Chevron Richmond marks milestone with 25th Black History Awareness Celebration

Chevron Richmond marks milestone with 25th Black History Awareness Celebration
Audrey CormierCormier, retired former global diversity manager at Chevron, speaks at the 25th Annual Chevron Richmond BEN Black History Awareness Celebration.

Each February, Chevron Richmond recognizes Black History Month with a celebration that includes hundreds of employees, community members and other interested parties.

This year’s gathering on Feb. 21, was the 25th anniversary of the first event, which started out as a small gathering for a group of Black employees who worked at Chevron in Richmond and wanted to share Black culture and heritage with their colleagues.

The celebration is organized by members of the Chevron Richmond Black Employee Network (BEN), one of 12 company-sponsored networks that exist to provide employees from minority or underserved groups with increased access to opportunities for career development, mentoring, company participation and community involvement.

“BEN is an opportunity for employees to get together to address issues and concerns they may have impacting Black people,” said Lucia Watson, a manager at the Richmond Technology Center

BEN established a scholarship program named in honor of Dr. William King, a chemist who worked at Chevron for nearly 30 years. 

Watson, who chairs the Chevron Richmond BEN scholarship program and was also the network’s very first chairperson upon its launch, noted that employees from all backgrounds are welcome to join BEN or support its efforts.

Lucia Watson.

This year, like every year, BEN members stood at a podium before hundreds of colleagues and community members to highlight important moments in Black history and the contributions of both well-known and hidden figures.

Dr. King’s son, a medical doctor in Philadelphia who shares his father’s name, served as this year’s keynote speaker. He shared the keys to success offered up by his father. The elder Dr. King, who also spoke briefly at Wednesday’s celebration, developed a reputation for mentoring and recruiting members of the local community to work at Chevron.

The annual scholarship program provides four deserving local students with funds for college. The scholarship program, which invites all students to apply regardless of their background, has awarded more than 70 student scholarships to date. Winners this year included Helen Chen from Hercules High (1st place) and Middle College High students Elsis Saravia (2nd place), Laura Khuu (3rd place) and Jason Dai (4th place).

BEN members with scholarship winners.

Current and former BEN members who spoke included Watson, Andrew Sorley, Nathaniel Greer, Wendy Smith, Gerald Lee III, Audrey Cormier and Michael Adams. They each played a part in summarizing the evolution and importance of Black history awareness celebrations over the last 25 years. Watson recounted when Chevron added a diversity action plan to its project management processes in 2001, long before diversity and inclusion were common workplace concepts.

“So every employee who worked at Chevron had to have the conversation with their supervisor to say, ‘What is it you are going to do to enhance cultural awareness in the workplace?,’ Watson said.

The annual theme of Chevron Richmond BEN Black History Awareness Celebrations aims to bring that point home: “Embrace the Past, Educate the Present, and Enrich the Future.”

“That logo was spread throughout Chevron,” Watson said. “That was really the early beginnings of our employee networks.”

Cormier, retired former global diversity manager at Chevron, noted how the emergence of employee networks further enhanced a company-wide push to invest in education, particularly for students from underserved areas. Employee networks such as BEN provide opportunities for workers to participate in community programs that inspire future engineers and scientists, from the Chevron-sponsored Fab Lab at Kennedy High to the e-bike competition at Richmond High.

At the celebration, Cormier encouraged current employees to continue to advocate for diversity and inclusion, both on the Chevron Richmond campus and within the community.

“I invite you to continue to use your power to do great work,” she said.