Get To Know Brielynn Bell - NGU Board Member
What does Black History Month mean to you?
To me, Black History Month is the celebration of past and current black people who have made an impact in our world. It’s about celebrating black culture and giving recognition to the black community. I own a shirt that says, “I’m black every day, but this month, I’m blackity, black, black.” I love it because it’s so true! I am black every single day of my life, but this month highlights my culture and it feels so nice to have this level of appreciation and acknowledgment for our community.
What moments in Black history are meaningful to you?
Oftentimes, people think that in order for something to be considered “history,” it must have happened ages ago, and that’s not the case. There are countless moments in Black history that are meaningful to me, however, right now, the Black Lives Matter Movement is top of mind. We are living through such a critical time in history and I firmly believe that it is my responsibility to advocate for my people and make a difference in this world.
In addition, without the entire Civil Rights Movement, it is very likely that my life would look completely different today. I am eternally grateful for all those who marched, walked, sat-in, protested, and stood up for black people so that I can have the rights that I do today.
Can you talk about one or two of the many contributions that Black individuals have made in the Buffalo community?
In my opinion, Willie Hutch Jones is doing an incredible job of helping our youth. His educational and sports program offers students in Buffalo the opportunity to expand their minds and explore new activities. The work that he has done within our community truly makes a difference.
Can you talk about a moment you experienced racism or discrimination in Buffalo?
In 2017, I was out with a group of friends and the majority of us were black. We were denied service in a restaurant because our group was “too big,” and we were told that if we wanted to order food, we would need to go in one at a time. Meanwhile, groups of three and four were allowed to enter. I filed a complaint the next day. After having a discussion with the owner, he agreed that this person’s actions were rooted in a place of racism.
Once, I had a woman roll down her window and scream out the “n-word” to me while I was driving on Elmwood – it was so embarrassing and hurtful. Being in an interracial relationship, my husband and I have had strangers say very nasty things to us as well about our relationship. Racism in our world still exists, unfortunately… every single day.
How do you think having Black leaders and staff members impact an organization’s success?
Simply put, representation matters. When an organization has black leaders and staff members, it shows the little black boys and girls, and young adults that they can achieve anything they put their minds to. Additionally, a diverse staff leads to more innovation and creative thinking. Working in a monochromatic workplace leads to a stagnant environment.
What work needs to be done to make Buffalo a more equitable and inclusive place for Black individuals?
The journey to a more equitable and inclusive place for Black individuals begins with self-awareness. Though there are many steps that a company can take to become more equitable and inclusive, your company will not get anywhere if it is filled with individuals who are not willing to put in the work. We all are responsible for checking our biases, recognizing our privileges, welcoming differences, being better listeners, and practicing empathy. As a company, if you don’t have a plan in place to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s time to get one. This work requires all of us to have an open mind. Our community has made great strides in being a more equitable and inclusive place for Black individuals, however, the work is not done – we still have room to grow and improve.