The Tri-Cities — made up of Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City, Tennessee, and the surrounding area — is one of the most scenic and beautiful regions in the U.S. Having lived and worked here most of my adult life, I would also say it’s full of warm, welcoming people, especially at Eastman.

For example, in 2018, my wife, son and I — along with more than 10,000 other people — attended the Tri-Cities’ first-ever Pride festival, TriPride, with Eastman as the title sponsor. And earlier this year, I completed an executive leadership course with the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce where I met local community and business leaders committed to guiding our region to new heights through inclusion.

One way community leaders have shown up is through the creation of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, a local nonprofit. In 2020, the DEI Alliance launched its signature program: Supporting Acceptance For Everyone (S.A.F.E.). It’s a registry of establishments that pledge to honor and promote the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion while helping community members better identify for-profit, nonprofit and faith-based organizations that align with their values.

S.A.F.E. allows marginalized persons and their allies to make purposeful choices, while showing solidarity to the local community and highlighting businesses and organizations committed to supporting positive change.

Eastman stresses the importance of psychological safety, but when you’re an out LGBTQ+ mom of a neurodivergent 10-year-old boy, psychological safety takes on a deeper meaning. So when my family sees a S.A.F.E. decal or statement of inclusion in the window of an establishment, it gives my wife and I peace of mind and an opportunity to remind our son what we value as a family and as a community.

When Eastman publicly signed the S.A.F.E. pledge in 2022, it had an especially profound impact on underrepresented employees because it was a very public statement by Eastman that being inclusive inside Eastman is not enough for us to live a quality life. Inclusion cannot stop at the Eastman fence line. Signing the pledge told the region that Eastman means what it says about its inclusion and diversity policy and ambitions and how much it values inclusion.

I’m proud of Eastman, and I’m proud of my community’s commitment to supporting acceptance for everyone.

Eastman signed the S.A.F.E. pledge. Have you?

Whitney Holt
Global public affairs representative