Shipbuilders attend Newport News Shipbuilding’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. Photo by Ashley Cowan

NNS Draws Inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Published January 18, 2023

Newport News Shipbuilding employees gathered Friday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as company leaders stressed the importance of embracing diversity to strengthen the workplace now and in the future.

Several hundred shipbuilders attended a noon event at The Apprentice School to hear from Dr. Latitia McCane, director of Education, and others who spoke on the theme of “Why We Can’t Wait.” The event was live-streamed and available via WebEx. Events were also held for shipbuilders on second and third shifts.

In 2016, McCane and dozens of other educators visited key locations in Alabama and Mississippi that highlighted the struggle for civil rights and racial justice. At the time, McCane was the dean of instructional services at Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Alabama.

Attendees were seeking solutions to workforce and educational challenges, and the tour “was filtered through the lens of leadership,” McCane said.

One stop was the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma, Alabama. It was the starting point for the famed 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. After visiting the church, McCane came across a group of children who weren’t aware of its historical significance.

Embracing her role as educator, McCane told them of the church’s place in the civil rights movement, and it reminded her of how earlier generations of NNS employees should teach those who come after them.

“As shipbuilders, it should be our commitment to train and develop the next generation of shipbuilders,” she said. “We can’t wait because our workforce is getting younger and younger. They are willing to learn and become the best that they can be.”

Evelyn Gregory, director of EEO, Ethics and ED&I, said all shipbuilders have the potential to create positive change, and that was reinforced by Vice President of Human Resources and Trades Xavier Beale, who also spoke.

Beale noted that King gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” almost 60 years ago.

“Six decades have passed, and we’re not there yet, which is why we simply can’t wait,” he said. “We have a way to go as a nation and we have a way to go as a shipyard. However, we can’t wait for the next generation to come in and do this for us.”