In February 2019, I started my journey at Cloudflare. Back then, we lived in a COVID-19 free world and I was lucky enough, as part of the employee onboarding program, to visit our San Francisco HQ. As I took my first steps into the office, I was greeted by a beautiful bouquet of Protea flowers at the reception desk. Being from South Africa, seeing our national flower instantly made me feel at home and welcomed to the Cloudflare family – this memory will always be with me.
Later that day, I learnt it was Black History Month in the US. This celebration included African food for lunch, highlights of Black History icons on Cloudflare’s TV screens, and African drummers. At Cloudflare, Black History Month is coordinated and run by Afroflare, one of many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that celebrates diversity and inclusion. The excellent delivery of Black History Month demonstrated to me how seriously Cloudflare takes Black History Month and ERGs.
Today, I am one of the Afroflare leads in the London office and led this year’s UK Black History Month celebration. 2020 has been a year of historical events, which made this celebration uniquely significant. George Floyd’s murder in the US increased the awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world. The Nigerian #EndSARS movement against police brutality made global headlines and resulted in cyber attacks. The election of US Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, the first female, African-American, and Asian-American to hold that position.
With the above mentioned, our approach during UK Black History Month was to celebrate the Past, Present, and Future of Black History. The past triumphs, as well as the contributions of people that are of African and Caribbean heritage, were celebrated through social media posts and internal emails, which documented their stories. Black History that is being made every day in the present was highlighted in fireside chats and interviews on Cloudflare TV for everyone to watch – at Cloudflare and the rest of the world. Finally, we wanted to take a look at the Future of rising stars and their actions that would make history by the strides taken today.
To showcase the incredible talent that we have at Cloudflare and highlight present contributions, we hosted knowledge share sessions delivered by experts in Business Development (Stephen Thompson), Customer Development (Jay Henderson), and Customer Success Management (Warren Rickards). All these talks are available as recordings on Cloudflare TV, and we encourage that you give them a watch!
We also had the honour of hosting phenomenal speakers through fireside chats on Cloudflare TV. These individuals are creating a positive impact in their communities today and are shaping the future of technology in Africa. My first chat was with Lungisa Matshoba, the CTO and Founder of Yoco, a payments company in South Africa that makes it easier for small businesses to accept payments and is positively impacting the South African economy.
Next, I spoke with Thando Tetty, the Head of Engineering at Investec UK, who shared stories from his career and the journey of immigrating from Eswatini to South Africa, then to the UK. Finally, Cloudflare’s CSO and Afroflare’s Executive Advocate, Joe Sullivan, interviewed Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director at Rack Centre in Nigeria, who shared insights on the state of the Internet in Africa and spoke about African innovations contributing to technology at large.
By leveraging Cloudflare’s infrastructure and using services like Cloudflare for Teams and Cloudflare TV, we were able to celebrate Black History Month UK for the first time as a company and remotely.
Coming from South Africa, where Black History Month doesn’t exist because Black History is made every day, it was crucial to surface these contributions and look beyond a single month, with the message of hope and by asking how we can celebrate Black History every day.
We aim to leave a legacy of hope and improve diversity and inclusion by believing that anything can be possible when you believe in yourself. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela,
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” — London’s Trafalgar Square in 2005.