Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Making Black History Now

February 21, 2022 by  
Filed under Feature

Cox Communications is one of the most impactful companies in our region, and it invests in the values of inclusion and diversity in our workforce, supply chain, and broader community. The company is celebrating Black History Month by honoring Southern Nevadans who each have a long history of making a difference in our community. Honorees for the 2022 Black History Celebration include:

● Lawrence Weekly, College of Southern Nevada’s Chief Diversity Officer and Chief of Staff to the President; Community activist Hannah Brown; Allen Stephenson, Cox Communications Manager of Field Operations; and Dr. Constance Brooks, Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs and Advancement of NV Systems of Higher Education.

We celebrate Cox Communications for its extraordinary contributions, and spoke to each one of the honorees about the positive difference they are making in our community.

LAWRENCE WEEKLY

Lawrence Weekly

Weekly has contributed his talents and community engagement for many years as City Councilman, County Commissioner and now CSN’s Chief Diversity Officer. His Cox Communications honor is well deserved, and we spoke with him about the accolades and the state of his service.

What does the Cox Communications’ Black History Month 2022 Honor mean to you?

Oh man, it means everything. It’s so nice when people recognize you. There is no playbook — you just put yourself out there. You do things from your heart. You just go out and do what you think you can do to make a positive difference. And for Cox Communications — a huge business entity — to recognize and honor me when there are many other men and women out here doing great things, I am honored and over the moon with this special acknowledgement.

You have been our Ward 5 City Councilman and our Clack County Commissioner serving the community for many years. Now, as CSN’s Chief Diversity Officer and Chief of Staff to the CSN president — what does this all entail and how did it happen?

Giving all praise and honor to God, I am very grateful. I’ve seen in the past where so many elected officials have left public office looking for a job. That was not my case. When we go into public office, we really do try to do our best to make a difference. For me, I feel like I went into it — if I look at it from a humanistic standpoint — backwards. Most people who go into public office do it with a financial base established. They already have financial resources readily available. When we go into public office it’s a paycheck that we rely on to pay our mortgage and to take care of our families. And so when I came out of office there were so many restrictions that I had to abide by. I was limited to places I could work, and so coming out of office as County Commissioner on December 27, 2020, I walked right into my office at College of Southern Nevada on January 24, 2021. Praise be to God.

You have always cared so deeply about education. We hear that you went back to school?

I am still a part-time instructor at UNLV and yes, in 2015-2016 I earned my Master’s Degree from UNLV in Public Policy & Public Administration. And when I look at phenomenal men like Dr William H. “Bob” Bailey and a whole host of other black icons, I was inspired to get my doctorate degree. So, I will be graduating in May 2022 with my doctorate. I think I like the sound of “Dr. Weekly.”

Do you feel that some of your work is unfinished and you might go back to public office one day?

You know I have been approached on so many different levels. What I am doing now with higher education is a true passion for me. What I miss about being in office is the platform and I can pick up the phone and call people and they will pick up to answer on the very first ring. There are still some people who pick up the phone when I call. I still receive a lot of calls and I have to remind people to call the new County Commissioner McCurdy. That’s not my lane anymore. He is already busting his butt to do the best he can for the community. I tell everyone to give him a chance, he’s only been in office for one year. To answer the question, “Will I ever go back into politics?” I don’t know what God has in store for me. But my heart says no. I am satisfied with working in higher education. There have been too many opportunities that have been presented to me. Something else that is on my bucket list is to one day teach at a Historically Black College or University. I would love to teach at a HBCU for a year. I can see Dr. Weekly at Grambling University or Morehouse College. I will just give it my best before I hit that fourth quarter of my life.

I want to thank our community because you all gave me a chance to do the best that I could do. And those who look at you and say, “I got you. It’s OK.” I thank my wonderful base of support — my wonderful wife, Kim, my children, my whole immediate family, my church community. I miss my pastor Robert Fowler so much. But I so appreciate all of the support and unconditional love.

HANNAH BROWN

Hannah Brown

Hannah Brown grew up in Las Vegas and has been a pioneer everywhere she goes. Her work as past President of the Las Vegas Urban Chamber for 8 1/2 years and President of 100 Black Women has made positive impacts on the entire valley. An advocate for children and their education, she started the Hannah Brown Community Development Corporation (CDC) that provides student scholarships every year and provides corporations in our community an opportunity to contribute to the continued education of Southern Nevada students. The Hannah Brown CDC awarded 46 scholarships to students across the Las Vegas Valley in 2021.

How does it feel to be a recipient of the Cox Communications Black History Award?

I was thoroughly surprised when I received the email. Actually, what it means is that hopefully I have done something to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Particularly, young people — you know how important that has been to me over the years. Especially as I have grown.

You have done a lot for the Las Vegas community. Do you ever look back and say, “Wow, it has been a lot”?

Yes, when I look back I wonder how it all happened. I was raised at 516 Monroe Street here in the Historic Westside during segregation. I tell people we didn’t have sidewalks, street lights or paved streets. So, you go from that and go to work for a major airline — that was more than I could ever imagine. I worked hard and then I was promoted to corporate offices.

Throughout the whole process, it as just unbelievable. I remember getting to my corporate office very early in the morning and the Vice President of the company at the time called from Atlanta and I picked up the phone, “Delta Airlines, Hannah Brown.” He said, “What are you doing there so early?” I told him, “Haven’t you heard that the early bird gets the worm?” He said, “You got that right.” He asked me to come into the corporate office in Atlanta in the morning. I got a little nervous because I didn’t know if it was good news or bad news. So, the big surprise was that they were calling me into the corporate office to ask me to take a corporate position.

It was overwhelming and I remember going to have some copies made at the copy machines and suddenly recognizing that I was the first Black person to walk down those executive hallways. You go from one employment position to the next and I am not going to pretend that it wasn’t overwhelming because I came from Las Vegas during very difficult times. But I always had the attitude that if you work hard, success will come. I just wanted to be more productive than the people working on either side of me.

You sit on numerous boards of directors here in the valley. Why is that so important to you?

Mainly, we need the representation. They are all volunteer boards. I don’t receive any compensation. Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Have you ever thought about working part time?” I say, “Oh, no. I worked for 52 years. I don’t want any money I have to work for.” I started babysitting at the age of twelve. The reason I continue to serve on the boards such as Valley Systems and Centennial Board—a lot of these boards help a lot of people. People reach out to me as a Valley Systems Board member to ask questions if they have relatives in the hospital. They sometimes get anxious because of all the information and I try to always get back to everyone with answers — not all the time with what they want to hear, but I do return all calls. But they know they have an advocate in me. That’s just a couple of boards, but most of the boards I’m on benefit young people.

What is the Hannah Brown CDC?

It’s a scholarship program we started 22 years ago when I was president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce. And I never will forget when we received our first donation of $500. We awarded two students with $250 each and we thought we set the world on fire. But, it made a difference in those young people’s lives. The next year we were able to raise over $25,000 and it has just gone up, up, and up from there. We have currently given over three quarters of a million dollars to students in Southern Nevada.

You have been in Las Vegas for many years. How do you think black people are progressing?

I think there can always be corrections. I tell everybody I don’t want to live a day and not learn something new because the more you learn the more you find the things you didn’t know. Our educational system is of concern to me. Obviously, that is why so many put energy into supporting our educational system. Until we are able to produce students with the level of education they need to move forward, we will continue to see a disaster. It’s on us to make it better.

DR. CONSTANCE BROOKS

Dr. Constance Brooks

Dr. Constance Brooks is a seasoned public affairs leader with expertise in both the public and private sectors. She serves as the Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs and Advancement for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). In this role, she leads vision and strategy development for the NSHE’s government and community relations, communications, and equity and diversity initiatives.

Congratulations on your Cox Communications Black History Honor.

I am very humbled to be recognized this way. I was raised with the intention to always give back and participate in my community — in any way possible. So this comes naturally to me. I don’t necessarily feel that I am deserving of all this attention. But, I am very grateful for it. If it does draw more people into supporting higher education in Nevada and support our students. then I think it is definitely worth it. I am grateful to Cox Communications for this wonderful honor.

Explain your position with the Higher Educational System of Nevada?

I’m employed by the state. It’s not exactly a state agency, but we are designed formally because we have an elected board of Regents. I do serve the state of Nevada in an appointed position and my function for the system of higher education primarily is leading our government affairs and legislative activities. I lead our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative. I am chair of the mental health task force — first in the country. Also, I oversee communications, media relations and community engagement.

What is happening with the pandemic and our higher educational system?

Currently, we have 90% of our campuses with respect to faculty and staff who are vaccinated. We do have an employee mandate that went into effect in December 2021. That basically means you need to be vaccinated in order to be in-person working on our campuses and in offices. And so we have 90% compliance and our student vaccine mandate is a bit more complicated. In nuance, as it pertains to the laws and who has the authority to implement such a mandate, it’s really the state board of health. So, it’s outside of the purview of the System of Higher Education. The state board of health — and respectfully so — gives the authority and all vaccines for students as well. So they have a temporary student vaccine mandate that needs to be approved by the legislature. Right now, we have no student vaccine mandate because the legislature and the state board of health needs to reconvene and make those regulations permanent.

Why is higher education necessary?

I would say overall higher education delivers the promise of opportunity to everyone on every level. It provides you with options, and so as you navigate career choices and what you would like to do, the fact that you have a degree gives you leverage around your employment and career choices. And the trajectory of your life. Without this tool — a very necessary tool — I think you are limiting the amount of opportunities you can have.

How do you think Cox Communications is doing as it relates to supporting higher education?

When I hear: Cox Communications, Cox Media, and Cox Automotive what comes to mind first is the fact that they have been acknowledged by Diversity Inc. on a national scale for their efforts. And second to that the support they have shown to our students across the state through scholarship and financial aid. Opportunities particularly to our underserved students.

You can count on a big check from Cox Communications at every diversity summit we have across our state. You can count on Cox to be board members throughout our various boards and commissions throughout the system. Even with the legislature committee we have — specified to workforce development — that Cox executive Derrick Hill co-chairs.

ALLEN STEPHENSON

Allen Stephenson

Allen Stephenson is a Cox 2022 Black History Month honoree for his leadership at Cox and in the community. He has been a part of Cox Communications for more than 20 years. He joined the Cox Las Vegas system as Field Service Manager in 2016.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Stephenson is a true leader among employees when it comes to volunteering and service to others. He’s a member of Cox’s Salute Employee Resource Group, comprised of veterans and military supporters. And he provides regular volunteer support to organizations including Boys & Girls Clubs. Goodie Two Shoes and Cox Charities.

How does it feel to be honored by your employer, Cox Las Vegas?

I’ve been with the organization for 20 years this February. This is the first time I’ve been recognized for something like this. But, it’s an honor to be recognized for accomplishments.

What motivates you to take your Navy skills and incorporate them in your work ethic at Cox and to also inspire you to reach out to non-profit organizations?

For me it’s about assisting communities that are underserved and under-. represented. So it was important for me to make sure I had that leadership representation and take some of those experiences that I’ve had in past industries, and allow myself to be a voice in different non-profit communities. That was really important for me. I wanted to be represented and represent the Black community.

As Cox manager for field and operations, what does your job entail?

I have been a field operations manager for probably going on eight years. And really what we do is residential and commercial. We provide Wi-Fi, internet, television and all the broadband products for customers.

Has home services increased with people having with home-based businesses and other connections because of COVID?

Absolutely, because when you think about it, the pandemic created a situation from homes became schools and offices. So it was important for people — if they didn’t have Wi-Fi or our internet product — that we were able to provide them with that because home offices and virtual learning environments have definitely increased. And another thing that we didn’t anticipate was the housing boom. So with all of these new homes we have to provide those services — and we like to be a part of those services for new customers and new homeowners.

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