News

Together we are ABLE

Livermore Lab group builds community among Black employees, supports youth in science

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, there are several employee resource groups that aim "to develop, sustain, and enhance a diverse and inclusive workforce through recruitment, mentoring, and networking," according to the Lab's website. Among these groups is the African American Body of Lab Employees (ABLE).

Driven by the motto, "Together we are able," ABLE seeks to provide a platform of communication for its members to share their experiences and express concerns about issues pertaining to the quality of work life at LLNL.

Additionally, the group encourages networking and the sharing of resources among its members as well as providing educational opportunities and other tools to help develop the leadership potential of its members.

The group works toward these initiatives by holding meetings, hosting events and by partnering with its counterparts at neighboring Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Before the pandemic, ABLE was known for hosting several in-person gatherings at the Lab to promote fellowship and knowledge of cultural traditions. (Photo courtesy of LLNL)

"Employee resource groups like ABLE are critical in the workplace, especially one as scientifically and academically entrenched as LLNL," said Dr. AJ Lanier, ABLE's co-chair and organizational development consultant at LLNL.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

"ABLE and other ERGs embrace the various aspects of one's identity and provide (them) with a safe space to be their authentic selves, while providing them with personal tools and professional resources geared towards helping others flourish," Lanier said.

The organization has been active for more than three decades. It began in 1988 when a number of Black employees of LLNL and Sandia came together to discuss the formation of an organization that reflected the views and concerns of its members. The group launched as the Association of Black Laboratory Employees. In 2011, the name was changed to the African American Body of Laboratory Employees. The acronym, ABLE, applied to both variations of the name.

Currently, the group has 90 members and is led by an eight-member executive board, including co-chairs Lanier and Dr. Jeremy Feaster, a research staff scientist and advanced manufactured reactors task lead at LLNL.

"There is an incredible amount of pressure that comes with being selected to work in a highly innovative environment that is touted as the 'smartest 1.1 square mile in America,' Lanier said, explaining the value of groups like ABLE.

There are several employee resource groups at LLNL that aim "to develop, sustain, and enhance a diverse and inclusive workforce." (Photo courtesy of LLNL)

"We show up to work with different aspects of our identity in the workplace. Depending on the environment and the exchange, we sacrifice parts of ourselves in exchange for fitting into the work environment. Marginalized groups often feel as though they don't have a voice and/or they are not/will not be seen. ABLE and other ERGs provide a safe haven where these individuals can be seen, heard, embraced and can collaborate to improve the work environment for their group, as well as partnering with other ERG groups as well," she added.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

In addition to the community and support ABLE provides for Lab employees, one of the group's key initiatives is its annual youth scholarship program.

The program was created to provide outreach to the community and encourage the academic development of budding Black/African American scholars, according to Lanier. It is affiliated with the "My Brother's Keeper" nationwide initiative launched by former President Barack Obama.

The goal of the program is to help facilitate youth with exposure to positive role models and career choices. As of 2021, ABLE has awarded 14 scholarships over the past five years for a total of $9,500. "We are currently on target to double the amount of scholarships awarded over a two-year span, by increasing community donations and organizational funding," Lanier said.

One of ABLE's key initiatives is its annual scholarship program which is affiliated with the nationwide "My Brother's Keeper" initiative. Pictured: scholarship recipients Janae Burks and Arthur Mola. (Photo courtesy of ABLE)

ABLE hosts a number of fundraising events to support its scholarship program each year. This year, they are doing a month-long See's Candies fundraiser and a private virtual wine tasting event later this month with Black-owned winery Longevity Wines in Livermore, which will double as both a scholarship fundraiser and a Black History Month celebration.

ABLE's commitment to local youth extends to their high school outreach programs as well, which include mentoring Livermore High School students, the "Shadow a Scientist" initiative with West High School's Space & Engineering Academy students in Tracy and offering a mentorship network for Black student interns.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging for the group to host community events, the members have pivoted to find unique ways to continue engaging with the community.

"The pandemic has impacted ABLE by limiting the in-person events that can be provided, " Lanier said. "We had aspirations to hold a Symbolic March of Solidarity to honor the legacy and holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With the surge of Omicron, the plan was shifted to hold it in February. Due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic requirements, it is indefinitely on hold, along with other in-person events."

Lanier said that events with their community partners have been affected as well.

"Partnership with Livermore Library for live readings was also impacted and we pivoted to do another virtual event. ABLE was also known for hosting several in-person gatherings at the Lab to promote fellowship and knowledge of cultural traditions; we have been unable to do these in lieu of the pandemic as well," she said.

Last year during Black History Month, members of ABLE partnered with SPARC Theater and the Livermore Library to perform a virtual readers theater of the "March" trilogy graphic novel series written by late civil rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis with co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell.

ABLE launched in 1988 when a group of Black employees of LLNL and Sandia came together to discuss the formation of an organization that reflected the views and concerns of its members. (Photo courtesy of LLNL)

This year, the group is teaming up with the library again and the Encore Players of Livermore for a virtual performance of a series of monologues inspired by past and present abolitionists called "Abolitionist Monologues: When Freedom Speaks" on the last day of the month. Lanier said they are currently still seeking participants for the reading as they hope to increase representation.

Throughout this month, ABLE also has a number of Black History Month events planned for its members, including a Jeopardy game night, an educational luncheon and a speaking engagement featuring Dr. Kimani Toussaint, a professor and senior associate dean in the school of engineering at Brown University.

Some of the Lab's other employee resource groups include, the American Indian Activity Group, Asian Pacific American Council and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Women's Association, among several others. Lanier said that ABLE has been a "partner and ally" to several of the other groups to uplift each others' efforts. "The synergy that is occurring among the ERGs is inspiring and definitive in moments of change," she said.

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Looking for more Livermore stories? The Livermore Vine will be your new source of vital news and information. Sign up to be among the first to get our daily local news headlines sent to your inbox for free.

Cierra Bailey
   
Cierra started her journalism career after college as an editorial intern with the Pleasanton Weekly in 2014. After pursuing opportunities in digital and broadcast media and attending graduate school at Syracuse University, she’s back as the editor of the Vine. Read more >>

Follow PleasantonWeekly.com and the Pleasanton Weekly on Twitter @pleasantonnews, Facebook and on Instagram @pleasantonweekly for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Stay informed on important education news. Sign up for our FREE daily Express newsletter.

Together we are ABLE

Livermore Lab group builds community among Black employees, supports youth in science

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 9:37 pm

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, there are several employee resource groups that aim "to develop, sustain, and enhance a diverse and inclusive workforce through recruitment, mentoring, and networking," according to the Lab's website. Among these groups is the African American Body of Lab Employees (ABLE).

Driven by the motto, "Together we are able," ABLE seeks to provide a platform of communication for its members to share their experiences and express concerns about issues pertaining to the quality of work life at LLNL.

Additionally, the group encourages networking and the sharing of resources among its members as well as providing educational opportunities and other tools to help develop the leadership potential of its members.

The group works toward these initiatives by holding meetings, hosting events and by partnering with its counterparts at neighboring Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Employee resource groups like ABLE are critical in the workplace, especially one as scientifically and academically entrenched as LLNL," said Dr. AJ Lanier, ABLE's co-chair and organizational development consultant at LLNL.

"ABLE and other ERGs embrace the various aspects of one's identity and provide (them) with a safe space to be their authentic selves, while providing them with personal tools and professional resources geared towards helping others flourish," Lanier said.

The organization has been active for more than three decades. It began in 1988 when a number of Black employees of LLNL and Sandia came together to discuss the formation of an organization that reflected the views and concerns of its members. The group launched as the Association of Black Laboratory Employees. In 2011, the name was changed to the African American Body of Laboratory Employees. The acronym, ABLE, applied to both variations of the name.

Currently, the group has 90 members and is led by an eight-member executive board, including co-chairs Lanier and Dr. Jeremy Feaster, a research staff scientist and advanced manufactured reactors task lead at LLNL.

"There is an incredible amount of pressure that comes with being selected to work in a highly innovative environment that is touted as the 'smartest 1.1 square mile in America,' Lanier said, explaining the value of groups like ABLE.

"We show up to work with different aspects of our identity in the workplace. Depending on the environment and the exchange, we sacrifice parts of ourselves in exchange for fitting into the work environment. Marginalized groups often feel as though they don't have a voice and/or they are not/will not be seen. ABLE and other ERGs provide a safe haven where these individuals can be seen, heard, embraced and can collaborate to improve the work environment for their group, as well as partnering with other ERG groups as well," she added.

In addition to the community and support ABLE provides for Lab employees, one of the group's key initiatives is its annual youth scholarship program.

The program was created to provide outreach to the community and encourage the academic development of budding Black/African American scholars, according to Lanier. It is affiliated with the "My Brother's Keeper" nationwide initiative launched by former President Barack Obama.

The goal of the program is to help facilitate youth with exposure to positive role models and career choices. As of 2021, ABLE has awarded 14 scholarships over the past five years for a total of $9,500. "We are currently on target to double the amount of scholarships awarded over a two-year span, by increasing community donations and organizational funding," Lanier said.

ABLE hosts a number of fundraising events to support its scholarship program each year. This year, they are doing a month-long See's Candies fundraiser and a private virtual wine tasting event later this month with Black-owned winery Longevity Wines in Livermore, which will double as both a scholarship fundraiser and a Black History Month celebration.

ABLE's commitment to local youth extends to their high school outreach programs as well, which include mentoring Livermore High School students, the "Shadow a Scientist" initiative with West High School's Space & Engineering Academy students in Tracy and offering a mentorship network for Black student interns.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging for the group to host community events, the members have pivoted to find unique ways to continue engaging with the community.

"The pandemic has impacted ABLE by limiting the in-person events that can be provided, " Lanier said. "We had aspirations to hold a Symbolic March of Solidarity to honor the legacy and holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With the surge of Omicron, the plan was shifted to hold it in February. Due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic requirements, it is indefinitely on hold, along with other in-person events."

Lanier said that events with their community partners have been affected as well.

"Partnership with Livermore Library for live readings was also impacted and we pivoted to do another virtual event. ABLE was also known for hosting several in-person gatherings at the Lab to promote fellowship and knowledge of cultural traditions; we have been unable to do these in lieu of the pandemic as well," she said.

Last year during Black History Month, members of ABLE partnered with SPARC Theater and the Livermore Library to perform a virtual readers theater of the "March" trilogy graphic novel series written by late civil rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis with co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell.

This year, the group is teaming up with the library again and the Encore Players of Livermore for a virtual performance of a series of monologues inspired by past and present abolitionists called "Abolitionist Monologues: When Freedom Speaks" on the last day of the month. Lanier said they are currently still seeking participants for the reading as they hope to increase representation.

Throughout this month, ABLE also has a number of Black History Month events planned for its members, including a Jeopardy game night, an educational luncheon and a speaking engagement featuring Dr. Kimani Toussaint, a professor and senior associate dean in the school of engineering at Brown University.

Some of the Lab's other employee resource groups include, the American Indian Activity Group, Asian Pacific American Council and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Women's Association, among several others. Lanier said that ABLE has been a "partner and ally" to several of the other groups to uplift each others' efforts. "The synergy that is occurring among the ERGs is inspiring and definitive in moments of change," she said.

Comments

Mary
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 6, 2022 at 6:10 pm
Mary , Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2022 at 6:10 pm

What great role models! Keep this good work going! You are inspiring.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.