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For this Commerce team member, Black History Month puts a focus on learning about others.

Tayon Jackson, a bank operations manager at Commerce Bank in Kansas City, believes the best part of Black History Month is the rich conversations it encourages. “It’s a great opportunity for Black people to talk about who you are,” she says. “It’s okay to be proud of who you are. Black History Month is a time that creates a platform to have discussions. It’s a time when everyone can share in Black history — and not just history, but the future as well, because we all continuously create history.”

Jackson appreciates that these kinds of conversations can be sparked by something as simple as the backgrounds team members use on video calls. “It might sound a little unusual, but I feel like I see a lot of smiles on our video calls in February, because people change their backgrounds to something personal that represents Black History Month, and that will often open the door for people to ask questions and share experiences,” she says. “When people are open to those kinds of dialogues, you’re able to plant seeds on fertile ground.”

Read video transcript for Black History Month 2023 | Tayon — Commerce Bank.[PDF]

If Jackson comes across as being passionate about Black History Month, that’s no accident. Spend any amount of time with her, and you’ll understand that she is a passionate person in general. She’s particularly enthusiastic, for example, about Commerce’s employee resource groups (ERGs). These groups give team members with shared backgrounds and their allies opportunities to interact, develop professionally, and learn more about each other.

In 2020, Jackson joined VIBE, Commerce’s ERG focused on people of color, and immediately became a membership subcommittee leader. “I’m in love with the ERGs,” Jackson says. “I love motivating people, and through the ERGs I get to do that. They’ve helped me learn to be more aware of my own biases, which I never realized I had. I love everybody, but even I had some moments where I realized I had some unconscious biases that I needed to overcome.”

She says participating in VIBE was one of the best things that happened to her at Commerce. “I’ve made so many great friends and that became a support system for me,” she says. “I’ve met people who are now like family to me.”

One of those friends is Nosa Iyamu, an application support engineer who currently co-chairs VIBE’s Kansas City chapter alongside Jackson. He met Jackson after joining VIBE himself, and they quickly bonded. “She’s so warm and welcoming, and she’s been a great friend,” he says. “I’m born and raised in Kansas City, but I didn’t really know all the things the city has to offer. Tayon is very active, and as a friend, she took me by the hand and showed me the other side of Kansas City — live music, events, all kinds of things that I might have never experienced about my hometown if not for her.”

Helping others has always been important to Jackson, but it became even more meaningful to her as a manager. “I like to personally build relationships with people and ask how I can be of value to them,” she says. “I remember how others did that for me when I was applying for a manager role and someone advocated for me and said, ‘Yes, I think Tayon would be great for that.’ Now I make sure I do those kinds of things for others. It’s my way of paying it forward and making sure it doesn’t stop with just me.”

Jackson began her Commerce career working on chargeback investigations — which occur when there’s a problem with a card purchase, such as a merchant error — then was made a supervisor before eventually being named the manager of her group in 2021. She’s grateful for the pathway to growth Commerce has made available to her. “I’m a person who seeks out opportunities for self-development, and there are so many of those kinds of opportunities here,” she says. “I’ve learned things that I can use at work and at home. I’ve learned to make better decisions. The culture of continuous learning at Commerce is fantastic.”

Iyamu isn’t surprised by Jackson’s success. “Tayon is very smart,” he says. “She has a go-getter attitude, is a natural leader, and on top of that, she’s very nice. You can have a conversation with her about anything. She’s very versed in so many different things and is a great person.”

Part of Jackson’s ability to lead is rooted in her focus on being her authentic self at all times. “As I got into leadership, I did question whether I should change how I am at work or hide parts of myself,” she says. “But I found it was more to my benefit, and to the team’s benefit, to just be me. I’m vulnerable and transparent, and those are good qualities for a leader to have. And I think it sets a good example for others, who realize they can also be themselves and succeed at the same time.”

Jackson believes her participation in VIBE has contributed to her development. “For me, VIBE is about wanting to learn as much as you possibly can,” she says. “Every day that you’re learning something, it’s a win. In VIBE, we have so many different cultures coming together, doing activities together, and learning about each other. Sometimes even those of us who look like each other have different cultures, and I always appreciate the opportunity to learn about other people and other communities.”

The sharing of experiences is very important to Jackson, and she appreciates that Black History Month gives her additional opportunities to do so. “You can only understand a person’s perspective if they share their perspective with you,” she says. “Sharing my own experience allows me to feel heard; it’s important enough that people are listening. On the flip side, other people understand more about what Black women go through. It makes it easier for people with different life experiences to interact with each other.”

Jackson applies that same level of curiosity and continuous learning to Black History Month. “It’s important because if you don’t know the history of something, you can’t figure out the future,” she says. “You can’t find solutions. It’s similar to banking in that way — if we want to measure our success, we have to go back and look at the data we’ve gathered. Learning about Black history and doing that work today helps us improve going forward.”

For Jackson, Black History Month is also about having pride in herself. “Sometimes, as a Black person, you don’t always want to bring up your culture,” she says. “You don’t want to seem like you’re trying to force it on others. At the same time, I just want to be okay with being who I am. If I share something personal, it’s because I really am happy about certain things I found out about myself, and I want to share it to help others.”

Jackson looks forward to Black History Month — she views it as an opportunity for inclusivity. “It celebrates a culture that hasn’t always been celebrated,” she says. “It’s not just a celebration for Black people — it’s a celebration for everyone.”

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