Influencing our ecosystem to promote racial justice: This blog was written by Stephanie Y. Moore and Curshanda Cusseaux Woods. Stephanie Y. Moore is a Director of Government Affairs at Cisco and leads Cisco’s social justice advocacy with federal policymakers for Action 1, Influence Ecosystem. Curshanda Cusseaux Woods is a Community Impact Manager at Cisco where she oversees the Cisco Black Equity Grant program, social justice sponsorships, and employee engagement for Action 1, Influence Ecosystem.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s a great time to reflect upon the Social Justice Beliefs and Actions Cisco has implemented since the racial awakening of 2020. Cisco could not turn away from the racial disparities and systemic injustices impacting our Black American colleagues and communities. We needed to amplify our existing measures by listening and learning, committing to resources, and holding ourselves accountable to promoting change within Cisco and our surrounding communities.
Since then, Cisco unveiled a comprehensive Social Justice framework to confront racism and discrimination and increase diversity in our workplace and beyond. Foundational to the plan is Social Justice Action 1 where we pledge “to influence our ecosystem to support policy, legislation and organizations working to ensure equal rights for AA/Black people in 2020 and beyond.” Cisco is executing this commitment through strategic nonprofit partnerships and advocacy.
Strategic Partnerships with Nonprofits
In the aftermath of the abhorrent murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Cisco immediately pledged $5 million to nonprofits working to promote social justice. Among the 15 groups receiving funding, we provided $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative. Both are strategic partners who provide educational materials and fight for voter rights.
These initial grants have given birth to the new “Cisco Black Equity Grant Program.” The program works to identify and partner with nonprofits annually on issues including police reform, economic empowerment, voting rights/advocacy, education, critical human needs and being (the freedom of being yourself). The program is about more than writing a check, it’s about building a strong two-way partnership where we can learn from the experiences of communities and exchange information and analysis on emerging issues and policies. The new grant program will provide additional support by engaging volunteers, exploring product donations and sharing our expertise to further our collective efforts.
Support for Policy & Legislation
The other key component to influencing our ecosystem is our advocacy strategy, which revolves around three specific areas: police reform, voting rights and initiatives to study the legacy of slavery and its current day impacts. Over the past year, we partnered with like-minded corporations to use our collective voices in support of police reform and voting rights. Whether through direct advocacy or by providing strategic counsel, Cisco federal and state government affairs teams remain actively engaged in negotiations to reach bipartisan solutions.
Following the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, our work on voting rights reached fever-pitch. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Together with a coalition of over 240 companies, business groups and trade associations under the brand “Business for Voting Rights,” we pressed for policies that make it easier for Americans to vote, such as those embodied in the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. Although that bill was recently defeated, we will continue to urge Congress to pass much needed legislation to strengthen voting rights and renew our democracy. Cisco has taken our social justice agenda, including voting rights, directly to Capitol Hill in meetings with several lawmakers and Executive branch officials, thereby signifying endorsement at the highest levels of Cisco’s leadership.