Black History Month Spotlight: Jonathan Stone

DLA Land and Maritime African American Employment Program

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The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime recognizes Black History Month in February. This year’s national theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identification, Diversity. The African American Employment Program highlights employees throughout the month in honor of their enduring contributions to the agency’s global mission of logistics support to America’s warfighters.

What is your position title, role and responsibilities? I’m a contracting officer within the Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate. In this role I serve as a basic contract administrator on the Global Tires Program team where I manage 46 Long Term Contracts and multiple Indefinite Delivery Purchase Order contracts. My duties include communicating and managing relationships with LTC contractors to ensure the needs of our customers are met. While in this position I’ve been responsible for taking the lead in actions related to acquisition planning, solicitation, evaluation, contract award, contract administration and contract management functions for multiple indefinite delivery contracts. Additionally, I’m a member of Toastmasters, #3500 A Group of Individuals Seeking Self Improvement and former president of the Leadership Development Association.

How long have you worked with DLA Land & Maritime? I’ve worked here for a little over six years.

This year’s theme for Black History Month is The Black Family: Representation, Identification, Diversity. How do you see the role of the black family in the community? The family is the nucleus of the community. In communities that place high value on healthy family structures, you typically will find that community to be healthy, strong and prosperous.  The role of the family in the community is to provide stability, consistency, and serve as a guide for children growing up in that community. The family instills values, education and socialization for their children.

In your view, how has the role of the black family evolved over the years? The role of the black family remains a vehicle for instilling value, education and socialization for their children.  The role has not evolved but the composition of the family and responsibilities for family members has evolved. In 1965 24% of black babies were born out of wedlock compared to 9% for all American babies. However, in 2018 that number increased to 68% for black babies and 40% for all American babies. This means that children are growing up between two households and relying on extended family members to take on the responsibilities that parents have traditionally held.

What do you feel impacts the sustainability of black families? Proverbs 24:3-4 explains the way to have a sustainable household. It states, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Knowledge, understanding and wisdom impact the sustainability of black families. People obtain knowledge, or information, through pre-marital/marital counseling or other means to prepare to begin their family. Next, they need understanding to be able to comprehend the information they’ve acquired. Lastly, they need wisdom to apply the knowledge in their lives. 

How would you describe the black family in one word? Necessary

How do you balance your career and family? As a husband and father of three young children the two things that enable me to balance my career and family are time management and open communication. I rely on four calendars for events relating to family, work, community and business. This allows me to set priorities and schedule time for the things I need to do. Additionally, having open communication with my manager allows us to come together to set expectations for my workload. We are both looking at the same goal and are on one accord with how we will achieve it. 

How do you continue to encourage your family to stay strong during this pandemic? I’m fortunate to have three children under the age of seven during this pandemic. Because they are close in age, they play well together and can sit in on each other’s virtual classes on school days. My wife and I are also blessed to both work for the Department of Defense and telework five days per week. I encourage my family to stay strong by finding fun activities for us to do together as a family, sticking to routines, and reminding them that this is a temporary situation that we will soon overcome.

Does society’s representation of the black family differ from your own personal experiences? If so, how? Yes. In a prior answer I stated that 68% of black children were born out of wedlock, however this was not the case for me or my wife.  We both come from two parent homes and both sets of our grandparents are/were married. We’ve seen the benefits of stability and consistency throughout generations within our family and we can lean on the experiences of those who came before us when we need to.

Tell us a moment in black history which has influenced or shaped your career. Reading books written by Reginald F. Lewis, the first African American to have a billion-dollar business, and Earl Graves, founder of Black Enterprise magazine, inspired me to go after higher paying employment by furthering my education in the form of an MBA from The Ohio State University.  I drew on these African American men’s experiences in corporate America and entrepreneurship to develop the vision I have for my life and my career. 

In your opinion, what do you see as the greatest challenge to the African American federal workforce and can you suggest any recommendations to overcome these challenges? In my opinion the greatest challenge to the African American federal workforce is in retention and opportunities for leadership positions. A strong and consistent mentoring program will help with retaining a diverse workforce. All employees should have the tools to compete for leadership opportunities. Retaining a diverse workforce should also include providing training and developmental opportunities for personal and professional development. Additionally, having a culture of respect, inclusion and trust is a must-have for retention.

What can be done to ensure that our society continues to get stronger in the struggle to address racial inequality? America has come a long way from its founding in addressing racial inequality, however, there is still work needed to address the issue. We need to have conversations on the topic to educate people about how historical instances of racial inequality have led to the current situation and continue that dialogue to discuss changes. Once agreement has been made on the changes then we can draft legislation to enact them. Racial inequality must be called out when it happens, and people need to be held accountable for their actions. 

What do you see as the future of African Americans in the federal government? For decades federal government jobs served as a path to the middle class and a way to provide a comfortable life for African American families. There is an abundance of opportunities across the world for federal government employees. I see these aspects of federal employment remaining true and believe the future is bright for African Americans in the federal government. 

Black History Month was created to give not only respect, but a voice to the community. Considering what is going on in this country, what does Black History Month presently mean to you? Black History Month is a time to highlight the achievements that Black Americans have contributed to the benefit of America. When I look at the history of Africans in America from the 1600s all the way up to 2021, I see challenges that we’ve overcome and others that are still a work in progress. A few of those challenges include but are not limited to slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, bias in the judicial system and racism. However, I also see people who’ve displayed the characteristics of resilience, perseverance, determination and victory. This is a time to celebrate the past successes of Black Americans and also a time to encourage the current and future generations who are making positive impacts on our country.