Posted at 12:41 PM
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda
Guest blog post by Dr. Sesha Joi Moon, Human Capital Strategist and Ideation Program Manager, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last year, in a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and took a historic step in the march towards equality by declaring that same sex couples had the right to marry and simply put – love won. Today, it is even more important to stand in love as we grapple with the recent attacks on members and supporters of the LGBTQ community at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, FL.
My name is Dr. Sesha Joi Moon and I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. I attended private schools during most of my upbringing and graduated from Saint Gertrude High School, an independent Catholic college preparatory academy, in 2001. I knew that I identified with the LGBTQ community at a young age and was fortunate enough to have not struggled with the juxtaposition of my sexual orientation and religious identity. The coming out process was made even easier for me due to a cast of loving family and friends who accepted and supported me enough to not force me into the closet.
I stayed in my hometown to earn my Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies in 2005 and Master of Science in Criminal Justice in 2008 from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). During my time at VCU, I joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which is one of the oldest Black Greek-letter organizations that strives to promote academic excellence and provide assistance to those in need through scholarship, sisterhood, and service. I went on to earn my Ph.D. in Public Administration and Policy from Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, VA in 2013, during which time I met my partner.
I relocated with my partner to the Washington, DC area in 2010 to join the Department of Commerce as a Special Assistant and Management and Program Analyst within the immediate office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration with the Office of the Secretary. During this time, I completed my dissertation research, which examined the relationship between policy and planning and career mobility trends among minority women in the Federal Government.
All of this is to say, I have dedicated my academic and professional career to championing justice programs and the role of government in driving diversity and inclusion. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to leverage my research interests to advance strategic solutions that help to ensure that the Federal Government is representative of all segments of society.
Since relocating, my partner and I have made a concerted effort to become an active part of our community by participating in local public service activities and most recently joining Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA. We have embraced an interest in amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, traveling, and running – and I am currently training to run my first full marathon this fall in my hometown. I have proudly watched as she earned a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education from ODU and a Master of Science in Sport and Recreation Studies from George Mason University and entered into a successful career as an educator and coach. Further, since we met, we have witnessed the election of President Barack Obama as the first African American to serve as Commander-in-Chief who went on to repeal the The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act.
Now, nearly a decade later, we are preparing to legally marry. According to the opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy, "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than [they] once were” and I couldn't be more excited to strive for greatness together as our commitment to one another evolves past girlfriend and partner to fiancée and wife – love continues to win.
This may not have been possible without the leadership of President Obama as this administration has made it clear that I can be both a public servant with the Federal Government and a proud member of the LGBTQ community. After serving as a Senior Consultant of Strategic Human Capital Management with Booz Allen Hamilton for two years, I was called to return to Federal service in 2014.
I currently serve as a Human Capital Strategist and Ideation Program Manager at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In this role, I manage the USPTO Innovation Challenge, which is a competition that endeavors to foster employee engagement and tap into the expertise of the workforce by encouraging ideation and innovation. I sincerely believe that employees are the Department’s most valuable asset and greatest resource in realizing our organizational mission, vision, and strategic goal to keep “America Open for Business” because we are in the right position to deliver enduring results and help to make the Department an employer of choice.
As my employer of choice, the Department has demonstrated a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as the celebration of multiculturalism. I consider myself to be the epitome of diversity as my identity rests at the intersection of several historically marginalized populations. I am an African American. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. I am a partner. But I am also a daughter. I am a sister. I am an aunt. I am a niece. I am a cousin. I am a friend. I am a sorority sister. I am a colleague. I am a college graduate. I am a professor. I am a parishioner. I am a homeowner. I am a neighbor. And above all else, I am a human being – I am you.
This LGBTQ Pride Month is especially bittersweet considering the recent events in Orlando, FL. However, last week, I could not have been more proud to be a part of this Department, and in particular the USPTO community. I assisted the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity and Lambda PTO, which is one of our many affinity groups at the USPTO, to coordinate a memorial service and blood drive in honor of the victims. I was moved to see hundreds of USPTO employees gather on Dulany Gardens to remember the victims through a moment of silence. The irony was not lost on me as the technician checked my pulse to determine if I could donate blood as a modest gesture to help with the healing process. It was inspiring to see the USPTO workforce rally together in the name of community and I thought to myself – we are "One Commerce, One Pulse.”
When I was offered the opportunity to write this blog post, I did not take the honor lightly. On the heels of receiving the Commerce Spirit Award, I feel a renewed commitment to connect and engage with my fellow colleagues in an impactful way, and what better way than to advocate on behalf of a topic that has directly impacted both my personal and professional development. I feel that I have a responsibility to use this platform to help move the cultural needle and dialogue beyond just the notion of tolerance, and instead use this moment to educate and encourage others to recognize the beauty and benefit of trying to love someone that is considered different than you. This can start, perhaps, with someone who is gay, as so eloquently stated by Republican Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox.
This and every month, I proudly wave my rainbow flag, which represents the diversity of the LGBTQ community, and serves as an appropriate compliment to the Department's goal to attract and retain a qualified and diverse workforce consisting of the best talent. While the LGBTQ movement has made great progress, the need to sustain our efforts is all the more evident based on the continued debate on equal access to restrooms for transgendered persons and restrictions on blood donations from gay men.
Sir Isaac Newton said it best, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” To that end, I would like to dedicate this blog post to those heroes who have championed the fight for LGBTQ rights and helped to drive a cultural shift towards awareness and acceptance, such as Harvey Milk and the protestors during the Stonewall riots. It is because of these giants that I am able to unapologetically stand tall in light and love.