NEW ORLEANS — Aside from being known for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and other celebrations, New Orleans has long been known for its cultural diversity, which can often be reflected in the work environment.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations in New Orleans and its five-state area of responsibility is no different, having a staff nearly as diverse as its city, many working in the U.S. Custom House, a building believed to have been built, in part, by Free Men of Color.
“Working in the U.S. Custom House allows us to reflect on the adversity that African Americans fought through while making lasting contributions to the United States,” said Steven Stavinoha, Director of Field Operations for CBP New Orleans. “I’m proud to work and lead an organization dedicated to diversity not only in the workforce, but also in the leadership positions.”
An example of this diversity is Terence Hudson, who is the first African American to hold the second-highest ranking position in CBP New Orleans, the Assistant Director of Field Operations for Border Security.
“New Orleans is a diverse city, with people coming from all over the world to live and work here,” he said. “I feel like the diversity that I bring to the field office will enhance operations and inspire those who are seeking to move up within the organization to feel as if possibilities are attainable and achievable.”
Currita Waddy, Assistant Chief Counsel for CBP NOLA, is the second African American in New Orleans to hold her position, and has done so since 1995, when she took the reins from Hattie Broussard, who was the first. She does not take this distinction lightly.
“Early in my career as a black female attorney working with mostly white males in Washington, D.C,, I had to be overly prepared and confident in my delivery of sound legal advice so that I could be taken seriously and my message could be heard,” Waddy said. “With time and persistence, I was given the respect that came along with the position, and my advice was sought after and appreciated.”
CBP New Orleans also has three area ports in New Orleans, Memphis, and Mobile, Ala. Alrick Brooks, a Caribbean American, holds the position of Assistant Area Port Director in Memphis, Derrick Coleman is the Nashville Port Director, and Donna Dedeaux is the first African-American Port Director in Pascagoula, MS. Additionally, Terri Edwards was recently promoted to the position of Area Port Director in New Orleans, the first African-American to hold the position in New Orleans.
“Diversity affords the opportunity for new ideas, positive challenges, and leadership development, all of which, I feel, represent CBP,” said Brooks, who is the first person of color to hold his position.
Edwards echoed his sentiment by saying, “It is an honor and a privilege to work for an agency that embraces the spirit of diversity. I look forward to continuing that commitment with the dedicated men and women of CBP New Orleans.”
CBP’s Port of New Orleans also has one of the most diverse agriculture teams in the country, including four African American female agriculture specialists, accounting for nearly one fourth of the port’s agriculture work force. This team, three of whom are in their 20s, helps keep the country safe from harmful exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases.
“I am blessed to work for an agency that not only promotes diversity, but also implements measures to ensure that it is carried out,” said Kendall Gaines, Supervisory Agriculture Specialist for CBP New Orleans. “It is encouraging to know that African-Americans have a fair opportunity to pursue an agriculture career with CBP.”