Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity for us, every year, to not only reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, but also assess how we are honoring him and his message, and embodying his work in our own lives.
To me, this day marks a time to recognize a great American leader. We often associate Dr. King with his speech during the March on Washington and his dream that “[people] will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” While this is a part of his legacy, he was also passionate about creating basic economic and human rights for all. He truly and deeply cared about people and used his ministerial foundation to spread the message of love and positivity for fellow human beings.
His adversaries saw Dr. King’s ability to bring people together as a personal attack on the established racial hierarchy rather than an opportunity to bring peace to a turbulent time in history. I’ve listened to several of his sermons and speeches, and his gift was in his ability to affect core emotions into action. He had a strong but humble presence that people gravitated toward. “The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” Dr. King’s words aimed to break down walls of hate and negativity that were so prevalent during the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr. King also penned, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” I think in my parent’s generation, and even in my own generation, we were taught to not make waves and to “fit in” to succeed in corporate America. Gen Y and Gen Z have debunked that way of thinking and have required that today’s companies address issues of equity and inclusion, or the company will not succeed. This has opened the door to discussions around race, gender, sexuality, class, and more that previously were not formally discussed within companies. The outcome of this is that people feel more comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and are open to real discussions to educate, enlighten, and bring down the wall of fear.
For our Black Employees at Zscaler (B@Z) employee resource group, this MLK Jr. Day is especially ceremonious because it marks the one-year anniversary of our very active group! We’ve been busy over the past year—from leading company-wide events like our Juneteenth celebration and organizing panel presentations to hosting book and movie discussions and playing an active role in bringing a formal, corporate-wide mentorship program to Zscaler. I think B@Z embodies Dr. King’s dream of inclusiveness, equality, and peace. As such, we asked some of our B@Z members to provide some insight into what MLK Jr. Day means to them.
Ambreen Lakhani, business operations manager at Zscaler, said MLK Jr. Day serves as a reminder that we need to be compassionate and of service to each other.
“Dr. King was all about service to humanity,” she said. “As he said, ‘Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service ... You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.’” To honor Dr. King’s words and legacy, Lakhani intends to organize a day of service for Zscaler employees in San Jose this month.
Katie Campbell, regional sales manager at Zscaler, said MLK Jr. Day embodies the will to do what is right.
“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is ‘the time is always right to do what is right,’” she said. “[The message is simple], yet powerful: It reminds us that no matter what the circumstances or potential reactions could be, we need to do what is right every single time. This carries over into all aspects of our life - from how you treat your co-workers to how you interact with family & friends. I believe that by doing what is right and treating people right, it's hard to go wrong.”
Campbell said her experience participating in B@Z has been illuminating.
“Being a part of B@Z this past year has been really impactful for me,” she said. “Listening to my Black peers and hearing their experiences, I've been able to gain a different perspective and become an ally in new ways. I look forward to another year of learning from my colleagues and growing my understanding of what they go through on a daily basis both inside and outside the office.”
B@Z has made great strides in our first year. As Dr. King inspired, we will continue our programming in the coming year with a focus on building community, mentorship, and open communication with the ultimate goal of improving equality and inclusion.