To provide insights from our own community, we’re featuring a series of Black History Month Employee spotlights. Today, get to know Kesha Caldwell from our Corporate Underwriting team. We invite you to learn how Black history has influenced Kesha’s life through her insights below.
Tell us about a moment in black history that influenced or shaped your career?
In the late 60s, my mother and her family moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Columbia, Tennessee. My aunts were used to the progressiveness of the north, so when they learned that the local public library still had “No Blacks Allowed” signs, despite the official end of segregation in 1964, it took them by surprise. My family always stressed the importance of education and had enjoyed spending time at their public library back in Ohio. Never shy, my aunt, Laleta Fields, went to that Tennessee library and announced that it was a public library and that my family had the same rights to that facility as anyone else. The library, likely fearing backlash, gave in and my family and the other people of color in the neighborhood were allowed to use the library from that day on. The community was stunned and couldn’t stop talking about my aunt and her bravery. My grandmother, mother, and aunts spent many days educating themselves in that library. My grandmother became the first black nurse in Columbia, my mother a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and ultimately head of the English department at Schenley High School, an inner-city performing arts school, and my other aunts became doctors. I learned about courage and breaking boundaries in my career from my family and most specifically, from my aunt.
Favorite Quote or Mantra?
“The soul that is within me no man can degrade” – Frederick Douglass
Why do you think celebrating Black History Month is important?
The celebration of Black History Month still makes people somewhat uncomfortable, and where there is discomfort, there is opportunity for growth. There is still a lot of unconscious bias and discrimination in America. Much of this comes from social construct and improper narratives of history. Black History Month provides more opportunity for people to understand Black Americans as contributors to a great nation, and a people that defied adversity and created a new culture.
Who inspires you?
Many people have inspired me in my community over the years. However, I once had a basketball coach, Mr. Coleman. He worked very hard to recruit as many disadvantaged city kids and people of color off the streets as he could. He would find them transportation to practice and games, a house to sleep in if they needed it, raised money to help them travel to see the world, and most importantly, he would find and fund boarding schools to provide them with an excellent education. Many of the youth he raised went on to great colleges. He was an inspiration to me by demonstrating what a great leader and visionary can be.
If you could have a conversation with a civil rights activist, who would it be and why?
I would love to have a conversation with Angela Rye. She is a political activist who speaks on Black voter rights, amongst other things. She was a commentator for CNN and now works for ESPN. She speaks to the community in a way that they can understand. She also comprehends the trials of being a woman of color in the corporate world, yet trying to have your voice heard.