Black history month

Celebrating Black History Month with Fresh Hope

Written by: Michelle DeFayette, President

In celebrating Black History Month in the United States, we pause to celebrate a rich cultural history and the Black Americans who have contributed to building this country. It’s important that amid the celebration, we also do not shy away from the stark realities of that history in order to learn, understand, and guide our future. To quote Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”:

… being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

In that spirit, we are encouraged by the Biden-Harris administration’s remarkable platform of initiatives related to racial and social equity. In his first days in office, President Biden has outlined a comprehensive strategy to help undo the legacy of discrimination and the damage caused by centuries of unfair policies and practices. The new administration’s equity agenda includes reforming criminal justice, ending disparities in access to healthcare and education, strengthening fair housing, and restoring federal respect for Tribal sovereignty. Already, Executive Orders have lifted the “Muslim ban” on entry to the United States and reinstated efforts to prevent and combat discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

As a federal contractor, we are especially pleased that on day 1, President Biden reversed the restrictions on diversity and inclusion training that the previous administration had instituted to limit open discussion about current and historical racial injustices in the United States. That training prohibition effectively silenced several key programs on gender equality and social inclusion at U.S. government agencies for which EnCompass provided the training. And because the restrictions also applied to agencies’ implementing partners, it had a chilling effect on EnCompass’ own internal diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by policing the kinds of training we provided to our staff, and even the language we used.

Now that the Biden administration has rescinded the rule, we are once again able to speak freely and openly about race and social equity issues in our workplace and as part of our work with U.S. government clients.
Further, President Biden has instructed every federal agency to complete an equity assessment by August 2021 to determine how that agency has potentially blocked underserved communities from receiving benefits and opportunities. Based on the results of these assessments, the administration will allocate funding to increase investment in underserved communities.

As we continue to focus on our company’s internal diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, we are encouraged and inspired by the commitment of the new administration to champion racial and social equity. The work ahead of us is significant on all levels—for our society, our communities, and our organizations. To have national leadership in the White House vocally supporting this work, instead of ignoring or undermining this effort, makes us hopeful that change is indeed possible.

We are emboldened by President Biden’s simple declaration: “We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day.” At EnCompass, we are ready to dive deeper into our work to make this change a reality. Join us and this administration in doing the hard work of change.

Photo c/o Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

Michelle DeFayette


Michelle DeFayette has over 25 years of experience as a versatile leader in design and implementation of adult learning, performance improvement, cross-cultural exchange, and development programs for government and non-profit organizations. In her role at EnCompass, she assesses and develops growth strategies with new and existing clients, positioning and preparing for larger and more complex opportunities and developing strategies for new business lines. Ms. DeFayette has worked in management and leadership for over 15 years, including as the project director for the $53 million USAID-funded Program/Project Management Training contract and the follow-on $60 million Worldwide Training (WWT) contract. She built and led a highly profitable learning practice area supporting USAID and the State Department and supported business development, staffing, operations, and policy management at multiple organizations. She has substantial experience with design and delivery of customized training curricula on disaster response, acquisition and assistance, leadership and management, media relations, cross-cultural communication, strategic planning, and team-building. Ms. DeFayette holds an MA in International Communication from American University, and she is proficient in Portuguese.

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