April 3, 2020
By TJ Stallbaumer, Walmart Corporate Affairs
There is a commonality, and a common source of pride, in most Walmart stores: If you look around, you’ll see an American flag flying. But in Walmart Store 3455, one day a year, you have the opportunity to see the colors, and the pride, of the flags of more than 30 diverse nations.
The associates at the Richmond, California Walmart have been hosting an annual diversity event for the last five years, and they’ll gladly tell you why: It’s the right thing to do.
Each October, you can find more than 30 flags hanging from the rafters. In October of 2019, the last time the event was held, there were exactly 37 flags on display. Each one represents a country, a culture and a proud associate willing to share something of his or her home.
April marks Celebrate Diversity Month, a time to recognize and celebrate other cultures. While this April may present a difficult time to congregate, we believe the way our stores and associates celebrate their differences is deserving of attention.
The diversity event at the Richmond Walmart began as a way to foster breakroom unity, but has become a model for stores around the country to celebrate diverse associates and their cultures.
Verna Campbell is an assistant manager at the Richmond Walmart. She said the idea for a diversity event came to her during lunch one day.
“I went into the break room, and I saw the division,” Campbell said. “Every different culture was sitting at a different table, and it weighed heavily on my mind – I knew it had to change.”
And change it has.
The event now features hundreds of diverse associates who share something of importance to their culture – whether it’s a special dish, a dance, or a story, it’s intended to create a sense of understanding and unity.
Janet Lilly is the market human resources manager, and one of the organizers behind the event. She said the Richmond store’s makeup is what has made the event so successful.
“This store is unique,” Lilly said. “It has 37 different ethnic groups, working under one roof successfully, and remaining highly engaged.”
Throughout the lunch event, associates from across the store share their culture. The event agenda reads like an abridged version of ‘Around the World in 90 Days,’ as speakers and performers take to the stage.
African dance group Melanin Queen kicks off the festivities. Then an overnight stocker, Puja Bakshi, does a traditional Indian dance. By the end of the event, India, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico are represented through dance.
But it’s not just dancing that occupies the time. There’s food to be had too. Tables covered in cultural dishes, which associates cook themselves, encircle the event. The potluck-style presentation makes it feel like Thanksgiving at your grandmother’s house, were there Jollof rice in place of mashed potatoes.
Heidia Whisenton is a customer service manager, who has been at the store almost five years. She believes the diversity event has a bright future.
“Diversity means everything to our store, and we started off with this small idea,” Whisenton said. “But then it became big, and it’s only going to get bigger.”