Black History Month a time for perspective
February 28, 2011
- Tina Hawkins spent the better part of nine years serving as an enlisted Soldier in the Army before transitioning to the civilian workforce.
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - The nearly 15 year transition from Army green-suiter to human resource specialist to equal employment opportunity specialist was seamless for one Picatinny employee, yet her life's work is unfinished.
Tina Hawkins spent the better part of nine years serving as an enlisted Soldier in the Army, ultimately making the decision to trade in her sergeant stripes to be a human resource assistant at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.
Hawkins then opted to attend the basic Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor's course and began her career in that field as an assistant to the EEO officer at the War College.
She then transferred to Picatinny, where she has been in the assistant EEO job for about a year.
Although she is relatively new the arsenal, Hawkins said it didn't take long to realize that the most common workforce diversity issue here is not race or sex, but age.
"You have three different generations working here, the baby boomers, generation X and generation Y," Hawkins said.
Obviously age diversity does not hinder Team Picatinny from accomplishing the mission, but it can affect the way the mission is achieved.
Hawkins and her co-workers attempt to educate the Picatinny workforce on the various types of discrimination, how to prevent harassment or discrimination, and how to deal with the issues if they occur.
"Our sole focus is to process complaints with full neutrality," she said. "A lot of the time, the offender doesn't even know that what he or she is saying or doing can be categorized as offensive, or that it does offend someone."
If civilian employees feel a complaint is warranted they can stop by the EEO office on the third floor of Building 93. Initial information provided remains confidential at an informal level. However, once a complaint reaches a formal stage, anonymity is no longer available.
Military personnel have to file complaints through their appropriate Equal Opportunity Leader/Advisor.
Since February is designated Black History Month, Hawkins urges arsenal members to learn more about the contributions that African Americans have made to our nation by visiting the website army.mil/africanamericans.
You can view a video message from Hawkins at http://youtu.be/st54c7PAVP4
Hawkins described Black History month as a way to recognize all the contributions that various groups have made to our country.
"It's not just about African Americans," she explained. "All different races helped fight for equality as well. If it were not for all ethnic groups that stood up and demonstrated their voice as well, we may not be where we are as a nation today."
From the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation until now, our country has been in transition and evolving, Hawkins said. "The Civil Rights movement really expedited that transition," she added.
Although Picatinny Arsenal has various ethnic groups, Hawkins said the arsenal is not as diverse as it should be.
As part of the goal of increasing the applicant pool of women and minorities, a special recruitment team visits area colleges and universities to speak with minority groups, providing information about employment opportunities at Picatinny Arsenal and the federal government.
Each year, Picatinny holds a multicultural celebration where employees can partake in eating various foods and watching performances by various cultural groups. Yet Hawkins said those elements don't reflect the significance of the event.
"It's not about food, or music. It's about culture. It's about becoming educated on a culture you wouldn't normally know about," she said.
The EEO Office will be hosting a "lunch and learn" at the Picatinny Chapel on March 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The theme is "Lessons from the past for a better tomorrow," and will be presented by Lawrence Anthony Howell, Director of Educational Opportunities Program at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
To sign up for the luncheon, call Hawkins at 973-724-6953.