News | February 23, 2023
In conjunction with Black History Month, Las Vegas Sands invited Tracey A. Edwards, Long Island regional director for the NAACP, to speak with Team Members as part of the company’s ongoing In Focus DEI Conversation Series.
In her role with the NAACP, Edwards supports 10 branches in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties on issues such as education, voting rights and civic engagement, public safety, criminal justice, economic empowerment, health and environmental justice. She brings a wide body of experience spanning both the public and private sectors to this role. Edwards also is commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission and had a successful 37-year career with Verizon Communications, retiring as a regional president. Her time at Verizon included oversight of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for the company. Edwards also is helping advise Sands on workforce development issues for the company’s upcoming New York State gaming application.
During the In Focus DEI Conversation Series session, Edwards shared perspectives on a variety of topics including police violence, how Black allies can contribute to progress on DEI issues, the NAACP’s focus areas and insights on truly achieving a just and equitable society.
She began by sharing her belief in the continued importance of Black History Month. “We must acknowledge that Black history is American history, and that Black History Month provides a dedicated time to highlight the many positive contributions Black individuals and communities have made to America,” Edwards said. “The challenge is that for some corporations and organizations, supporting Black History Month is the only step they’ve taken to celebrate or support diversity. We must move to a place where we look at Black history and contributions more concretely and broadly. This is something that should happen year-round, not just in February.”
Edwards also addressed the continuing problem of law enforcement violence against Black individuals. As the daughter of a police officer, Edwards sees this issue from multiple perspectives. “We need people to understand they don’t have to choose between supporting police and supporting the community. You can be pro-police, like me, and be against police misconduct, like me.”
While she noted that the murders of George Floyd and Tyre Nichols, among others, have driven more people to join coalitions combatting police violence, she cautioned that there is much more work to do. “We need to move beyond just being dismayed. We need leaders who will enact legislation and laws that will allow police officers to do their jobs effectively, and go home to their families at night, while also ensuring communities of color can safely engage with law enforcement and go home to their families.”
The need for strong and protective legislation to achieve a more just, equitable and inclusive society was a theme in Edwards’ remarks. “We need elected leaders who will push through and defend laws that protect marginalized groups. The table must be set with fundamental legislation and compliance – we are not ready in America to get rid of laws that protect communities of color.”
She also stressed that there is a role for everyone to play. “We have to be able to have courageous conversations at the personal level and give each other a measure of grace. We must learn to be good listeners, not just good talkers.”
Edwards noted the shift in NAACP’s focus from the historical areas of voting rights and reforming criminal justice to increasing economic empowerment among Black communities, pursuing environmental justice and ensuring education includes Black history. New goals require new tools, she said. “You need to have historical perspective, but we now need different strategies. Marching is good, but we also need people with a seat at the table to make progress.”
Despite the work that remains, Edwards is hopeful for the future, citing her grandchildren as the inspiration for advancing change. “I believe that young people are able to get this work done much more expeditiously,” she said. “But it’s up to each of us to use the platform we have to pursue these courageous conversations to give them the opportunity to succeed. It is going to take all of us to make real progress, and we owe it to the next generation to do this important work.”
The In Focus DEI Conversation Series for Sands Team Members is one of the company’s core DEI initiatives, which aim to build a collaborative and integrated environment in the workplace and at the company’s resorts, remove systemic barriers and create opportunities for underrepresented groups. For more information on DEI at Sands, read the company’s latest ESG Report here: https://www.sands.com/resources/reports/.