Empathy and Ethics Take Center Stage at Kimberly-Clark Black History Month Celebration

Feb 27, 2020 1:00 PM ET

Anthony Ray Hinton was wrongly convicted of the 1985 murders of two fast food restaurant managers in Birmingham, Alabama, sentenced to death, and held on death row for 30 years. The advocate and author was invited to address Kimberly-Clark employees across the US in a broadcast hosted by the company’s African Ancestry Employee Network (AAEN).

Hinton candidly shared stories recorded in his memoir, “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row.” In 2015, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction on appeal and the state dropped all charges against him. He touched on themes of empathy, ethics and perseverance.

Hinton shared the pain of being told that, because of his race, he should accept his fate, “But I could never stand up and say I did something when I didn’t.” His powerful story challenged attendees to acknowledge that while bias and racism still exist, we can care for each other and our communities when we stand up for others.

“Our vision is a workplace, a world, where there are no barriers. We also know that it’s not a reality,” said Lauren Cartwright, AAEN Knoxville committee leader. “When we can put ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand their daily experiences, we become a stronger team and can lift up voices that might not be heard otherwise.”

Kimberly-Clark’s employee resource groups (also known as ERGs) serve as a connection point for life experiences, backgrounds and shared interests. Each group operates with a strategic purpose. AAEN’s charter is to champion inclusion and diversity. 

“One of the goals of this year’s Black History Month programming was to empower the employee voice,” said Traneil Clark Morgan, chair of AAEN Roswell. “The impassioned response in the room to Mr. Hinton’s testimony certainly indicated that participants left feeling not only empowered, but encouraged to use their voices to ignite change.

Hinton closed his presentation with a challenge to the audience to place themselves in the shoes of someone wrongly accused, overlooked or suffering because of disbelief.

“What would you do if you spent every day in a cell smaller than your bathroom, and finally one day, you were set free? Who would you be? Nobody sees the scars inside, but I am convinced that love conquers all. Those who are taught to hate, you can teach to love.”