Feb 15, 2023
What Black history means to me: The Cigna Group employees reflect on Black History Month

African American and Black history is deeply embedded in the fabric and culture of The Cigna Group. Contributions of the African American and Black community throughout history are ever-present in the work we do on behalf of our employees, customers, and the communities we serve. This February, we asked people from around our enterprise to reflect on their personal and professional connections to Black History Month (also known as Black Futures Month) and  to speak to the meaning and significance of African American and Black history in their lives.

Mike Triplett, President, U.S. Commercial, Cigna Healthcare; Co-Executive Sponsor for African American/Black ERG

a photo of Mike Triplett

When I reflect on Black History Month, I think about all the heroes who paid the ultimate price so that I and so many others can lead and influence in this country. That is why mentorship, and more importantly sponsorship, are so important to me. We must make it a point to bring along the next generation of diverse leaders, as well as hold ourselves accountable to ensure this work is done.

Eliana Nunez, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, The Cigna Group

a photo of Eliana Nunez

I reflect on the leaders who courageously carved a path for so many to thrive in their rich identity of being African American/Black. Recognizing there’s more to do, I take this time to learn and listen, including through our Enterprise Resource Group (ERG) offerings. We’re all accountable for continually educating ourselves, creating sustainable change, and fostering an inclusive and equitable environment – for our family and friends, for the customers, colleagues, and communities we serve, and for all.

Rupert Joseph, Human Resources Business Partner, Evernorth Health Services, Co-Lead for African American/Black ERG

a photo of Rupert Joseph

This is a moment where we, as a community, focus on reflection, focus on how we think about our lineage and appreciation of our history. It is a time of celebration, hope, and never losing sight of our achievements and resiliency.

Autumn Stewart-Jay, Senior Recruitment Manager for Enterprise Technology, Evernorth Health Services, Co-Lead for African American/Black ERG

a photo of Autumn Stewart-Jay

Black History Month, to me, means celebrating and honoring the legacy of so many individuals who have paved the way for future generations to follow. It also means supporting the advancement of the Black community. Our African American/Black Enterprise Resource Group celebrates by calling it Black Futures Month, so that we never lose sight of our history and our resiliency.

Kim Funderburk, President, Government, Education and Health Systems, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Kim Funderburk

In celebration of Black History Month, my family begins with reflection, gratitude, and appreciation for the full spectrum of contributions that Black women and men have made to our world. It then quickly becomes Black Futures Month, where the focus turns to our kids. We look to inspire them, through the legacy of our heritage, to be thought leaders and world changers. Black History Month is as much about our past as it is our future.

Kelly Carpenter, Sr. Manager, Heath Equity and Language Accessibility, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Kelly Carpenter

I celebrate Black History Month by engaging in activities alongside my Black friends and colleagues to actively listen to their perspectives and experiences. Yes, I am intentional on educating myself and my children on the contributions and experiences of Black people in history and present day, but finding ways to strengthen my relationships with those friends and colleagues is crucial to creating a more inclusive and understanding community.

Michelle Booker, Technical Training Advisor, Clinical Operations Readiness and Performance, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Michelle Booker

The lessons taught by my ancestors helped me to fall in love with me and to be proud of who I am. I celebrate by continuing to teach and uplift the accomplishments, truths, and contributions of African Americans in our society and world. I share stories of my travels throughout the world, including walking the path that Martin Luther King Jr. walked in Selma, visiting the pyramid in Giza, viewing mummies in Cairo, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Jen Paley, Senior Director, Head of U.S. Commercial Medical Call and Contact Centers, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Jen Paley

From my perspective, Black History month is more than just a 28-day observance – it’s 365. As someone who celebrates diversity personally and professionally, I make a concerted effort to continuously educate myself, stay current on events, support Black-owned businesses, and celebrate the rich traditions across music, art, food, and culture. I then bring that education to my conversations at home and at work to raise awareness, understanding, and curiosity.

Neel Chopdekar, Chief Operating Officer for Technology, Evernorth Health Services

a photo of Neel Chopdekar

I believe celebrations such as Black History Month push us to take a step back and actively acknowledge diversity and how we support it. Besides celebrating locally, with art exhibits and cultural celebrations where I live in NYC/Harlem, I use the month as a chance to reflect on how I can be a better supporter of our Black colleagues and further champion DEI.

Cyanne Demchak, Chief Strategy Officer, Evernorth Health Services

a photo of Cyanne Demchak

For me, Black History Month is a focused opportunity to explore new Black and African-American creators. I read books by Black authors, listen to new podcasts focused on the Black experience, and share my favorite Black-owned businesses with friends and colleagues (if you’re in Nashville, Hi-Fi Cookies is a must!). This year, I also spent an afternoon at the National Museum of African-American Music, and loved learning and dancing my way through it!

Kia Williams, Nurse Case Management Analyst, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Kia Williams

Teaching a class about Mae Jamison – first black woman to travel to space in 1992; learning hip-hop dancing, which emerged from a subculture/art movement in NYC during the 1970s; making a few dishes from my Jubilee cookbook featuring history/recipes from two centuries of African American cooking; reading about Claudette Colvin – Civil Rights Activist; and excited to watch the 1619 Project on Hulu by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Katya Andresen, Chief Digital and Analytics Officer, The Cigna Group

a photo of Katya Andresen

For me, Black History Month is a reminder of the rich experience of listening to exciting Black voices who push my thinking as a professional and human. I follow Rachel Cargle on social media and recommend her Black History Month Syllabus. She calls her community unlearners, which I think is a great mindset for approaching the limited view of history so many of us were taught. We must unlearn to truly learn.

Wendy Sherry, Americas CEO, Cigna International Markets

a photo of Wendy Sherry

I am reminded of the critical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion to our business strategies – and to our people. To all people. I have long been committed to learning more about colleagues from different backgrounds. I can best address systemic inequities and racism by working to understand the perspectives of people who are not like me. It’s an honor to be working with the next generation of diverse leaders to broaden the path forward.

Mary Carey, Nurse Case Management Lead Analyst, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Mary Carey

I will honor Black History Month by teaching an adult education class focused on the life and times of Harriet Tubman, continue my involvement with my church’s Racial Justice Task Force, and, as the Mission chair, expand our efforts to provide relief within the disenfranchised Baltimore Black communities in the areas of housing, food, clothing, and education. Our present efforts include assisting Healthcare for the Homeless move individuals and families from the streets to comfy homes of their own; supporting a city charter school with tutors, books, warm clothing, and backpacks; and volunteering at Soul Kitchen providing two complete to-go hot meals every Sunday

Debbie Fields, Clinical Program Senior Advisor, Cigna Healthcare

a photo of Debbie Fields

To me, Black History month is a time of reflection, gratitude, and sharing. This year, the missionary ministry at my church decided to increase our contacts to our church members who are sick and unable to attend church services. We are making phone calls and making visits to sing, read scripture, and pray. It is a great opportunity to see if the member needs assistance and let them know that they are not forgotten.

Greg Hicks, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Cigna Healthcare; Co-Executive Sponsor for African American/Black ERG

a photo of Greg Hicks

Black History Month is a time for me to learn and be inspired by new stories of discovery, perseverance, innovation, and culture. I personally get a lot of value from finding connections to these stories as well as learning new facts and points of view to expand my own thinking. I also love how we in the AA/Black ERG have pivoted to focus on Black Futures. So I also think it is a time to reflect on the futures we want to create and the role I (we) want to play in that.

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