Facebook Live Broadcast: Celebrating Black History Month
On February 21, 2017, the FBI hosted a Facebook Live session in celebration of Black History Month. Three African-American FBI employees shared their stories and experiences in the Bureau during the broadcast.
Demelza Campbell: Hello and welcome everyone. Thanks for joining us today for our Facebook Live session. My name is Demelza Campbell and I work in the FBI’s Human Resources Division. Today we have something a little different for you in that we’re discussing diversity at the FBI and recognizing Black History Month. We actually hope that this will be the first in a series of recognition in terms of diversity. We invite you to listen in as we tackle some tough questions and get personal insight into what led these employees to consider joining and excel at the FBI. To be part of this discussion, ask us your questions in the comment box using #FBILive. To find out more about our operational professional positions, visit FBIJobs.gov. And don’t forget to tag a friend below so that they can see us later. Joining me today are Senior Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Kwame Lewis…
Kwame Lewis: Hey everybody.
Campbell: Supervisory Special Agent Eddie Winkley…
Eddie Winkley: How are you?
Campbell: And Supervisory Human Resources Specialist Erika Pugh.
Erika Pugh: Hello!
Campbell: And, guys, thank you so much for joining us today. We truly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules. Can you provide the audience with a brief introduction into your background? Let us know a little bit about you, and we’ll start with Erika.
Pugh: Okay! Alright, so I’m Erika Pugh. I am a mom and a wife, and I have a teaching background – a background in teaching – and I’ve been with the Bureau for almost 7 years. Lewis: Hey Facebook, Kwame. I’m out of the New York field office, former Army, I’ve got a criminal justice degree. I’ve been in the Bureau about 6 years.
Winkley: Alright, Eddie Winkley. I’m a native of Kansas City, Missouri. I went to an HBCU in Missouri – Lincoln University. I have a Master’s from Western University. I’ve been with the FBI for 21 years. Campbell: Thank you. And let’s dive right in, alright? What does it mean to you, as an African-American – and, Kwame, I believe we spoke a little earlier about the fact that you are actually Trinidadian, too, so West Indian background – when you say, “I work for the FBI?” And I’m going to start with Eddie.
Winkley: Oh, I have to tell you it’s a badge of honor to work for the FBI. I truly believe in the mission to uphold the Constitution and to protect the United States’ citizens, so each and every day that I come through those doors, it’s like, truly, a badge of honor for me.
Pugh: Yeah, and on that note, you are part of the FBI brand and having that, it carries such a responsibility and such pride, you know. It’s just a very, it’s a great thing.
Lewis: I have to agree with everyone here, because I will tell you the first day you walk into the office and an SAC stands up and you take that oath – you raise your right hand saying you promise to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic – you realize the sense of responsibility just been bestowed on you, and that’s something that I’ve taken from the first day that I started this job and I continue through it, and I also ensure that everyone who I work with understands the responsibilities we have to our community.
Campbell: You know, Kwame, you mentioned, you know, what it’s like to walk through the door and take that oath. What does it feel like when, you all, when you walk through the door and you see that mission, you know, right in front of you, in terms of to uphold the Constitution and protect the United States? What exactly does that mean to you and, you know…Kwame, let’s keep going with you.
Lewis: Ah, there are days that I find it’s stress. It’s a little stressful because you know you have a responsibility to community. They’re taxpayers – the public, the citizens of the United States, they’re expecting you to come and do your job and protect them. And I know there are times that I do feel that, you know, whether it’s on working counterterrorism or you’re working from the criminal aspect, that, you know, you can’t leave until that job gets done because you want to make sure that the public is safe. And I’m sure that Eddie would agree with that.
Winkley: Yeah, I totally agree. I really love the fact that we have truly highly educated and dedicated people here at the FBI that assist on each and every investigation. No one feels that something is too small or too big for them, so everybody comes together as a group and we work very hard to protect the United States’ citizens.
Pugh: Right. And, you know, as being part of that FBI brand, you are called to a higher standard. So, awesome.
Campbell: So for those of you just joining us, thanks for tuning in. I’m Demelza from the FBI’s Human Resources Division, and today we’re talking diversity at the FBI, and specifically Black History Month, by tackling some questions related to the Bureau. Use the hashtag #FBILive to send us questions and remember to go to FBIJobs.gov for information on our operational and professional positions. Be sure to tag a friend in the comments below so that they can actually watch us a little bit later. You know, how did the FBI’s mission fit within your community, your culture, and more your perceptions of the FBI before you actually decided to join? Eddie, I’ll start with you.
Winkley: Oh wow! You know, I grew up in the inner city of Kansas City, Missouri, so we didn’t have a good perception of the FBI. It was always kind of that “us against them.” But I’ve been a victim of crime, so I saw firsthand the important role that law enforcement plays in our community. That’s what made me want to be a part of the FBI, because I know that vital role and I wanted to serve the community. Lewis: The back of my mind, I’m thinking Elliot Ness chasing out Capone – The Untouchables. I mean that was my perception of the FBI. You know, you have Clarice from “Silence of the Lambs” – that was my vision of the FBI. But then, I would say before 9/11, we didn’t really see the FBI much in my community, alright. We didn’t really know the…I couldn’t really pick up who the FBI agent was. But I’ll say after 9/11, the visibility was definitely there. They were definitely pushed to ensure that there (was) law enforcement in the community – they gave back to the community to make sure that we recovered after 9/11. And that was my vision of the FBI, and that’s what prompted me to join the FBI today.
Pugh: I didn’t really know too much about the FBI either. I mean, I just knew from what I saw on TV – you know, FBI, they always catch the bad guys – so I really did not know much about the Bureau. It’s funny, when I got my offer – not offer letter, but I got a phone call – about getting a job at the FBI, and they said HR specialist, so of course, you know, FBI carries a certain mystery with it and so my mom’s like, “Oh, you’re going to be like a hostage recovery specialist!” And I’m like, “Eh, I don’t know if that’s what it means but, you know, I’ll find out.” But then I get here and, again, that standard that is set is so high and, you know, it was a natural transition for me because my dad held the same standards, to the point where I’m like, “Did my dad write these policies here at the FBI?” But it was just a very natural transition to be here at the FBI.
Campbell: Right. You know, you mention dads – I know that, in my family, my father and my uncles, we have military that goes back to the Vietnam War and the Korean War. I know that I have an uncle, retired Texas Ranger; I have another uncle, retired chief of police. You know, service is a really big thing within my family – it’s pretty huge. It’s so huge, in fact, that at a family gathering when all the uncles and aunts were talking about what their kids are doing – “my kid works here,” “my kid works there” – my dad walked in and said, “You know, my kid works for the FBI,” and it was a complete mic drop moment, where he said it and walked out. So, you know, those perceptions, it’s been really amazing to have growing up and to be able to bring here to the Bureau. You know, talking about the history of the Bureau, protections of the Bureau, the FBI has a very long history. We have over 100 years of operations where we’ve done some really good things – brought justice to Americans. And yet, we’ve also done some things that have had long term repercussions, especially on people from different ethnicities and cultures, and just the ways that they see us. An example might be the tapes, the Dr. Martin Luther King tapes, from way back, or even past discrimination in promotions. What would you say to people who ask you about some of these negative moments in the FBI’s history as it relates to the African-American community? What would you say to that, Kwame?
Lewis: I’m not naïve. We joined the FBI – I’m not naïve. I will tell you, we live in a Google generation. Anything that’s happened in the past, we can find it out. It only takes a few clicks – “FBI” and whatever term you put in and it’ll come up with some story that has to do with the past that involves the FBI. What I will say to the people looking at the FBI, looking at our past I will tell you also look at the things that the FBI has done to progress to the future. From our director down, they’ve continued to take steps to address some of the things that have passed, acknowledge the past, and also show how we’re trying to take the Bureau itself to the next level amongst other organizations. We’re not any different from any Fortune 100, Fortune 500 company who’s thinking to diversify their professional staff, so while we do that we need people like you to come in here and help us develop it from within as opposed to standing outside and not being able to provide that picture.
Pugh: Right. And just to piggyback off of that, I mean, we are more effective within, you know. We are more effective when we are here and we are sitting at those tables and at those meetings, where those big discussions and those big…
Campbell: Have a seat at the table. Pugh: Right, having a seat at the table, you know, where we – our voices and our opinions – are not only being heard but they’re being counted. Lewis: I agree.
Winkley: Yeah, a priority (for) me coming into the FBI; I had heard about some negative things but, you know, I come from the mindset if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem, so I wanted to come inside and make a difference. And so since I have been into the organization throughout my whole career I’ve tried to make a difference and tried to bring in more diversity – people of color – into the organization to make us greater, to make us the best that we could possibly be.
Campbell: For those of you just joining us, thanks for tuning in. I’m Demelza from the FBI’s Human Resources Division and today we’re talking diversity at the FBI, and specifically Black History Month, by tackling some questions related to the Bureau. Use hashtag #FBILive to send us questions and remember to go to FBIJobs.gov for information on our professional and operational positions. Be sure to tag a friend in the comments below so that they can watch later. You know, despite some of the current tensions between law enforcement and our community, we have a significant number of people of color that work at the FBI – I don’t think a lot of people really know that. What is it that drives you, specifically, to be at the Bureau? Kwame?
Lewis: I would tell you it has to be sense of community. Community service sense comes a little bit from, you know, the way I was upraised. My parents of Trinidadian descent, they’ve always said “You have to give back.” Then I joined the military – the military said you also had to give back, whether or not you’re giving back to community, but to give to your country. And now I come to the New York office and I’m saying you’ve got a sense to give back to your community – you’re born and raised here, this community took you to a level where you’re at right now. You need to give back. But as volunteer for Muslim Youth Day, which I do several times, you know, volunteer to the kids, talking to the schools, I definitely think the sense of community is what drives me many a-times.
Pugh: And we also, at the Bureau, we have a mentoring program and that’s something that we are able to take part of – that’s something that I kind of found out when I joined and I’m like “Oh yay,” because, you know, I’m a former teacher so I get to be back in those classrooms with the kids and it’s small things that kind of make a difference, where we might color with them, we might read a book with them. They’re just different things like that, just to show, like, we are the FBI, we’re here for you, and something else that, you know, being in a human resources position, we get to take care of these guys, like, we want to make sure that, you know, they’re taking care of us and they are taking care of America. We get to take care of them, make sure their pay is correct, make sure their transfers happen on time, and that’s a responsibility that we carry.
Winkley: Demelza, I have to tell you, by far it’s the mission. That’s what really drives me each and every day – that I know that people can play in the parks, they can walk the streets and feel safe. That is what drives me – making sure this country is safe, that we can disrupt terrorist cells, we can help victims of criminal acts. Those are the things that drive me. Campbell: In terms of, you know, our community, what is it that we can do better? What is it that the FBI can do better?
Winkley: I think diversity. I think diversity is something that we could always do better. We are striving to be a better organization but there’s so much more that we can do. I would love to get more diversity in so we get different perceptions and different perspectives, and that we can grow as an organization, having people come in with different ideas.
Pugh: Right. And that is…diversity is a huge topic in the FBI and that’s something that our director strives for. The director of HR and HR as a whole, we’re all striving to bring in a more diverse group of people. So that’s definitely something that we know is an issue but we are definitely working on that.
Campbell: Kwame, did you want to add…
Lewis: I have to say, I mean, I concur with Eddie and Erika in what they’re saying here, but I will say that it has to be communications. I think a lot of attention is when you look on TV and see some of the issues going on between law enforcement and the local community – it has to do with a lack of communication. Whether it’s communication understanding what’s coming from my perspective, communication of what my mission is, or communication on a perspective where we’re integrated, we’re working together as a community to keep our community safe. And I do think that is where you see a lot of the tension on TV – it’s boiling over to an extent where individuals just feel like, you know, “I have nowhere to express it,” and then, you know, you still have the law enforcement saying “You may express it, but I have to also control it,” so that’s an issue at times.
Campbell: Well, you know, you mention communication. I just want to add to that, you know; it’s communication within our community but it’s also communicating with our coworkers…
Campbell: Really making sure that we’re talking to the people that we work with. They are, in many ways, our second family – we spend 8 hours, 10 hours, 12 hours sometimes with our coworkers, and so having some of these deep, really well thought out, professional, of course, conversations really adds to the narrative and allows people to, you know…I think it really enables people to really see different perspectives.
Campbell: Let’s talk about diversity real quick. Diversity is – and I say diversity like this…diversity is often used to refer to gaining access. However, we don’t often hear about it being about somebody being welcomed, you know, or maybe belonging once they have that access. Has there ever been a moment when you felt like you didn’t belong at the Bureau? Erika, let’s start with you.
Pugh: I’d say that I’ve maybe felt that way maybe once, but in that I had to decide that I wasn’t going to give that person that power to make me feel that way. Because that’s really what it is, you know; you’re allowing someone to make you feel insecure about yourself and they don’t deserve that power. So I just kind of took that away from them and, you know, I have the power to say where I should be and where I belong.
Campbell: Right, and to add, you know, you did get hired here, you know…
Pugh: I did, right.
Campbell: …which unless something egregious is taking place…
Pugh: Right. Campbell: …the FBI is saying that you belong here…
Campbell: …so that’s a really good point. Eddie?
Winkley: You know, I’ve been very fortunate, Demelza. Coming from a special agent point of view, it’s very important – it’s life and death. We have to depend on each other, each and every day, so I’ve never really felt excluded. You know, I’ve come on squads and I’ve been welcome with a training agent. My peers have taken me in to show me different investigative techniques. I’ve also served on the SWAT team and that’s a very team concept. So I’ve been very fortunate thus far that I’ve always felt included.
Lewis: You know, that’s a tough question. And I’ll say it like this: I’ve never ever felt that I didn’t belong. But there are definitely times where I felt like I didn’t fit in. There are many a-times you’re going to a staff meeting or you’re going to a meeting of your peers and you look around the room and there’s no one else that looks like me in that meeting, and sometimes that is tough. As you continue to go up the ranks it does thin out even further. Now you look at (an) executive meeting, you look around the room and you don’t have that representation – it looks like you, and that is a strong…
Campbell: Makes a difference.
Lewis: It definitely makes a difference, alright. It’s whether you’re looking for somebody to aspire to be, alright. Somebody you can take some time out so you can speak to them and just confide in them, you know. And I’m not saying that the current workforce we have…I don’t feel that I can speak to these individuals, but you always want to be able to have someone you can lean on and speak to. And I will tell you the diversity sometimes is a struggle but I will never, ever say I don’t belong.
Campbell: Thank you. You know, we’d like to take a few questions from the audience. Nancy asks, “Do you feel that there is enough black representation at the FBI?” I’m going to hold that out for my panel members.
Lewis: Well that goes along exactly with what I was saying a second ago, alright. And I’m sure Eddie and Erika (can) build on that as well, is that, you know, as you continue to go up…that representation…you might, the lower ranks and the workforce, you may see individuals right there, but as you go further up, you want to continue to have people to aspire to and individuals that will represent you at the top.
Campbell: Thank you. And, you know, for another thing, it’s just, I wanted to maybe dig in a little bit. Eddie had talked about being welcomed into squads and kind of the process for that. You know, Kwame, for you, you work on the professional side in terms of intel analyst – you know, what was it like for you in terms of how welcome did you feel?
Lewis: Well…New York is my second office, my first office was Albany. I will tell you coming in you automatically feel like a family in the FBI. That is something whether it’s from the beginning of your career or coming towards the tail end of your career. I will tell you that the FBI treats you like family and you’ll always be remembered regardless if you’re professional staff or whether you’re an agent.
Campbell: Which that actually runs us into another question from the audience: Otis asks, “What is it like to have a family life while being an FBI agent?” And so I’m going to throw that right to Eddie.
Winkley: It’s about that work/life balance. The FBI is very, very family oriented. But, you know, there are some instances where you have some cases that…it requires a lot of time, and you have to get that understanding with your spouse ahead of time. But, in most cases, going into the FBI, your spouse is…you know, you need to consult with them just to make sure you all are singing off the same sheet of music, because there will be some times you have to work late nights.
Campbell: So, we’ll close out with one more question for our panel today. You know, what does the FBI do to honor or celebrate Black History Month? Erika, I think, wants to jump in on this one.
Pugh: Well I think that the FBI not only celebrates Black History Month but we really are celebrated all year round, because the FBI does a really good job in celebrating all cultures all year round with different events, with different speakers. So I would say all year round; I mean, they celebrate us.
Pugh: It’s not just, not just…
Campbell: Not just February.
Pugh: Yay, there you guys go! It’s February!
Lewis: I agree, I agree.
Pugh: So, yeah. Lewis: I will say the director gives us a lot of…all the divisions, a lot of autonomy, how do they want to celebrate it. But I will say from the speakers series that we do here at the FBI Headquarters all the way down to what we see in the divisions – I know in my division we did get together, we had some speakers at our level, we had food… Campbell: Mmm, food.
Lewis: Everybody ate together…
Lewis: …you know, we had some discussions, so it worked well. I think also the planning of it, also, brought a little bit of energy to the month itself.
Winkley: Yeah, and we have a diverse and inclusion section that monitors all of our activities – each field office, which we have 56. Each one has a diversity and inclusion coordinator, so they make sure that we’re celebrating people of color within the Bureau.
Campbell: And so, you know, with this said, I really want to say thank you so much to our panel and to our viewers. That does it for our broadcast today, everyone. Thank you for joining us. Make sure you check FBIJobs.gov for updates on our professional staff positions, special agent positions, you know, and absolutely make sure to come and check us out next time. Really appreciate it. Thank you so much!
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