The Arts in Motion Dance Team performs a traditional West African dance during the African American Shipbuilders Association's Black History Month event. Photo by Nicholas Langhorne

AASA Hosts Black History Month Event

Published February 22, 2023

Newport News Shipbuilding’s African American Shipbuilders Association (AASA) employee resource group hosted a Black History Month event Friday, Feb. 17. This year’s theme was “Igniting the Fire: Where Do We Go from Here?”

The event celebrated African American history and culture through song, dance and a skit that paid tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Dr. Janice Underwood, director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, was the guest speaker. She shared actions the federal government is pursuing to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and said there is a “business case” for ensuring the workforce reflects diverse communities and backgrounds.

“Be the voice of diversity, equity and inclusion. Being the voice means talking to one another, building relationships and knowing how to talk about DEI work as opposed to allowing it to be relegated to something that is seen as divisive and not innovative,” said Underwood, who previously served as Virginia’s inaugural chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. “Stand up in your circles, communities, grocery stores and work teams. Be the voice.”

Xavier Beale, vice president of Human Resources and Trades, said he sees NNS’ 25,000 employees as change agents. “If each person accepts everyone exactly where they are and leverages those differences and experiences, we’re going to be more innovative and creative,” he said.

Elsie Bledsoe (X32) decided to attend the event because she loves African American culture. She didn’t leave disappointed.

“It was really nice – the singing, the dancing, the artwork and the speaker,” Bledsoe said. “I loved it.”