Throughout Black History Month, we are taking time to honor African American FEMA employees who help make our nation safer, stronger and more prepared. Through their service, these colleagues are bringing much-needed energy to help our work align with FEMA’s Strategic Plan and the ideals of our nation.
This week, we asked FEMA Executive Officer Jamecia Muckelvene to share more about her role at FEMA and the work she does to ensure that FEMA is equitable when we help people before, during and after disasters.
What is your role at FEMA?
As a Black Emergency Manager working at FEMA, with various identities, my roles have afforded me the opportunity and the voice to speak on significant equity, equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives at FEMA. For over 15 years, I have served in a broad range of FEMA roles. Some of these roles include Executive Officer within the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Branch Chief in the National Business Emergency Operations Center, Climate Resilience Goal Writer for the 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan with the Office of Policy and Program Analysis, Branch Chief in the Office of Chief Security Officer, Business Management Office, a member of both the FIMA Cultural Improvement Action Planning Team and FEMA's Diversity Management Advisory Council, and Chair of FEMA's Diversity Day. I am also a Department of Homeland Security Executive Coach.
I find that many FEMA employees like myself have served in multiple titles and roles. I seek continuous growth opportunities and focus on building internal and external relationships. In all of my roles with the agency, I have enjoyed engaging with all levels of employees and customers, while contributing to the advancement of our goals in ways that align with our FEMA Pub 1 and Core Values, which is the agency’s capstone doctrine.
What is some work you have done during your time at FEMA that you're particularly proud of?
I am proud of the many FEMA projects I have supported. A recent project is building the 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan as a Goal Writer.
Administrator Deanne Criswell’s actions and words during the multiple connections and discussions stood out to me. Her passion for building a plan to enable the needs of our nation ignited the boldness of many of us working on the 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan. Our conversations amplified "all voices heard" when building.
I identify as a "Black" Woman and a coach. Both are identities that have taught me to actively listen and invite all voices from various backgrounds, communities, Tribes, internal and external stakeholders, private and government agencies, of not just some groups of people but a range of diversity. This is foundational when building any strategic plan for our nation.
As Shirley Chisholm said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." In this project, many voices were included, and even today, all voices are welcomed. As a goal writer, reading the existing strategic plan makes me proud to have played an essential role alongside my FEMA colleagues.”
The current administration, as well as FEMA leadership, commitment to diversity, equity, equality, inclusion, accessibility, leading climate resiliency, and promoting and sustaining a ready FEMA when writing this plan reflects actionable goals to serve the needs and diversity of our Nation as well as our 2022-2026 FEMA National Tribal Strategy, which is the first Tribal strategy. These are impactful deliverables, and I am proud to have been intimately involved!
I am proud of this effort because, as our FEMA Administrator has said, "The field of emergency management is at a pivotal moment. We are seeing tremendous change in the landscape of risk and in our professional roles. While our mission of helping people before, during and after disasters has not changed, our operating environment has." This means, that today WE at FEMA invite all voices/people to help us execute immediate and long-term actions to bring us closer to reaching our goals and becoming an organization our nation needs and deserves.
Yes, we still have more work to do, but I am also proud of the opportunities the agency provides me in continuing to use my voice and take action on the goals stated in the plan. Including taking actions to reduce barriers and build the trust of Black and Brown people and disaster survivors who, at some point in our lives, may not have felt that we are/were included as part of this nation or FEMAs Mission.
As a FEMA Black Emergency Manager, I look forward to watching us all continue to have respect and compassion, be fair and show great integrity by promoting diversity, equity, equality, inclusivity and accessibility while helping all aspects of life before, during, and after disasters. I am most proud to work with FEMA employees who continue to listen and be the voices for the diverse nation of communities we serve.
What is the most fulfilling/rewarding thing about working with FEMA?
It is very fulfilling to be a part of an agency that acknowledges we must reduce barriers and increase opportunities so all people, including those from vulnerable and underserved communities, can get help before, during and after disasters. I also appreciate helping assess whether our programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers and reduce opportunities.
As with any agency, there are continued areas of growth and more work to be done, such as:
- Advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government.
- Building relationships with people who have been affected by policies and programs that historically were or are not fair or just, or where there was impartial treatment of individuals and communities.
Helping to better equip FEMA in developing policies and programs that deliver resources and benefits equitably to ALL is rewarding to me. As well as being a representative for others, to include young and old Black and Brown people to seek a profession in the various fields of emergency management. I am inspired every day in working for an agency that is committed to ensuring that its employees increasingly reflect the diversity of the nation.
What role do we play at FEMA, in making sure that equity is always our focus, and that no community is left behind in disaster preparation, response, and recovery?
I would like my children to inherit a FEMA that instills equity as a foundation. I am sure I am not alone.
FEMA plays a leading role in helping all people in this nation before, during, and after disasters. That IS OUR MISSION. The nation is not some people, its inclusive of all people. And leaving some communities behind in disaster preparation, response, or recovery is not an option. Black History Month reminds us that our painful history of slavery, racism, social injustice and the horrific treatment of Black Americans is real. In the FEMA mission of helping people, the word "people" includes Black people regardless of color, religion, [national origin], sex, age, disability, English proficiency, or economic status.
This year's theme for Black History Month is "Black Resistance," which reminds us that we must recognize our history and understand that there is power in the past that can help us transform this nation and shape our future. Working at an organization that does not firmly believe in breaking down barriers or walls which were not built to serve “all” people in our nation is not the one for me. Our role at FEMA is to continue efforts to break down barriers and intentionally plan to reduce the risk for all communities.
Visit the federal Black History Month website to learn more about the 2023 celebration of African American achievement.