Gilead's Social Justice Experience Helps Raise Awareness of the Black Journey in the United States
Stories@Gilead - June 16, 2022
Gilead is as passionately committed to championing inclusion and diversity, health equity and social justice issues, as it is to helping improve the lives of people with life-threatening diseases. That commitment was demonstrated soon after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, when the company made an initial donation to a number of social justice organizations and then created its Racial Equity Community Impact Fund, which provides $10 million in grants to support organizations working to tackle racial inequities in Black communities across the country.
Shortly after the launch of the fund, as the company continued looking for ways to further enhance its inclusion and diversity work, a small team of employees began informally gathering to discuss how they could contribute. Following conversations with their co-workers, they saw an opportunity to help their Gilead colleagues gain a better understanding of the experience and history of Black people in the United States.
“We saw the need for education and the need for truth, so one project – the Community Impact Fund – led to another,” says Monique Williams, Associate Director of Public Affairs.
“Everyone was working remotely during this time, and we wanted to provide connectivity and understanding for all employees,” explains Darwin Thompson, Director, Public Affairs, Corporate Giving. "We do a really good job at Gilead of highlighting social justice issues, but the goal was to do a deeper dive and to do more on a larger scale.”
From here the Social Justice Experience was born. It’s a virtual, interactive platform that examines the Black American experience with a timeline of Black history in America dating back to 1619. Along with a plethora of historical facts and figures, it includes videos and quotes from historians and civil rights activists such as Coretta Scott King, Nelson Mandela and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The online experience also examines how systemic racism continues to affect Black Americans negatively — from police brutality and incarceration to HIV.
In addition to educating employees on Black history and racism in the United States, the experience highlights Gilead’s racial equity initiatives, which include numerous partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) and a variety of programs to build a greater pipeline and more opportunities for Black employees.
At the end of the virtual experience, employees have an opportunity to make a personal commitment to social and racial equity in the online Pledge Center, with each commitment appearing as a flower blossoming on the pledge tree for all to see.
“We can share all we do as a company, but the real change is how we react as individuals,” says Monique. “This call to action is important because social justice doesn't happen overnight and it doesn’t happen without owning and taking personal action.”
After more than a year of development, the Social Justice Experience officially launched at the company late last month. Besides the virtual experience, there’s now also a complementary in-person installation on the Gilead’s Foster City campus in honor of Juneteenth.
“If the Social Justice Experience encourages future conversations about these issues, it will have provided the education value and awareness it was designed for,” says Darwin.