Black History Month 2023: How Gary Flowers, Angelica Cortez, and Paul Simpson are Creating Lasting Change
This Black History Month, Salesforce is shining a light on some of our nonprofit customers who support and work with Black communities in the United States. This blog post is the fourth in a series that appeared each week in February, focused on the themes of resilience, compassion, and social justice. Last in the series is a summary of my conversation with Gary Flowers, Chief Information Officer at Year Up, Angelica Cortez, SVP of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Pacific Clinics, and Paul Simpson, Chief Financial Officer at LifeMoves.
Black History Month is a moment to pause, reflect, and celebrate the ways Black scholarship and leadership shape the American story. From science and technology to medicine, law, community advocacy, and arts and entertainment, Black Americans’ contributions enrich our culture and resonate throughout world history.
Black History Month is also an opportunity to consider the work that is yet to be done to achieve social justice. To understand how nonprofits celebrate Black History Month and elevate Black communities throughout the year, I interviewed senior executives from leading organizations to learn how they are transforming the lives of the people they serve using Salesforce to power their purpose.
Gary Flowers, Chief Information Officer at Year Up
Screening for high-paying jobs by educational background disproportionately affects minority applicants. But what if job applicants were evaluated based on skills and experience instead of their educational background?
Solving that problem is the mission at Year Up, a workforce development nonprofit that opens doors for non-traditional talent. By giving young adults access to tuition-free training and career opportunities at Fortune 1000 companies, Year Up is showing companies the value of hiring for skills rather than educational pedigree.
“Our program model connects untapped talent with unmet demand, and through our 20-plus year history, we’ve placed more Black talent into the corporate sector than any other organization,” says Gary Flowers, Chief Information Officer at Year Up. “By creating an expansive ecosystem of employers and workforce development programs, Year Up can more easily share best practices while addressing the systems that perpetuate the Opportunity Divide.”
“Our program model connects untapped talent with unmet demand, and through our 20-plus year history, we’ve placed more Black talent into the corporate sector than any other organization.” – Gary Flowers, Chief Information Officer, Year Up.
For Year Up, scaling for impact means using technology to drive process transformation and efficiency.
“Salesforce is key to delivering our programs to young adults and capturing and using data to make intelligent, proactive business decisions. The partnership between Salesforce and Year Up is a model for year-round impact,” Flowers says. “Partnerships like the one we have with Salesforce allow us to help produce future Black leaders who will continue to impact the world year-round.”
Angelica Cortez, SVP of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Pacific Clinics
Pacific Clinics provides integrated, evidence-based mental health, substance abuse, and physical health care to more than 35,000 Californians every year. Specializing in multicultural care, Pacific Clinics “strives to unlock the full potential of individuals and families through culturally sensitive, trauma-informed, research-based services,” says Angelica Cortez, Senior Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Pacific Clinics.
During Black History Month, Pacific Clinics works with regional racial equity and justice committees to host employee-driven events and internal discussions. Topics include Black history and “the present-day injustices that the Black community continues to face, and how our workforce can take direct action toward change,” says Cortez.
Beyond February, Cortez emphasized the importance of celebrating the influence of diverse Black contributions to American culture year-round.
“Black history is not just one month, but 365 days a year, as the influences of Black scholars, revolutionaries, visionaries, and inventors continue to shape our country,” Cortez says. “Black communities and communities of color are often treated as if we all have one political ideology or one socioeconomic or cultural reality. We believe this is harmful, so we develop training and nurture dialogue with leaders who can share lived and learned experiences that reflect the communities we serve.”
“Black history is not just one month, but 365 days a year, as the influences of Black scholars, revolutionaries, visionaries, and inventors continue to shape our country.”
Angelica Cortez, Senior Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Pacific Clinics
In Santa Clara County, Pacific Clinics is the lead organization that administers trusted, urgent support as an alternative to law enforcement.
“Salesforce is the system that we utilize to make that possible,” Cortez says. “Upon calling 988 [the mental health crisis hotline], individuals will be connected with trained mental health crisis counselors who are able to de-escalate the situation, provide resources for support, and deploy mobile crisis units if necessary.”
Paul Simpson, Chief Financial Officer at LifeMoves
Homelessness affects people everywhere — even in communities like Silicon Valley. LifeMoves, whose mission is to end homelessness at scale, helps people get back on their feet by providing interim housing and support services to unhoused individuals and families — a service that’s critically important for Black communities, as Paul Simpson, the Chief Financial Officer for LifeMoves, learned.
“As a newcomer to working in the homeless space, I came from the technology world and was quickly made aware that the African-American community, among others, disproportionately struggles with homelessness, which mirrors many other issues in our country,” Simpson says. “I believe that homelessness can come to an end — every day that it continues, it means that someone, especially from the African-American community, is struggling.”
One of the goals of LifeMoves is to let technology partners see what is happening within homelessness to understand the challenges and needs. Salesforce has the platforms and systems that help provide pathways to solve these challenges,” Simpson says. “Salesforce cannot solve it alone, but it removes many of the barriers in the way of getting to a solution.”
Together, organizations and communities of all kinds can celebrate Black History Month and use history’s lessons to keep Black accomplishments and challenges top-of-mind all year long.
“A common misconception is that Black History Month is solely for the Black community to celebrate within itself, when the real point is to share the achievements and challenges of the community with the world, so people of all backgrounds can participate,” Simpson says. “The most valuable lesson is that without knowledge, history is likely to repeat itself. However, with knowledge of history, we can challenge ourselves to prevent repetition and drive positive change.”
Thousands of nonprofits around the world rely on Salesforce technology to power their purpose. To find out more, visit our Nonprofit Hub.
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