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GSA Celebrates Black History Month

| GSA Blog Team
Post filed in: Civil Rights

As Black History Month comes to a close, here’s a look back at some of the moments that show how GSA celebrated and amplified some inspiring stories.

Blacks in Government Chapter Brings Powerful Speaker

Princess Sarah Culberson, who grew up as an adopted biracial child in West Virginia, later discovered that the Black family she never met was royalty in Sierra Leone.

In telling her powerful life story on Feb. 15 to the online audience watching the event hosted by GSA’s Benjamin Banneker Chapter of Blacks in Government, Culberson described being embraced by her African family, and building allyship and activism to help drive social transformation in Sierra Leone.

With her brother – who grew up in Sierra Leone in the royal family – she used her privilege to address issues such as girls who were missing school, victims of the Sierra Leone Civil War who lost their limbs, and villagers who needed light after sunset.

“Allyship is speaking up for a marginalized minority group that you may not be a part of,” Culberson said, “because we all have different kinds of allyship, and we all have different kinds of privilege, no matter who we are.”

“Sometimes it's scary to be that voice,” she added.

“It takes courage, and it takes perseverance to be that ally and to resist how things have always gone, and to stand up during Black History Month,” she said.

That’s why she and her brother co-founded a non-profit that works to improve education, economic opportunities, and sustainable living for people in Sierra Leone.

Visit the Blacks in Government website for more information.

Denver GSA Employees Host Two Events 

On Feb. 16, GSA employees in Denver held a Black History Month event that reflected this year’s theme of  “Black Resistance,” hosted by Joshua Short, an Emmy-winning news anchor who won that prize for his coverage of gun violence in South Bend, Indiana. The event also featured Jeff S. Fard, better known as Brother Jeff, a Denver native and community organizer who lectures nationally about cultural identity and history, diversity, self-empowerment, and community building. Brother Jeff’s focus of his remarks was on Black Resistance through education and learning from history.

Pulling up to the event, Fard said he noticed the Pan-African flag flying above the federal building, which was coordinated by the employees in Denver: A historic, first-ever flag raising at a federal facility of the Pan-African flag at the Denver Federal Center.

“I had to stop and pause, because I saw a red, black and green flag blowing beneath the American flag,” Fard told the audience. “And I just could not believe it. Because this represents the struggle of so many different individuals.”

Also speaking at the event was Andrea M. O’Neal, GSA’s Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Equity.  She said, “We've got so many interesting and excellent things to do on behalf of the federal government, through our role at GSA, and by what we drive for the American people.”

She emphasized the importance of “reclaiming our voices, protecting our stories, building institutions where we can preserve and advance a holistic view of how we all serve and how we contribute to the American story… how we connect to each other across countries and generations.”

For more on equity efforts throughout GSA, please visit here

Cooper Bench Coming to Supreme Court

Also this year, we honored the fact that a piece of history anchoring the Little Rock schools desegregation case in the 1950s will be displayed at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington after being restored in a joint effort between GSA and the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The Cooper Bench refers to the courtroom where Thurgood Marshall and Wiley Branton argued a civil rights case – Cooper et al vs. Aaron – that supported the Brown vs. Board of Education case three years earlier in 1954. While Brown eliminated the “separate but equal” doctrine and started desegregation in public schools, the Cooper case successfully challenged the delays to integration in Arkansas.

The bench will be permanently installed in Arkansas after its display in Washington, an effort which required close coordination between Chief U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of Arkansas D. Price Marshall and a GSA team led by Regional Commissioner Giancarlo Brizzi.

“The project aligns with GSA’s commitment to preserving America’s historic building legacy while also allowing us the opportunity to capture the essence of the historic Cooper vs. Aaron case,” Brizzi told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Jan. 22. 

Jackson State University Event Builds Connections with HBCUs

Associate Administrator and Chief Acquisition Officer Krystal Brumfield joined Federal Acquisition Service and regional GSA officials at Jackson State University this month in Mississippi to talk about how HBCUs can compete for the $10 billion in annual contracts the federal government awards to colleges and universities.

The event was one in the GROWTH ‘23 series planned for 2023, and part of a White House initiative and larger agency plan to advance educational equity, excellence and economic opportunity through outreach to HBCUs.

“GSA is fully committed to ensuring we shape permanent programs, foster long term partnerships and strengthen HBCU capacity to thrive in the federal marketplace, as well as create definitive pathways for HBCU students to join our agency as civil servants,” Brumfield said.

Programs and initiatives at GSA in which HBCUs may participate include:

  • Procurement: MAS, SAM.gov and Forecast of Contracting Opportunities
  • Recruitment: Fall and spring recruitment activities, career fairs during HBCU Week, internships, job opportunities at GSA, summer/fall recruitment for early-career technologists; Presidential Innovation Fellows
  • Training: Webinars and events that talk about getting on GSA’s schedule, doing business with GSA, marketing to the federal government and defining what are RFPs, RFIs, RFQs and more. 

Last year, GSA conducted more than 29 engagements with HBCUs – Southern University, North Carolina Central University, Tennessee State, Bowie State, Howard University, Hampton University, University of Virgin Islands, Alabama State A&M and Jackson State – to promote opportunities at GSA.

Looking back to Day One of Black History Month, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan told GSA employees. “As public servants, we exercise our duty of care to the American people by addressing systemic inequities and doing our part to address the many social, civic, economic, and environmental challenges that Black people still face.” GSA will continue to do its part to advance equity even as we close out 2023 Black History Month.