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Chimers Chime In: The value of our Blackness at work

a group of people with different hair styles

This year, the Chimer Resource Group (CRG), AfroChime, is centering Black History Month around the theme of ‘We Are The Culture’ which centers on the vibrant tapestry of Black Culture and its profound global influence. During the month, through events, food, and connection, they explored the dynamic impact of the Black community on various aspects of our lives, from art and music to fashion, marketing, sports, and more. Each week, they delved into a different facet of Black influence and its continued significance.

One theme we wanted to explore during Black History Month was the value of our Blackness at work. Blackness, as an experience, is defined by its values of perseverance, creativity, resourcefulness, originality, faith, and community. While not every person who identifies as Black has the same experience (given differences in region, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity), those values and shared history unite us as a community.

We sat down with a few Chimers to explore how their Blackness and being perceived as Black people by others (through stereotypes and biases) have shaped them. We’ll dig into how Black Culture affects Chimers’ beliefs around concepts like justice, work ethic, collaboration, their relationship to time, and family and parenting.


Chris remembers the first time he felt comfortable being proud to be Black in the workplace. “I grew up in Walton County — the location of the last documented mass lynching in the country — and that greatly shaped my identity,” he says. “I’ve always existed at the intersectionality of where I grew up, being a gay man, and being Black — which has instilled in me a desire to understand people’s stories and their lived truths, and a deep respect for our many different experiences. In the corporate world, we talk about diversity as a strength, but I truly believe it is — because it’s always had to be my strength.”

Kristen’s early career in HR was confusing at times. “I knew I had a voice but wondered if I was supposed or allowed to use it,” she says. “As a Black woman, there’s always been the idea that we’re angry or our voice is harsher — but really, it’s that we’re passionately walking into spaces and feeling confident in what we’re talking about.”

And Dion has been on what he calls a learning journey of what it means to be authentic and bring his authentic self to work. “We were taught, specifically within the Black community, as a means of survival, to fit in, make sure we’re not causing issues, and show up as perfectly as possible,” he explains. “For me, that meant making a lot of microdecisions about how I speak and dress and what I share about my life and hobbies — all decisions that, if you’re in a represented group, you might not think about.”

For a long time, without people who looked like him in leadership, those microdecisions led Dion to show up early, know the answer to every question, and dress well. “I felt like I was doing all of those things on behalf of the community, not just me as an individual,” he says. “There’s a saying in the Black community that you have to be twice as good to get half as much, and I felt that if I didn’t make the extra effort, I wouldn’t be seen as capable. Over time and with much reflection, I learned that if I was late to work, I wouldn’t get fired and if I said ‘I don’t know,’ I wouldn’t be treated as unintelligent. I had to unlearn so many survival tactics just to figure out how to bring my full self to work. I was so afraid to bring my Blackness to work because I assumed people would look down on me.”

“My Blackness and experience have taught me ways to survive but also showed me that if I don’t critically examine those survival tactics, I’ll be stuck in survival mode and not able to operate authentically as myself.” — Dion Bullock

How has being perceived as a Black person by others shaped your work life or how you show up at work?


“In the past, knowing that I am a Black man from the South, I always felt like I had to scale my big personality back a little bit. I’ve learned that I value a level of self-protection and how to take others’ perceptions and help them propel me further. F

or example, some colleagues had the perception that I wasn’t listening because I would share my own opinions or was ‘too loud.’ I learned to find a way to make others feel like I was listening and show them I was absorbing our discussions. Doing so has actually helped my voice carry further because by helping others feel listened to, my ideas are also better received.”


“I’ve often felt pressure as a Black woman in my field and as the leader of a program, and have built the confidence to have many answers while also feeling comfortable saying, ‘This isn’t my expertise, but I’ll figure it out.’ I’m thankful that I’ve had great female managers who have empowered me to show up confidently, especially in spaces where I know what I’m talking about.”

How has your Black Culture affected your beliefs around work? What about other concepts, like justice, collaboration, work ethics, or family and parenting?


“Something I’ve carried with me is a sense of playfulness I find in the Black community. I see it on social media and in person — we’ve learned to use laughter and silliness to make it through some tough times.

Another aspect of my Black Culture that has shaped how I approach work is my work ethic and sense of excellence. Inherently, this is a challenge because there are so few people Black people who end up in spaces like the ones I’ve occupied — and the journey to get there is often underestimated and overlooked. When I see Black leaders as managers, directors, and VPs, I think about how much work they had to put in and how excellent they had to be to be considered for that role, and I’m in awe of that.”


“One belief I hold closely is respect for the wide array of others’ experiences. I also believe in the willingness to receive love and respect at work and not feeling like you need to be left out because of your identity — a level of self-inclusion goes a long way.”


“When I graduated college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. My mom gave me the advice to stay true to who I am. It’s so easy for us to codeswitch, but in doing so, we lose ourselves. By staying true to myself, I can show up as my authentic self the first time and don’t have to do the back and forth of speaking this way or showing up that way. This value of being who you are imbues my work and how I approach every interaction.”

On codeswitching


“At a lot of corporations where the CEO is a white man, I have felt like I have to mind my p’s and q’s, but I’ve learned that you can do that while showing up as who you are.

While we can get caught up in speaking a certain language or having a specific vocabulary in order to be a part of professional conversations, it’s not necessary and doesn’t signal your intelligence. I’ve learned not to codeswitch and just be who I am. Over my career, I’ve become secure in asking for clarity so I can have confidence in my own work. You don’t have to speak the language — just do you and ask questions when you need to.”

Are there any examples of Blackness that you’ve seen at work that have inspired you?


“AfroChime, our Chimer Resource Group, is a great example of Blackness. It’s actually the first Black ERG I’ve ever been involved in because I’ve always had to navigate the intersectionality of being a gay Black man. But this group of people — AfroChime — is so diverse in its Blackness, and I have felt wholly accepted. As a member of AfroChime, I feel I can show up as my true self and receive love, acceptance, and understanding from the group. The conversations we have are so meaningful and our events and gatherings — when we come together unapologetically and in fellowship — help us get to real conversations and connection.”


“Cynt Marshall! She spoke to our team about how important family has always been to her. She told us that no matter what the trajectory of her life was, knew she wanted to have a family, and wouldn’t let anything come in between that. That moment was eye opening for me because I always felt like I had to choose between the two. I felt a sigh of relief as Cynt was speaking and I realized that I really can be a Black super mom and instill in my daughter that when she decides she wants a job, she can feel empowered to say my family comes first, my job comes second.”

How do you share your individual Blackness — your own values and experiences — at work?


“Two values come to mind that I try to incorporate in my work: Playfulness and ‘Lifting as we Climb.’

Playfulness: Life is too short to be serious all the time. Using silly Zoom backgrounds, sending gifs and emojis in team shoutouts, or sharing relevant TikToks are ways to bring levity and light into my workplace relationships.

‘Lift as we Climb’: I’ve been blessed to have great mentors, bosses, and job opportunities. And while I appreciate that for myself, I also have an obligation to use my position and power to help others. Whether investing in our Employee Resource Groups or mentoring students at my alma mater, bringing others along is essential to what it means to be Black.”


“When I first started at Chime, my daughter was one, and I was so nervous that my coworkers would see her being loud, playing, or crying in the background of my calls. Over time, I learned that it’s normal — and human — and started to embrace it. People started asking where she was on calls! It was life-changing that people were so invested in her — once I started embracing how much I value family and showing who I am, it spoke to a level of my work and I was able to be both an expert in benefits and be a mom. While I started my career with a professional look (wearing heels and everything), I eventually got settled and started walking my own walk — which involves my family playing a role in work, too.”

What is your advice for someone looking to embrace their Blackness at work more?


“It’s a great thing to say “show up as yourself,” but it doesn’t automatically mean it’s true or easy. You need to find your own level of comfort and understanding within yourself — that’s what will allow you to propel yourself forward and show up as yourself. It took me a while to get to that point, so it’s ok if it isn’t automatic.”


“If you are Black and trying to embrace more of your authentic self at work, I would advise three things:

Reflect on the relationship between “Blackness” and “success at work” mean to you: Media often shows embracing your Black identity and being successful at work as mutually exclusive, where you have to change who you are to be seen as “professional.” If this is your experience, identify what aspects you will keep for survival and what aspects you will reject to be more authentic.

Identify your tolerance for risk and vulnerability: Black representation in tech hovers between 4% — 8%, so while bringing yourself to work is ideal, embracing Blackness comes with addressing other’s lack of familiarity with Black people and culture. This emotional labor is neither fair nor acknowledged, but it is a part of your work experience. Gauge whether the benefits outweigh the cost for you personally.

Start with small experiments: Embracing your Black identity doesn’t require a big announcement. Try small ways to do this through your Zoom backgrounds, emojis, your clothing and accessories, and what you share with others. Join your Black Employee Resource Group or reach out to other Black employees in your organization.”


“Get involved with the Black community at work. In my first year at Chime I wasn’t as involved with AfroChime, but last year it hit me I needed to be around people who look like me. My advice is to get around like-minded people who look like you and to continue voicing your opinions, ideas, and concerns to leadership — don’t stop talking. When people see what’s important to you and your passion, drive, and energy, they’ll respect you even more.”

Thank you Kristen, Chris, and Dion for sharing your stories and for bringing your Blackness to work every day — Chime is a better place for it.