Hundreds of Nationwide employees gathered Friday outside Nationwide Arena and thousands more joined them online to mourn the death of George Floyd and commit to collectively and individually taking action to fight for racial equality.
“As national protests have galvanized people across the country and beyond, the goal of this rally was to remember, to take action and to chart a path forward that will eliminate racism and discrimination in our country forever,” said Gale King, Nationwide’s chief administrative officer.
Most in the crowd wore black in show of solidarity. Face masks were required for all in the crowd.
“It really makes me feel good to see the Nationwide family getting together,” said Vinita Clements, who works in human resources at Nationwide. “Here we have the freedom to talk with one another and ask the tough questions.”
The “Standing in Unity, Moving Forward Together” event was organized by the company’s African American employee organizations.
Prior to a moment of silence to remember the life of George Floyd, the names of other black lives lost to social injustice were read out loud. Several employees took the podium to tell their coworkers what they commit to doing to stop racism.
“I commit to speaking up, even if things are uncomfortable,” said Tim Kasper, who leads the PRIDE associate resource group at Nationwide. “Because an ally is not silent. I commit to standing behind, beside and in front of my black friends, neighbors and coworkers when necessary.”
Nationwide’s leadership encouraged the crowd to see this as an important moment in history, led by a generation that will change the world.
“We are standing here because a special part of our community is hurting, in particular the Black community,” said Kirt Walker, Nationwide’s chief executive officer. “Actions speak louder than words and at Nationwide we want to be known for what we do.”
Walker announced Nationwide is committing an additional $1 million to social justice organizations – including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Bail Project and the Equal Justice Initiative.
The company has also committed to preparing additional education and activism resources for employees, including implicit bias training, the creation of racial discussion forums and social justice volunteerism opportunities.
“Since the death of George Floyd we were appalled, we were angry, we were hurt, but for Black America the pain was deeper,” said King. “Today is about healing and it requires not comforting words but sustained action.”
Former Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman told the crowd that the cure for racism lies within.
“It’s what we do from this point forward in America,” he said. “We need to turn our anger into action, protest into policy and pain into power to the people.”
John Davis, a member of the African American men’s employee group at Nationwide, says it means the world to him that the company provides support and inspiration not just from an ethics perspective but also from a financial perspective. But he said difficult work lies ahead. “What’s going to move the needle is us as people pushing these ideas forward to squelch the impact of racism on our generations to come,” he added.