Cross-functional team takes a stand for change

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
By Heather Lowe
Wearables team photo

From left to right: Demi Tucker, Teresa Cates, Brittany Adams and Natalie Caro.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, a group of Duke Health team members had a passion for change.

Teresa Cates, Brittany Adams, Natalie Caro, and Demi Tucker all joined in Duke Health's Solidarity Walk, and sought concrete ways to keep the movement going.

Cates, a member of the Food Services team at Duke University Hospital, wore a Black Lives Matter mask to work, and her teammate Natalie Caro brought in Black Lives Matter pins designed by Brittany Adams, a medical assistant in Clinic 1J. While many colleagues were supportive, some did not understand the meaning behind the message.

“Sometimes people will respond that 'all lives matter,' but in order for that to be true, Black lives must also matter," says Cates. “We realize that all lives matter—and we're saying black lives are the ones most at risk right now. That's why it's so important to visibly share the Black Lives Matter message."

Retail manager Demi Tucker soon joined the group, and with four strong leaders in place, the power of teamwork helped the movement take off.

“It was about taking the next step," Adams says. “Diversity is one of our core values. The moment of silence and the Solidarity Walk were great; now we wanted to demonstrate what we said we believed. Let it be genuine. Let it be real."

The group surveyed other employees from across Duke Health to find out what they thought about the idea of wearable support. The student audience was particularly enthusiastic, but people in all kinds of roles cheered on the effort, including doctors and patients. 

Next it was time to pitch the idea to leaders. “Through several meetings, we presented our case to our supervisors and to Human Resources," says Cates. “We didn't give up. We explained why it made sense for Duke to back the message, especially given the support they'd shown with the Solidarity Walk and other messages from top leaders."

With the decision to proceed, the team was put in charge of picking designs, and settled on two options – the Black Lives Matter badge reel and a pin featuring the anti-racism ribbon. “We also designed a card to help people understand the context behind the messages," says Cates.

“The response has been incredible," she says. “We've had people from all professions applauding us—and they've also shared sad stories of what they go through in their work area. Their stories are why this goes far beyond a button or a pin. If you truly stand behind us, you also have to ask yourself, how do you protect us? How do you let it be known that racism won't be tolerated?"

The team is hoping for equal treatment, more respect, and more open conversation about the subject of racism. “Think about how you would like to be treated and treat others the same," says Cates. “And when these conversations do come up, don't stay silent. To hang back is to say you don't support us."

Tucker agrees. “The most important thing is that we don't lose the momentum of this moment," she says. “The conversation restarts from time to time, but we've seen no real change. We cannot let that happen again. I hope the long-term goal stays consistent throughout Duke Health, because caring for one another as human beings really is consistent with our values."

Quantities of the items that this team brought to life have been distributed to local entities. 

If you are a faculty, staff, trainee, or student in the School of Medicine who is working or attending class on campus and would like an anti-racism pin or Black Lives Matter badge reel, Jeanine Holland from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion will distribute them from under the connector between the Duke Cancer Center and the Duke Medical Pavilion (near the Trent Semans Center) on Tuesday, September 15, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and on the Trent Semans Center patio on Thursday, September 17, from 11a.m.-1 p.m. Please wear a mask and bring your Duke ID. Quantities are currently limited, but we will have more and will schedule additional distribution days if needed. Working remotely? We have something for you too! Visit to download anti-racism and Black Lives Matter Zoom backgrounds and electronic signatures you can add to the bottom of your emails or find additional resources on being anti-racist, diversity and inclusion during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.