“I came from the Civil Rights Evers family in Mississippi. We were raised by the letter L. Love. Lift. Lead. Learn. Laugh. Listen with your heart,” says Sandra Evers-Manly.
Loss is another word familiar to her. She’s a cousin of slain Civil Rights activist Medgar Evans and has had to say goodbye to two cousins, a best friend and countless others due to their own battles with AIDS. Her list of loved and cherish friends gone too soon is long enough to challenge any human’s spirit and optimism. But Evers-Manly is someone who, like her freedom fighting elders, vowed to carry on and make a difference in the world.
“I understand what the need is, the crisis, the devastation,” she says, remembering the pandemic through the years. “What was hard was letting people know how real AIDS is.”
A difficult task for most. A must-do for a powerful executive who is also a valiant champion of charitable giving.
Evers-Manly is vice president of Corporate Responsibility at Northrop Grumman Corporation. Her varied range of responsibilities include corporate-wide equal employment opportunity, ethics, charitable giving, community relations and employee recognition programs. Northrop Grumman’s 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide. Before her current appointment, Evers-Manly was vice president of Ethics and Diversity. She began her career at Northrop Grumman as a summer intern while in college.
With 25 years of human resources experience, Evers-Manly oversees an ever-expanding function of the corporate office. Her direct reports in Community Relations coordinate a myriad of programs with the company’s seven sectors as well as industry counterparts. She helped to found and subsequently build the Northrop Grumman Foundation, which is committed to supporting diverse and sustainable programs that create innovative education opportunities.
“We’re the conscience of the corporation, or spirit,” she says, calling it “a great honor and an awesome task. You really are the face of fairness, awareness and inclusion.”
For the $32 billion global defense and technology company, inclusion means helping in the struggle with HIV/AIDS, racial diversity and responsible corporate behavior. “We really make sure we partner with organizations that make a difference in 50 states and 25 countries. We try to be a microcosm of a society with diverse ideas and opinions that continues to do what’s right.”
Evers-Manly has greatly enhanced the Northrop Grumman’s corporate profile and citizenship by supporting the differing needs in the many communities in which the company’s employees live and work. Each year, she hosts the Corporate Community Service Grant event where nonprofit organizations, serving virtually every segment of the Southern California community, are recognized.
During this annual event, more than 300 local organizations and the United Way are presented with monetary grants as part of the company’s commitment to the region.
Not content to leave her charitable heart at the office, Evers-Manly uses her super powers in other ways that raise awareness, education and tolerance in the world. In 1996, she founded the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center, a nonprofit, public benefit organization designed to advocate, educate, research, develop and preserve the history and future of Blacks in film and television. Through film festivals, award ceremonies, book signings, script readings, contests, scholarships, other programs and special events, the Center recognizes the contributions of Black men and women in front of and behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. One of the center’s annual highlights is the African American Film Marketplace and S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase, now in its 15th year.
A graduate of the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in public administration, Evers-Manly also completed an executive management program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Defense Industry Initiative Working Group, and a fellow at the Ethics Resource Center based in Washington, D.C.
The recipient of numerous honors, Evers-Manly received the 2007 Outstanding Citizen Award from the March of Dimes, A Place Called Home’s 2007 Woman of Achievement, and the 2006 Outstanding Diversity Leader Award from the City of Torrance Chamber of Commerce. She was also selected as a 2006 Century City Chamber of Commerce Woman of Achievement. She is the executive producer of five short films on the impact of gang violence, and the Academy Award-nominated short film, Last Breeze of Summer.
When asked how it feels being honored as a hero in the struggle, Evers-Manly calls it “a painful journey but a rewarding one. I’ve lost relatives, best and dearest friends who made me laugh more than anybody.”
She cites working with the Black AIDS Institute among the rewards, and like any great hero of great descent, she’s well aware of the shoulders on which she stands. “It’s both rewarding and uplifting. As Black women, we are awesome. We’ve come from a great legacy, we’ve gotta be strong … Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman. Sojourner Truth…” her voice flows with passion emanating from within … “we have an obligation to make sure the [AIDS-related] numbers don’t increase, we have to make sure we take care of our bodies and families, we have to make sure we build a sister circle and keep our bodies safe. Wrap it up.”
“Share the love,” adds Evers-Manly in a calm and compassionate voice. “Everybody deserves to be loved.”