In celebration of Black History Month, the AICP DE&I Committee would like to spotlight our Vice-Chair: Constance Jackson, Senior Compliance Analyst, Allianz Corporate and Specialty NA (AGCS) Legal and Compliance Division.
Join us in learning more about various people and events that make up an important part of our North American history and culture.
Tell us about yourself:
This is my 9th year with Allianz Corporate and Specialty NA(AGCS) and have been a member of AICP from the inception.
I have a considerable number of years of experience within the insurance industry holding various roles. From underwriter at Allstate to managerial positions at CNA and ISO. I have lived in 10 different states and regions throughout the US.
A sorority girl, a cheerleader, and I’ve even worked in a civilian role at Fort Leonard Wood Army Hospital with the American Red Cross before entering into the Insurance industry.
What is something most people might not know about you?
Most people may be surprised to know that I am extremely funny and talented. I’ve been known to sing and dance (on an amateur basis), and my moniker is “CoJack”- not like Telly Savalas, but more like the event planner I am in my spare time. I also have a reputation for throwing over the top soirees.
What does Black History month mean to you?
It is our time!
One month in the year devoted to showcasing the talents, inventions, and achievements of an oppressed group of people. It is a time for reflection and awareness of civil rights leaders and organizers (of all races) who gave their lives in pursuit of racial equality. It’s an opportunity to look back on our past and honor our ancestors. We must rejoice and teach the next generation of African heritage and history makers, as much of African American history was excluded from the US history books. It’s also a time to educate anyone and everyone, who dares to understand, the value of the contributions African Americans have devoted to the world. We must remember the past otherwise we are doomed to repeat it!
Who is a Black figure you admire and why?
Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance Agent, and a Civil Rights Activist. Her contributions to the US and France were unique and unmeasurable. Yes, Ms. Baker is one of the many notable Black figures that I have great admiration for.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to honor, and with much pride, Mrs. Lucille Houston-Hughes, aka “Celle” or “Big Momma” born in 1913.
In around 1945, this phenomenal woman migrated from a small southern town called Prattville, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois with only $20 dollars in her purse and an extremely limited education (signing her name with an X).
She was the daughter of a sharecropper father and a laundress mother, and the eldest daughter of 9 kids, who lived on borrowed land. She had witnessed the murder of her first husband and had fled with her child, whom she was forced to leave behind with her parents.
She found her way to the Chicago Steel Mills located on the south east side. Unable to read the employment application and sign her name, she asked a young white applicant to help her fill out her forms. “I forgot my eyeglasses honey and can’t see the questions, will you help?” she had asked. The young lady agreed and both were hired that day.
Celle carried her Southern values of hospitality and her entrepreneurial spirit with her during the difficult times in American history. Not only did she work the Steel Mills, she was an excellent cook and baker, selling food from her tiny apartment, and running a washing service at night. She met her new husband and purchased a huge Greystone multi-flat on the 44th block of University in the Bronzeville section of Chicago.
Lucille began to work out of the house, while her husband maintained the steel mill. Family and friends from the South began to migrate to Chicago in masses, landing at what had now become Celle’s boarding house. Tenants would work in the home for room and board until they were able to secure employment and a residence.
With tasty food and lodging, Celle’s home was listed in the “the Negro Motorist Green Book” a directory of ‘safe’ places (during the Jim Crow laws) for African Americans to rest while traveling north to Chicago or other final destinations like Canada via Michigan. Legend also has it that Martin King Jr. and other civil rights leaders consumed hot meals at the home of Celle. If you were hungry you were fed.
Celle never feared the unknown. She gathered strength from her strong religious beliefs and figured out how to register her home with the state of Illinois to become one of the first certified private home health care facilities.
I remember a gentleman by the name of Mr. Warren, my first close encounter with a blue-eyed, blonde person, who had lost most of his eyesight. Celle began to care for Mr. Warren like family in her home and many other patients would follow. The Warren family was so grateful for Celle’s devotion to the care of Mr. Warren, she was willed a touch of wealth after his passing.
Celle thrived over the years and was able to purchase her parents rental land, where they had once been sharecroppers back in Prattville, AL. Upon retiring, Celle bought more properties and rented them out to people of color. This was an uneducated, Southern woman of menial means, who had endured tragedy at a young age; nonetheless, at the time of her death in 1996, and at the age of 83, her net worth was estimated at a cool million!
She taught her family to believe in themselves, to be good and kind, and to call on your creator in times of trouble. Lucille Hughes was, in fact, my grandmother! She would often say hold your shoulders back, keep your head to the sky and dream big. I will never forget this strong, sophisticated Black woman who never let inequality stop her, and it is with much love and honor that I celebrate her this day, my ‘Big Momma Hughes’.
What made you want to get involved with the DE&I Committee and what do you hope to achieve?
I am a big ‘dreamer’ and remain very hopeful that one day there won’t be a need for this type of initiative. I am so impressed that AICP’s Board and Members for taking steps to eradicate racism surrounding employment, particularly after George Floyd’s murder.
I believe AICP is committed to making a difference and so should we all!
I’ve worked for many Insurance companies and can assure you that most have talked about the need for racial equality, but did not feel the need to take serious action to implement such plans.
I am very proud to have been selected as the Vice Chair of AICPs DE&I committee. It’s not just talk, our goal is truly to take steps to ensure diversity, employment equality and inclusion; in suggesting ways all affiliates can implement a plan surrounding this effort nationwide.