The Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Washington, D.C. (credit: Getty Images)

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TSYS Team Members Celebrate, Reflect on Black History Month

Feb 20, 2019

Black History Month in February is an important event at TSYS. Throughout the month, TSYS conducts weekly activities to commemorate and celebrate the history and heritage of African-Americans in the United States.

The activities include music from the TSYS choir, the recognition of historical black figures, a celebration of black colleges, a panel discussion with African-American health professionals, special food, trivia and more.

"Black History Month will always be a time of reflection, reverence and celebration," said Ashley Thompson, a government relations analyst at TSYS. "It's a necessary time to rejoice the accomplishments and acknowledge the struggles of African-Americans."

Thompson serves as this year's chairperson of Black History Month at TSYS. With help from her planning committee, she directed and organized all of the month’s activities. This is TSYS' 19th year celebrating Black History Month.

Ashley Thompson speaking at a Black History Month program at TSYS.

"Celebrating diversity and various cultures has always been engrained in TSYS's values," said Thompson. "Ensuring diversity of thoughts and backgrounds will only lead to more innovation and encourage effective team collaboration."

One of Thompson’s favorite historical black figures is Rosa Parks, the seamstress-turned-activist who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. Her defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was a pivotal moment in the civil rights era.

"A black woman who was fed up with being treated as less than stood up for an entire generation by simply sitting down," said Thompson.

For Jewel Hazelton, who works in the TSYS Atlanta office, Black History Month is the time of the year to "recognize African-Americans for their accomplishments to our society."

A communications and social media manager at TSYS, Hazelton said one of her role models is Soledad O'Brien, the Afro-Cuban American broadcast journalist, producer and host of CNN's docuseries "Black in America."

"I've admired her work and looked up to her since I was a little girl," said Hazelton. "She is the reason I decided to work in the communications industry. I love how she exudes confidence and is so relatable on air."

Trailblazers at TSYS

For Yolanda Chambers, an associate director at TSYS, Black History Month is "an opportunity to reflect on the significant contributions that African-Americans have made throughout" the U.S.

One of many leaders of color at TSYS, Chambers recently chaired the company's United Way campaign with colleague Erica Walker. The two African-American women directed and organized the massive fundraising endeavor that raised more than $1.5 million for the United Way.

Chambers' role model growing up was her aunt, Lula Louder-Bass, who grew up on a small farm in Alabama in the 1940s. Louder-Bass marched and demonstrated for African-American rights during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. She also graduated from college with a degree in education and went on to teach English in Columbus, Ga., for 35 years.

Yolanda Chambers and Erica Walker at a TSYS event

"She was the matriarch of our family," Chambers said. "She inspired and encouraged me daily."

Chambers said she is grateful to work at a diverse workplace like TSYS where she has witnessed the advancement and promotion of African-Americans, and the celebration of cultures from around the world.

"I am honored to work for a company that recognizes and allows all cultures to spotlight their heritage," she said. "Trailblazers can come in many forms and many places, but many work right here at TSYS."

One trailblazer that Chambers pointed to is Joia M. Johnson, a member of the TSYS board of directors. Johnson, chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary at Hanesbrands Inc., is the first African-American woman to join the TSYS board.

Steps in the right direction

For Jay Ramsey, Black History Month is a time "to remember the struggles, sacrifices and achievements of my ancestors." Ramsey is an operations data analyst at Netspend, a TSYS company based in Austin, Texas. He also serves as an ambassador to the company's diversity and inclusion committee.

"TSYS is taking steps in the right direction by ramping up our diversity and inclusion initiatives," said Ramsey, "allowing not only African-Americans, but each affinity group, the opportunity to celebrate, educate and bring awareness to our different cultures and views."

Black History Month presentation with the children at Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy.

A historical black person that has impacted Ramsey's life is Rev. Richard Allen, a former slave who founded the first national black church in the United States – the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1794. Allen was a minister, educator, writer, abolitionist and one of America's most active and influential black leaders of his time.

"As shown by Rev. Allen, African-American culture is deeply rooted in spirituality," said Ramsey. "It is that deep, sacred, spiritual connection to a higher source that gave my ancestors strength, hope and endurance."

He had a dream

Another spiritual black leader who has influenced generations of African-Americans – and quite a few at TSYS — is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 until his assassination in 1968.

"Dr. King's fearless campaign for inclusion and equality still inspires millions today," said Gail Burgos, diversity and inclusion manager at TSYS. "True inclusion goes beyond celebrating one month of black history. It requires daily and intentional behavior for people to step outside their comfort zone and be receptive to those who are different, not just in color, gender or sexual orientation, but in age, location or circumstances."

TSYS team member Erica Walker said she has been motivated throughout her life by King's actions, mission and dream of racial unity and equality.

"To Dr. King, race was not a barrier, despite the segmented society and discrimination of his time," said Walker, a web product analyst. "He embraced the challenge to inspire others to live in unity."

Veronica Lipsey, a human resources specialist at TSYS, said King has definitely made an impact on her life.

The Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Washington, D.C. (credit: Getty Images)

"I am grateful that he made it possible that I could sit, eat, shop, etc. where I desire," she said. "He dedicated and gave his life for equality. His dream and his life was one that promoted diversity, inclusion and most of all, equality for humanity."

Both Lipsey and Walker are encouraged and excited about TSYS's month-long celebration of Black History Month.

"For me, black history is not just an appreciation of the past," said Walker. "It is a gratitude for the path ahead of me that was paved with me and so many others in mind."