Above: Mayor Bell (center) poses with BEN members
It’s been 50 years since 1963, the year the city of Birmingham, Ala.
became synonymous with the struggle of African Americans for
equality. But on March 15, the events of that spring came alive to a
group of about 85 Ingersoll Rand employees and their guests who
attended a talk by William A. Bell Sr., the current mayor of
Birmingham, hosted by Ingersoll Rand’s Black Employee Network (BEN)
Group. As a child Mayor Bell marched in Birmingham and heard the Rev.
Martin Luther King speak, so he was in a unique position to provide
perspective – past, present and future.
“It’s hard to imagine 1963 Birmingham, with its discrimination in public transportation, education and career opportunities,” Bell told the group, who had gathered in the company’s Trane District Office in Atlanta, Ga. Bell said he was inspired as a young man by the actions of Martin Luther King, who was jailed following the organized protests for equality in the city, which was at that time, one of the country’s most racially segregated cities.
Bell went on to live a storied life, in which he served on the city’s council, became mayor in 2010, and enjoyed a friendship with Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State.
“We must look fifty years forward and see who we can inspire today,” he told the group. “Recognizing our past sets the platform to give inspiration to others,” he said, noting that many nations still struggle with basic human rights issues. He encouraged employees to use every day and individual they meet as a learning opportunity, and drew analogies between his experiences and the important role diversity plays in successful business growth.
Bell was introduced by Alabama District Manager and BEN Sponsor Steve Miclette, who talked briefly about the role Ingersoll Rand’s Employee Resource Groups play in fostering inclusiveness corporate wide that can create new business opportunities.
The Black Employee Network Group is one of Ingersoll Rand’s five resource groups, which are part of the company’s goal to foster a progressive, diverse and inclusive culture. Others are the Women’s Network, the New Hire Employee Network, the Latino Employee Network and the Veteran’s Employee Resource Group.
From left, Georgia/Alabama District Manager and BEN sponsor, Steve Miclette; Mayor William Bell; BEN Steering Chair, Russell Shelton; and Georgia/Alabama BEN Chapter Chair Carla Parker.
Eric Stenzel, account manager for Trane, asks Mayor Bell a question.