Operational Excellence
February 20, 2024

Hearing from Xcel Energy employees this Black History Month

The company celebrates the contributions and achievements of African Americans

Xcel Energy is made stronger by the contributions of employees from all backgrounds and experiences. In February, we join other organizations in the U.S. and internationally in celebrating the unique experience of Black employees across the eight states we serve. This year’s theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the key influence African Americans have had in the creative fields, from visual and performing arts to culinary forms of expression. 

To mark this year’s celebration, our BLAX business resource group — the company’s internal group focused on elevating, connecting and advancing Black and African American employees — hosted a special panel event featuring Michael B. Hancock, former mayor of Denver; Rich Melzer, CEO of Youthlink MN; and Bernice Lamkin, AVP Human Resources. The event was moderated by Robert Kenney, president, Xcel Energy – Colorado. 

“This event highlights the importance of storytelling, candor and vulnerability to bring people together and our organization’s shared commitment to equity and inclusion,” said Lamkin. “I was honored to share my story and hope we’ve inspired others to continue to share theirs.” 

Guest speaker Michael B. Hancock, former mayor of Denver; attendee Alicia Harvey, chair of Xcel Energy's BLAX business resource group; and Robert Kenney, president, Xcel Energy – Colorado.

“Recognizing moments like Black History Month is important because it is an outward manifestation of our values,” said Kenney. “Put another way, it shows all of our co-workers that we value each other’s unique contributions and characteristics.” 

Kenney described how his career led him to his leadership of our Colorado operations, starting with law school, legal firms, the State of Missouri’s Attorney General’s office and eventually the Missouri Public Service Commission. Kenney led the Mound City Bar Association, the oldest Black bar association west of the Mississippi, and later served on the Missouri Bar Board of Governors. He came to Xcel Energy after transitioning into the energy field as vice president of Regulatory Affairs for Pacific Gas and Electric, based in Oakland, California, and one of the largest utility companies in the U.S. 

Tony Williams, a senior technology architect, took a different path to the company and works with our Technology Services department in Minnesota. Williams pointed out that moments like Black History Month offer a time to focus on a variety of important topics, such as recognition of employee contributions, education and awareness, inclusivity and diversity and, looking ahead, inspiration for future work. Investing time to honor what these employees bring to the table both celebrates what’s been done and looks at efforts needed in the future. 

“The goal is to create an environment where everyone feels valued and can contribute their best work,” said Williams. “This not only benefits the individuals but also the success of Xcel Energy. It’s a journey that requires continuous effort and commitment at all levels of the organization.” 

“It is important, not just in February, for us to remember we all have made contributions to this country,” said Alicia Harvey, a transmission compliance coordinator in Integrated Systems Planning and recently appointed chair of our BLAX business resource group. “That is why I am glad Xcel Energy has made space for us to highlight the great works of African Americans to this country and the world.” 

 From left to right: Jarai Larson, Karen Martin and Scott Agnew.
More from Xcel Energy Employees on the importance of Black History Month:
“This month is an important opportunity to acknowledge that we exist and that our history is a part of American history. Even when the history books try to erase us.” -Tim Randle, marketing coordinator.
"Celebrating Black History Month calls us to learn about the past, understand the present and work towards a more equitable future." -Jarai Larson, Career Launch analyst.
"Black History Month means remembering what our ancestors have built for this country and appreciating the things we have today because of their struggles and achievements." -Karen Martin, IT Solution lead.
"Black History Month is celebrating and honoring the legacy Black leaders have laid for future generations to follow. It is also a daily reminder that Black history cannot be contained to a single month but should be celebrated year-round." -Scott Agnew, recruiter.