I saw it as an opportunity to help shape our company culture and foster a space of inclusivity where all CCOA employees truly enjoy working together.
I also believe it's an exciting time to be a part of CCOA, following separation from iHeartMedia, as we now get to shape what we do and how we look as an organization going forward.
Stokes: I'm one of the co-chairs of our employee resource group -- a position I took on wholeheartedly -- to support our BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] community at CCOA. When I started off in my career, it sometimes felt like every step was a struggle. I want to be part of a support system for younger professionals who might feel the same as I did. But I will say, I'm always amazed by the people I work alongside every day as they consistently lift each other up and are passionate about our work.
Bailey: I'm the executive sponsor for our EDAC, and I stepped up to that role as I feel I can be that bridge between our employees and CCOA's senior leadership team. Understanding our priorities as an organization, while empathizing with what employees are feeling, especially during these times, is critical to building a safe, engaging workplace for our people. And, importantly, it's our people who continue to inspire me, as they truly care about the work we do and the people they work with.
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