The Legacy of Black History Month Lives On


People supporting people is the foundation of Solidarity Community Federal Credit Union. That’s why we are shining our spotlight on Melanie Humphries, receptionist and switchboard operator for 40 years at Solidarity, and Jasmine Vincent, a Solidarity float for two and a half years. As we celebrate Black History Month, these two women shared their thoughts about diversity and inclusion and allowed us to look into how Black History has impacted them personally. Read more below!

How has the recognition of Black History Month impacted your life?  

Jasmine: We have moved from recognizing Black History Month to celebrating it. I remember being younger, and Black History Month was a few crafts and learning about “key” African American figures. As I’ve gotten older, I see more black culture, heritage and history celebrations. If no one else has grabbed hold of this month being a celebration, we, as black people, have. I love to see all the creative ways we have come up to make this month special, in addition to making the conscious decision to celebrate ourselves regardless of what others think or do. That party won’t stop over here!

Melanie: Black History Month validates my identity as a black woman in this country. Realizing the pain, struggle, endurance, strength and contribution that my people, black people, have made to almost everything in this country gives me a sense of pride in my culture. Black History is American History, which should be taught, celebrated and respected year-round in this country.

How do you think your cultural background has contributed to your success in the workplace? 

Jasmine: Unfortunately, throughout history, in many scenarios, minorities have had to work twice as hard (if not more) just to be on the same level as the majority. Growing up, my parents always pushed my brother and me to do our absolute best in everything, especially in school. They wanted us to be well-rounded, intelligent children because they knew there was potential for the color of our skin to be an issue even if we were qualified. 

Melanie: My background has given me the tools to work with people who are not like me, in addition to dealing with people who just don’t accept me because I’m black. My very presence in a workplace that is prominently white has allowed me to teach and dispel stereotypes about Black people and our culture. I treat the employees and our members with respect, but I refuse to be treated differently because of my skin color. 

How do you contribute to fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace? 

Jasmine: Loving and caring for people for who they are is what I always preach. I like to be as authentically Jasmine as I can be. It’s important to create an open environment for discussion about our differences. I try to be very transparent about any struggles I have faced and continue to face as a minority. The only way we can create change is to acknowledge the issues; it takes us all to understand that. I also like to talk about everything I love about my culture (especially hair *wink*). Sharing who I am and making others feel comfortable enough to do the same is the greatest thing I can do. 

Melanie: We come from different backgrounds and cultures, but celebrating and understanding those differences brings unity. If you need help understanding something, ask questions. I’m always open to that and teaching the truth about my culture. I see value in people, so I listen without judgment and support and respect them like I would want for myself. 

Are there any African American leaders or figures who have been particularly influential in your life or career? If so, who and why?

Jasmine: I love the movie Hidden Figures and the true stories it is based on. Seeing not only people of color but WOMEN of color set such a high standard in their field is amazing. I love that they were intelligent and classy. They were beautiful on the outside, but their brains were the true masterpieces. That makes me want to be intelligent. That makes me want to push the boundaries in areas where people least expect us to go. There are also so many people I look up to right here in Kokomo, too many to list truthfully. All the successful black business owners here make me so proud to be part of this community! We are real estate professionals, hair stylists, accountants, doctors, lawyers, restaurant owners, lash technicians, artists, musicians, scientists…the list goes on and on! There is nothing we cannot do, and that pushes me to strive for better always. 

Melanie: Wow, I have so many. Harriet Tubman, James Balwin, Ruby Bridges, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, and George Floyd, to name a few. Each one of these people represents strength, courage, truth, civil rights, adversity, pain, challenge, change and “Good Trouble.” They all make me proud to unapologetically be who I am as a black woman while continuing the struggle in this country. 

Are there any challenges you’ve faced in your career that you’ve been able to overcome, and what did you learn from those experiences? 

Jasmine: I’ve faced many challenges especially throughout school and transitioning to a working adult. The most valuable thing I can take away from it is that words and actions have power, so choose wisely what you do with them. They can be used to sow seeds of good or evil, and we are responsible for the gardens we grow.

Melanie: I have faced many challenges throughout my career and life…far too many to list. I’ve learned to rise above and understand that some things will never change. Racism is alive and well, and I will do what it takes to call it out and not let it define who I am. People love to say that they don’t see color, but you should see color and attempt to understand that we come from different cultures. Learn to respect and validate people for their differences and not use it to justify, belittle and dehumanize people for not being like you.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Jasmine: I’m grateful to be in a work environment where I feel supported. Huge shout out to Jessica for this opportunity! 

Melanie: I would like to thank Solidarity for recognizing Black History Month and for recognizing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. Jessica, you are awesome!

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