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Otis Clay, Mortgage Division Manager at Pacific Service CU.

Celebrating ‘Black History Month’: a Conversation with Otis Clay

February is Black History Month which celebrates the cultural heritage, accomplishments, and contributions of African Americans who have helped shape our nation. In this feature, Otis Clay, Mortgage Division Manager at Pacific Service CU, shares with the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues what the month of observation means to him.

Tell us about your credit union journey and groups you are currently involved in.
My credit union journey has been interesting to say the least.  My first credit union experience started with membership at Honolulu Federal Credit Union (HFCU) on the Island of Oahu. I believe HFCU may have been recruiting on campus at the University of Hawaii, and I decided to join. Thirty years later after 20+ years managing finance and mortgage companies—and even owning my own mortgage brokerage—I found myself looking for other ways to positively impact the communities in which I lived, worked, and played. I believe credit unions create relationships with their members unlike other banking and mortgage institutions. Since I really care and want to be a solution provider to my communities, the credit union and I are a great collaboration,

I began work in the credit union industry in February of 2020, a few weeks shy of the pandemic, and am enjoying the journey. I’m currently involved with CUREN and am excited to embark upon my second year of Western CUNA Management School (WCMS). I’m open to learning about more organizations and am willing to participate if it presents the opportunity for me to be more involved and impactful in my communities.

What comes to mind when you think of Black History Month?
The thought of Black History Month evokes both joy and sorrow. Joy because it is a time to celebrate and recognize all the sacrifices, contributions, and achievements of African Americans, past and present. It’s a show of resilience, mental fortitude, and the ability to accomplish something despite unfathomable obstacles. Sorrow because its purpose has been diminished. Carter G. Woodson’s intent for BHM was to educate the American people of the achievements and contributions African Americans made to this country. It was to humanize us and show that we were capable and deserving of the opportunities presented to others. As of today, many schools are removing the teaching of African American history from its curriculum, and that’s where the sorrow lies. However, the show must go on and it’s imperative that we put forth the individual and collective efforts required to continue making a positive impact.

What black public figure, past or present, inspires you and why?
I have a multitude of black public figures from the past and present that I get inspiration from in a plethora of ways. However, my biggest sense of inspiration comes from witnessing the achievements and lives lived by people I see daily, feel connected to, and can relate to their experiences. There are so many non-public, African American figures doing so many amazing things every day, and because of them, I’m inspired to be and do more.

What is something you wish you would have known early in your career?
Something I wish I knew earlier in my career is the importance of understanding and committing to the “WHY”. I’ve learned that what I do becomes more impactful when I truly understand why I’m doing it.

In your opinion, what is the best approach to create more diversity in the credit union workforce?
I believe we can create more diversity by using the approach “Black History Month” was established for; to become educated about others. All, if not most, Credit Union’s would say they’re committed to positively impacting the lives of the people in the communities they serve. No where does it describe the race, ethnicity, sex, etc. of a person, it says PEOPLE. Becoming a true representation of the PEOPLE you serve creates an inviting atmosphere, and understanding the PEOPLE you serve would allow the ability to have the required level of respect and empathy to create the diverse and healthy environment hoped for. It’s not easy, but it all starts with caring and knowing the WHY behind the actions.

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