Growing up, I first learned of Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History Week

I learned later on it was supposed to be a month — as in Black History Month — but one week was all they were willing to dedicate at the time. A single week to squeeze in and talk about all our beautiful and amazing history. I learned about the "march" and the "speech." We had some teachers that took it a little further, but it was always over as quickly as it began.

Through my young eyes, I didn't really understand the significance. The challenge. The struggle. The why. It didn't quite affect me because I hadn't been quite affected. Yet.

As I grew older, I saw more, experienced more, read more and frowned more. I also asked why more and began to understand there was a lot I had left to learn. 

It was quite interesting as It was the epitome of the iceberg theory. We were shown a little bit on top, but underneath there were years of tension, pain and struggle. Many faces. Many words. Many martyrs. It was captivating and tawdry. A sordid and fascinating history just beneath the service.

King once said, "No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for."

Respect and praise to Martin Luther King — a change agent for freedom, peace and equality for all. He died for it.

February is Black History Month. It's a time to bring some of this to the surface. A time to reflect and a time to act, and acknowledge those who came before us and those who are here now working as change agents in large and small ways. 

WWT's Black and African American Employee Resource Group (ERG), called SHADES, is doing our part to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and central role Black Americans played in U.S. history. 

Throughout the month of February, WWT and WWT Life social media handles will post profiles of prominent African Americans as well as WWT employees. We are all Black history.

SHADES is hosting "The Freedom Walk," a health and wellness challenge where WWT employees are encouraged to walk 90 miles, a one-way journey through the Underground Railroad, over the course of the month. There are reports Harriet Tubman took that trip at least 19 times. 

On Feb. 18, we will host an unscripted conversation featuring WWT Chairman and Founder Dave Steward and Minnesota business leaders Xcel Energy Chief Customer and Innovation Officer Brett Carter and OptumServe Technology Services, Inc. CEO Karoom Brown, CEO, OptumServe Technology Services, Inc. The conversation will focus on corporate responsibility for building community equity. Learn more at

SHADES, the WWT ERG, is an acrostic that stands for Saluting and Honoring those of African Descent while Embracing others through cultural Solidarity. At WWT, we look forward to acknowledging and celebrating Black History Month: Salute. Honor. Embrace. All are welcome, regardless of your SHADE.