ESCO Engages Blog

Black History Month 2023: Reflections, Family and Purpose

Updated: 14 February 2023

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in our nation. The monthlong celebration is acknowledged in both the U.S. and Canada. 

In honor of Black History Month (BHM) this February 2023, we are sharing a series of personal stories from some of our colleagues whose families, values and lived experiences have helped them overcome challenges and have inspired them to pursue meaningful careers and achieve personal goals and interests.

Robert Wagner, Operations Technician, Portland, Oregon

Who in your life inspires you?

“My uncle, Kenny, inspires me. He taught me everything, from how to build houses to how to support my family. As a Black man, he faced a lot of challenges. People would look at him and treat him differently because he was Black. No matter what happened or what people said, he stood for what was right and defended others. He always said, ‘If you strip us all down, remove our skin, we are all the same. We are just human.’ I am a Black man, and I am most proud of my work ethic and heritage because of what my uncle taught me. I am the man I am today because of him.”

What is personally important to you as we honor Black History Month in 2023?

“I want people to see us in a different light. Many people make assumptions about who a Black person is before they take the time to know us. The biases people have can come from their background or how they were raised. We have to get past that and go beyond treating people differently based on their skin color. When you take the time to know a Black person, you can see we are just like everyone else. We are about family, we have stories and we are human.”

Tina Gavin, HR Business Partner, Newton, Mississippi

What is personally important to you as we honor Black History Month in 2023?

“It is personally important to me that Weir honors Black History Month, because it sheds a light on how far we have come in changing stereotypes around our identity. It is a time of reflection on the work still to be done.”

Who in your life inspires you?

“There are two young men who have challenged stereotypes and who have inspired me the most: my sons, Key’Shawn and Nicholas. Key’Shawn breaks stereotypes he encounters by giving 115% in all he does, from the classroom to his job. He earned his MBA and is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi pursuing his doctoral degree. My son, Nicholas, is also breaking stereotypes. He is an honor student at Stringer Attendance Center. I have always taught my young men that everyone deserves equality, to be a part of something and to be respected.” 

Tina Gavin and her sons, Nicholas and Key’Shawn

Tellis McClyde, Finishing Cell Operator, Portland, Oregon

Who in your life inspires you?

My uncle, Willie Hart, has always inspired me. He worked at ESCO for over 40 years—at one point he was in the Top 20 most senior employees in Portland. He was my role model. He always kept me level-headed and pushed me to do better no matter what I faced in my life. Now I have worked at ESCO for 23 years and I feel like I am following in his footsteps. I am helping others and trying to lead by his example. He has passed now, but I carry his lessons with me always.

What is personally important to you as we honor Black History Month in 2023?

I have faced challenges that others have not, simply because of the color of my skin. For me, celebrating my heritage and culture is about representation and showing people that, as a Black man, I am not a stereotype. This month is about equality and ensuring that my family and everyone like me has a fair chance in life.

Tellis McClyde and his family at the 2022 Weir Portland picnic.

Check back throughout the month of February as we continue to share more stories from some of our U.S.-based colleagues.

BHM 2023 Theme: Black Resistance

African Americans have faced countless barriers and oppression in an effort to stand for equality and lead the charge for change. The 2023 BHM theme, black resistance, highlights and honors the historic and ongoing advocacy for the black community and the important events of resistance that have shaped society today.

To learn more, we invite you to visit:

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