Black History Month Submissions


Jackie Robinson: Broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

I have chosen Jackie Robinson because of his impact on baseball and sports in America. He was the most iconic of the athletes, breaking the color barrier in major league baseball and being the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1962).  He showed people that not only could black people play in the MLB, but they could also excel in baseball. He showed great courage by opting to “beat them on the field” rather than reacting to his critics.

Jimmy DeMarco​
GMP Research Scientist

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Kamala Harris: Demonstrating women of color can achieve the highiest levels of power.

I will never forget the awe my daughters and I felt watching Kamala Harris at the 2021 inauguration. My daughter kept saying “Look! She looks like me, mama!”. There are so many noteworthy black American leaders, but Kamala Harris, identifying as both South Asian and Black, is our nation’s first woman Vice President.  That is a huge deal to my family. Seeing someone who looks like you being sworn in to the second highest position in our country inspires you to believe in yourself. If she’s inspiring the girls in my home, then I know Kamala is doing the same in homes all over the country.

Rachel Clark​
Online Product Specialist & Event Coordinator

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Lizzo: Using her talent to communicate empowerment and self-love through music.

Lizzo is a black leader who inspires me because she is unapologetic about who she is. Her music communicates a strong message of empowerment and self-love. When I listen to one of her songs, it makes me happy because her music radiates positivity. Lizzo utilizes her exuberant performance style, witty lyrics, and killer pipes to advocate for the body acceptance movement. She breaks through barriers and combats fatphobia by encouraging others to live their best life and love themselves, no matter their size. Lizzo gives me hope for a future where we can love ourselves and those around us unconditionally.

Olivia Salazar
Quality Control Technician

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Oprah Winfrey: Redefined what it meant to be a successful black woman.

Oprah was my first real exposure to and experience of black culture and black literature. I grew up in a white community, so there was a lack of diversity, or even conversations about race.  I loved Whitney Houston, Eddie Murphy and the Cosby show growing up, but I think Oprah is really who made me think about black culture and black history on a different level.  Oprah has redefined what it means to be a successful black woman and has paved the way for other people of color by promoting their art, their novels, and their experiences on multiple platforms.  

I credit Oprah with expanding my cultural horizons in a significant way starting from a young age.

Karine Valliant-Saunders
Northwest Sales Representative

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Maya Angelou: She was an activist and champion for people of color, women and literature.

I first learned about the Civil Rights Activist and Poet, Maya Angelou, when I was in high school, reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. Her vulnerability in her works of art allowed students to emotionally connect with her experiences of prejudice, racism, and loneliness. She has impacted society with her powerful words, educating generations of students to have compassion and to resist oppression.

Maya Angelou is particularly meaningful to me in the way she has shaped my perspective. My favorite poem is “Phenomenal Woman”. Her words are unapologetic, bold, and confident. As an awkward teen, her rejection of societal beauty and uplifting of self-acceptance was a call I needed to hear. I am grateful for what she has championed for people of color, women, and literature.

Karen Park
Mid Atlantic Sales Representative

During high school we read, Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and studied her poems. I think I was about 16 at the time. I remember it being one of the first books that had an impact on my world view and forced me to look at the privileged life I have. Her poem, Still I Rise had such a profound, emotional effect on me that it has remained one of my favorite poems.

Genevieve Burger
Quality Control Manager

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Shirley Chisholm: Known as “Fighting Shirley", a US Congresswoman and the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for US President.

There are so many impactful black leaders, but right now the leader that most inspires me is Shirley Chisholm. Among other achievements, she was the first African American woman elected to congress (1968) and she was the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president (1972). She earned the nickname “Fighting Shirley” for her tenacity in championing racial and gender equality, as well as the plight of the poor. Perhaps most meaningful, her actions inspired others to run for public office and her accomplishments demonstrated the power of grit and determination.

I admire her motto “Unbought and Unbossed” because it so clearly conveys that she was committed to following her own moral compass and that she had the strength to hold her ground. I love her statement “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair” because I can relate to the commitment that it takes to show up where your contributions are not welcomed.  

As I consider her contributions, I am reminded that although I am college educated, I did not learn about Ms. Chisholm until I was an adult. This highlights the fact that the accomplishments of African Americans have often been ignored or undervalued. It gives me an appreciation for the opportunity of looking at our country’s history from new and different perspectives from the one that I grew up with.

Andrea Devereux​
Former Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member

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Jonelle Devonish: One of those people that spreads good energy and vibes to the people around her. I look up to her for growth, grace, and energy.

I choose Jonelle as an inspiring black leader because every day she comes to work with a positive attitude. She is helpful and always willing to be there for anyone at any time.

Jonelle is one of those people just spread good energy and vibes to the people around her. She has such a joyful presence that radiates off her. As my manager, I appreciate her help and knowledge. She never steers away from a question and gets back to me when I need her help. Each day she shows me something new and I can’t thank her enough for being my manager. I look up to her for growth, grace, and energy.

Jord'n Mata​
Customer Service Representative

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Amanda Gorman: At the young age of 22, Amanda stood up in front of the world and delivered a message of hope and unity in a way that was unique and creative.

The black leader that has inspired me is Amanda Gorman. At the age of 22, Amanda stood up in front of the world and delivered a message of hope and unity in a way that was unique and creative.  As such a young woman, her ability to not only speak publicly in front of a huge audience, but also to show the importance of creativity, confidence and grace, was inspiring.  It has resonated with me as I take on new challenges not only in my professional life but my home life as I strive to teach my children to be bold, brave, and creative.

Jenean Kirby​
General Manager

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Dr. Charles Drew: A pioneer in blood research who aided the formation of the world’s first blood bank.

Dr. Drew was a pioneer in blood research and his efforts aided in the formation of the world’s first blood bank. His research on blood transfusions and storage revolutionized our understanding of blood, saving countless lives during the fight against the  Nazis in World War II. By heading the American Red Cross Blood Donor Service during World War II, he was able to provide wounded soldiers with the blood needed to save their lives for the first time in history. His knowledge and teachings have profoundly changed our world for the better. I admire those who can leave this planet a better place then how they found it. 

Mark Renelt
Purification Lab Manager

I chose Dr. Charles Drew because he revolutionized the field of blood donations.  He was the 1st African American to receive his doctorate from Columbia University.  By researching and revolutionizing the understanding of plasma, Dr. Drew helped create the concept of a blood bank.  The development of blood banks throughout the world has saved millions of lives. Dr. Drew is meaningful to me for his work in science, but what I admire most about Dr. Drew was his conviction in standing behind his ideology.

Chrissy Brzyski
Protein Group Manager

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Ruby Bridges: This brave little girl was the first black child in an all-white school. Today she is a fearless woman promoting tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all difference.

The image of Ruby Bridges’s stoic, tiny little 6-year-old face walking into school protected by state marshals always moves me. I imagine that she could not fully understand the scope of her actions as she entered the all-white school in New Orleans, and that her action would become an integral symbol of the integration movement. 

When you see the black and white photo, you assume that it is from a distant time in our history, but it was only 1960. Legislation was approved 3 years prior to integrate schools but most states would not comply. Ruby was 1 of 6 children to pass the entrance exam designed to limit the number of black students accepted to white school, and the only one who decided to go. Former Deputy Marshal Charles Burks, who escorted Ruby to school, said “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we’re all very, very proud of her.”

Ruby continued her work as an adult by starting the Ruby Bridges Foundation, which promotes “the values of tolerance, respect and appreciation of all differences.” Today she speaks across the country sharing a message of hope for a better future. She says, “Racism is a grown-up disease, and we must stop using our children to spread it.” That message strikes a particular chord with me as I raise 3 young girls in this world.

I am thankful for the work of a brave 6-year-old girl, and her work today as an adult. If the state of our world has taught me anything, it’s that we need more Ruby Bridges. Children are the path forward to a world full of equality and equity, where everyone has equal access to education, food, resources, and love. To think that 60 years have passed and there is still so much work to be done to dismantle systemic racism, could be depressing. But I will take my cue from a brave little girl, raise my head high, never cry nor whimper, and march along like a soldier for the future of humanity. I will teach my daughters to do the same. 

Be brave like Ruby. Be inspiring like Martin Luther King, Jr. Be steadfast like Malcom X. Be unwavering like Rosa Parks. Be a voice like Maya Angelou. Be a game changer like Obama. Be the future like Amanda Gorman.

Jessica Lorimor​
Executive Assistant to Jenean Kirby

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General Benjamin Oliver Sr.: The first Black General of the U.S. Army who helped lead the integration of the Armed Forces.

The inspirational Black leader that I chose is General Benjamin Oliver Sr. During World War II he became the first black General in the U.S. Army. Throughout War World II he consistently advocated limited desegregation of the United States combat forces in Europe. He was also the first black Colonel and commanded the famed Buffalo Soldiers in Liberia and the Philippines. After 50 years of service in the U.S. military he retired and became an advisor on racial discrimination, working towards full integration of the armed forces. He received a Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Medal for his work and the path he forged for the future of the U.S. armed forces.

Benjamin Mendelsohn
Research Scientist

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Herman Branson: An inspiring biophysicist and advocate of equality in higher education.

Herman Branson was a biophysicist who contributed greatly to our understanding of proteins (a subject I hold dear to my heart). His research led to the discovery of the Alpha Helix structure. During his lifetime, he published over 100 articles focusing on physics, biology, and science education. He was also a proponent of equality in education and a founding member of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. This group’s interactions with the Nixon administration raised 30 million dollars of federal aid for historically black colleges and universities. Not only are Branson’s scientific contributions meaningful to me, but his passion for equality is something to truly aspire to.

Conor Dugan
Research Scientist

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Stacey Abrams: A voting rights activist and former US Congresswoman.

A black leader who inspires me is Stacey Abrams. She is a clear, logical, and brilliant voice in today’s, often confusing, political conversation. Her tireless work for equal voting rights has made a real impact in Georgia and inspired others around the country to push for the same. Her efforts for equal voting rights encourages me that there is still potential for positive change in America.

Genevieve Soares
Regional Sales Manager & Global Sales Liaison

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Stevie Wonder: A true humanitarian who has used his platform and music to help support the disabled and oppressed.

Stevie Wonder, a man of numerous accomplishments stretching from 1960’s to current day, is a modern-day inspirational leader to many. Blind from infancy, Stevie did not let anything stand in his way. Wonder proved that no matter who you are, you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. A few examples from his many endeavors include the release of a tribute song for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (a song that helped Stevie make Kings’ birthday a national holiday in 1980), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in 2006 and his role as the designated UN Messenger of Peace in honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities which helped with the improvement of audiobooks for the visually impaired in 2010. Stevie was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the White House in 2014. 

Wonder is a true humanitarian who has used his platform and music to help support and raise funds for blind children/AIDS/famine relief/anti-apartheid efforts. Stevie Wonder has paved a way to help people in need, those who are oppressed, and those who want to make a difference. Wonder continues to support current movements such as the #TakeAKnee addressing systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Stevie will forever inspire through his music using his platform to make a positive, fair change in the world, regardless of physical limitations.

Sara Radynsky​
Research Scientist

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Beyonce: A fierce, ambitious and inspiring entertainer who has pushed through boundaries to success.

Beyonce is one of the awe-inspiring leaders of today’s generation. She is fierce, ambitious, and inspiring. She has won many awards, endorsement deals, and her net-worth is one of the highest among performers all around the world. Beyonce has inspired many with her charismatic stage presence and her flawlessly fierce image. Beyonce will leave a legacy that remains unchangeable for decades to come. She is meaningful to me as a person of color because she is a prime example that we can succeed by pushing the boundaries and excelling at what we do. Beyonce is an inspiration not only for black people, but to all people of color, minorities, and genders.

Al Blair Combong​
Quality Control Technician

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Matthew Henson: His relentless pursuits led to the discovery of the North Pole.

Matthew Henson is meaningful to me because he never gave up despite failing for so many years. He started his career as a cabin boy on the ship Katie Hines, where he traveled around Europe, Asia, and Africa. He later teamed up with Robert Peary, another world explorer, and they set their sights on reaching the North Pole.  They failed to reach their goal multiple times over the next several years, but they never gave up. Finally in 1909 they reached the North Pole. Although there is a great debate over which explorer technically reached the North Pole first, it was no doubt a team effort that led to their accomplishment.

I chose this leader because of the unique strategy he used to reach his goal.  Henson and his team lived with Eskimos and learned their culture to improve their efforts of surviving the harsh environment of the North Pole.  Henson even learnt their language.

The impact that Henson had on the world proves that even though a goal may seem very difficult, it is possible to reach it if you put in the effort.

Robert Blanche​
GMP Research Scientist

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Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett: A leader in the creation of one of the first COVID-19 Vaccine.

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is an viral immunologist, who at 35 years old was a co-lead of a team that worked to develop one of the first COVID-19 vaccines.  She used what she called as the “plug and play” approach and based off her expertise and knowledge, she was able to quickly execute a global solution. Dr. Corbett is a young black woman, whose thoughtfulness, intelligence and creativity helped develop a vaccine and execute the clinical trials in a speedy manner.

While in the lab, there are times where we have to problem solve quickly to ensure projects are completed on time and without jeopardizing quality.  While not on the same scale of Dr. Corbett, I also strive build my expertise and knowledge in the lab, be able to quickly adapt and apply the “plug and play” approach whenever needed.

David Bryzski​
Cell Culture Production Manager

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John Lewis: A Congressman and one of the original Freedom Riders. He spent his life fighting systemic racism and hatred.

John Lewis has made immeasurable achievements for the civil rights movement and the voting rights in this nation. He served in congress from 1987 until he died in 2020. John fought his entire life to make sure that all Americans, particularly people of color, were given the same rights and privileges, and that those rights were protected by law. He fought against systemic racism and hatred. He was one of the original Freedom Riders and led organizations, such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Nashville Student Movement. He made an impact on my life by showing that you can move mountains with your voice when you use it the right way. He believed that getting into “good trouble” would make a change…and he led the way for many, including me, to stand up for what we believe is right and just.

"Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society." ~John Lewis.

Mildred Loving: Ended all race-based marriage restriction in the US.

My second choice, Mildred Loving, touches me on a personal level.  In 1958, Mildred and her husband, Richard Loving, who was Caucasian, were sentenced to a year in prison for marrying each other. The Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 made it a criminal offense for a person classified as “white” to marry a person classified as “colored”. The Lovings appealed their conviction to the Virginia Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction, but then appealed it to the United States Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, which is called “Loving Day,” the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Lovings.  Not only did this overturn their convictions, it struck down Virginia’s anti-Miscegenation law and ended the race-based legal marriage restrictions present in 20 US states.

This case not only irradicated laws against inter-racial marriages in the USA, but Loving v. Virginia was invoked and discussed repeatedly during the fight for marriage equality. In the U.S. Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges decision, it was upheld that states are required to allow same-sex marriages, citing the Loving decision nearly 12 times in its decision.

Without their hard-fought battle to love who you love and to marry who you want, I would not have been able to marry my husband. Their fight, in essence…changed my life.

Nicole Ayers
Quality Assurance & Technical Support Representative

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Michelle Obama: A powerful voice in the fight against inequalities.

Michelle Obama is the epitome of a strong black female who leads with her voice. Michelle is highly educated and is aware of the power of her voice. She uses it to push for equality, not just for people who look like her but for everyone that faces injustice. Her initiatives didn’t stop when her position as First Lady ended. To this day, she fights against inequalities amongst groups such as black lives, LGBTQA+, Military Veterans and many more. Michelle has shown me that it is ok, and actually very important, to have a strong powerful voice as a Black female despite the negative stereotypes that Black females tend to have for being outspoken. It has helped me to stay strong in my own voice and to fight for things that I am passionate about. Having this representation for our young children is so important because it will help them find their voice.

Jonelle Devonish​
Customer Service Manager, NJ

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