Empowering Youth Through Innovation: A Tribute to Black Inventors

As part of CJR’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, we were proud to shine a spotlight on the often-overlooked contributions of Black inventors throughout the month of February. The CJR Cultural Responsive Committee, organized engaging activities to educate our students about the groundbreaking achievements and innovations pioneered by Black inventors throughout history.

Among the inventors we celebrated are:

1. Granville T. Woods: Woods was a prolific inventor who held over 60 patents in his lifetime. His most notable inventions include the multiplex telegraph, which allowed for messages to be sent between train stations and moving trains, significantly improving communication and safety in the railroad industry.

2. Madam C.J. Walker: A trailblazing entrepreneur and philanthropist, Madam C.J. Walker was the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. She revolutionized the hair care industry with her line of beauty products tailored for Black women, empowering them to embrace their natural hair and enhance their self-confidence.

3. Dr. Patricia Bath: A groundbreaking ophthalmologist and inventor, Dr. Patricia Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, a device used in cataract surgery to remove cataracts with precision and accuracy, making her the first African-American woman to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Bath continued to improve the device and successfully restored vision to people who had been unable to see for decades. Her innovative contributions have paved the way for advancements in modern ophthalmology.

4. Frederick McKinley Jones: Another pioneering figure we celebrate is Frederick McKinley Jones, whose inventions revolutionized the refrigeration industry. Jones, an African American inventor and entrepreneur, is best known for his development of the portable refrigeration unit for trucks. His invention not only transformed the transportation of perishable goods but also played a crucial role in the expansion of the frozen food industry.

Through trivia games, interactive workshops, and cultural potluck dinners held at various locations, we engaged students and families in learning about these remarkable individuals and their lasting impact on society. By highlighting their achievements, we inspired our community to celebrate the talents and contributions of Black inventors.

Our commitment to and vision for diversity and inclusion drives us to create opportunities for all our people to participate in various aspects of our organization. As such, in 2020 we established the CJR Cultural Responsive Committee. Comprised of staff representing all levels of leadership as well as board members, our committee was formed in response to the pressing social injustice issues affecting communities across the United States. Recognizing the profound impact of these issues on our clients, families, and staff, we embarked on a mission to assess our readiness in supporting our service population through these challenging times.

Through diligent efforts and thoughtful initiatives, we have achieved several significant milestones:

Agency Assessment: We conducted a comprehensive agency assessment, including client and family surveys, to gauge our understanding of culture and diversity. Key findings revealed that 99% of respondents had never experienced cultural bias within our organization, while 81% felt that our staff represented diversity. Additionally, 73% of respondents identified racial and cultural injustice as extremely or very important, highlighting the importance of our commitment to DEI principles.

Development of Grievance Procedure and DEI Policy: We implemented a grievance procedure and DEI policy, ensuring that our commitment to diversity and inclusion is enshrined in our organizational ethos and practices. These initiatives are outlined in our revised employee handbook, providing clear guidelines for addressing and preventing discrimination in all its forms.

Supportive Resources and Increased Staff Involvement: We have actively supported organizational initiatives such as rebranding efforts and cultural luncheons, fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity among our staff members. By amplifying voices that often go unheard and providing opportunities for involvement in decision-making processes, we strive to create a workplace culture that embraces DEI principles at its core.

As we look to the future, our goals include forming subcommittees with dedicated staff members and further embedding DEI principles into our organizational decision-making framework. By doing so, we aim to ensure that every aspect of our operations is guided by a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Our commitment to DEI has a tangible impact on the youth and families we serve. By fostering an even more inclusive environment, we endeavor to make our services more effective and responsive to the needs of vulnerable populations. By embedding cultural considerations in our approach, we hope to break down barriers and create opportunities for meaningful engagement and support.

 As we continue our journey towards fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion, we remain committed to amplifying marginalized voices, challenging stereotypes, and building a brighter future for generations to come.

March 26, 2024