Black/African Affinity Group finds strength  

At King County, having a community to connect with is crucial, even more so in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the County’s Employee Resource Groups, or Affinity Groups, are helping employees support one another.

The Black/African Affinity Group centers on providing employees with a community platform. Historically, the focal point of African American life has centered around community such as family, churches, neighborhoods, and organizations, providing a way to connect, share resources, and share knowledge.

Pictured: Danita Carter

“Our goal in our Black/African Affinity Group is to bring collective souls together for one purpose… to share our gifts and talents in a way that they benefit our community,” said Danita Carter, Records and Licensing Services (RALS) Finance Manager and Co-Chair of the Black/African Affinity Group.

“We have so much to offer, not only to each other, but also others that are seeking guidance, direction, and resources. During this time of uncertainty, we stand together; sharing ourselves, and bringing value by serving others.”

The Affinity Group has used its collective knowledge and networks to help people in the community. For example, a Black/African community member recently reached out to the Affinity Group seeking information about current COVID-19 practices and policies dealing with renters, landlords, and evictions of tenants. Multiple members of the group rose up in support and provided resources and information to help their fellow community member.

Pictured: Jabari Hampton

“It is essential that we do this work as one of many tools that disrupts and transforms oppressive structures,” said Jabari Hampton, Liaison for Capital Projects in Metro’s Vehicle Maintenance Division, and Communications and Membership Chair for the Affinity Group.

“As our community continues on its restorative journey, we will continue to create space for connection, healing, and development.”

Natasha Sable, a Functional Analyst I with Access in Metro’s Mobility Division and an Administrator with the Black/African Affinity Group Leadership Council, decided to put her creativity to use to give back to the community and help with COVID-19 response efforts. She searched the internet for an effective cloth mask design and created the first batch of 16 masks using fabric from her own personal supply.

Pictured: Natasha Sable and masks she donated to Metro’s Transportation for Pandemic Response team.

Natasha donated the first batch of masks that she created to Metro’s Transportation for Pandemic Response (TPR) training team. TPR is a collaboration between various divisions that was launched in early April and transports individuals that have tested positive or presumed positive for COVID-19 to various approved sites such as quarantine isolation sites, shelters, hospitals, and more.

“I wanted to provide peace of mind to whomever ended up with the mask donations, whether it be the drivers or passengers, even if it was just to help minimize any personal stress,” Natasha said.

For Adé Franklin, Division Director of Transport Facilities, Metro Transit Department, and Co-Chair of the Black/African Affinity Group, being a member of the affinity group is important on multiple levels.

Pictured: Adé Franklin, who was also a guest speaker at the 2018 Lift Every Youth Graduation.

“When I think about what being a part of the Black and African Affinity Group means to me, I remember a conversation amongst our Leadership Council where the following quote from Rabbi Hillel was shared: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?’,” Adé said.

“The first question reminds us to honor ourselves through self-care. The second reminds us that we must take care of one another. And the last reminds us to have a sense of purpose in our service. At least, in reflecting on what BAAG means to me – this is what comes to mind.”

If you are interested in joining the Black/African Affinity Group, email Jabari Hampton, Communications and Membership Chair. For information about the Affinity Groups, including the policy, visit the Affinity Groups webpage, download this flyer, or watch this video.

Miesha Vaughn and Ebony Frazier contributed to this article. Miesha is a Tort Claims Investigator in the Risk Management Division, and her role within the Affinity Group is Community Health and Outreach Officer. Ebony is a Project/Program Manager in the Community Corrections Division, and her role within the Affinity Group is Strategic Advisor.