State Farm agents continue to knock on the door of success
In its 100th year, State Farm® works to build a better future for all Americans.
The year was 1966 – three years after Martin Luther King’s galvanizing “I Have A Dream” speech – when Ray Adkins, Jr., became the first African American State Farm agent.
It was progressive for the times but from a 2022 mindset, the doors of diversity could have opened much sooner. After 44 years, State Farm the country’s biggest insurer, would finally have an African American agent in their ranks.
Agent Sherry Ann Devouse-Dennard loves making a difference in the community. Whether it’s tutoring underprivileged children, leading an Alzheimer’s fundraising walk, or supporting a non-profit that provides safe housing and trauma therapy to survivors of sex trafficking, the State Farm agent looks for ways to elevate the people in her community.
Sherry Ann Devouse-Dennard
Nearly 50 years after Ray Adkins knocked on his first door in Chicago’s south side to sell insurance, Sherry Ann Devouse-Dennard was opening her doors in a south suburb of Atlanta.
“I never saw (being a person of color) as a challenge, but instead a chance to really capitalize on what I saw was the greatest opportunity. I got in front of influential people, involved in local events, and tried to make the biggest splash in a small community I could make. It saddens me we still live in a society where skin color is more important than a person’s character to some people,” shared Devouse-Dennard. “But I have had more wonderful experiences with customers than bad, by far.”
Devouse-Dennard is part of the more than 1,500 African-American, State Farm agents across the country. She joined State Farm because she wanted to be a part of something special that would allow her to not only build a legacy for her family, but also have a meaningful impact in her community.
Agent Alyssa Holloway pays homage to those who came before her, Alyssa shared, “I always look back to my ancestors and how they were willing to give up everything and put their lives on the line to give future generations an opportunity to be the best they can be.”
Alyssa Holloway, just outside of Birmingham, Ala., became an agent for similar reasons. “Becoming an agent has given me the opportunity to educate our customers, team members – or whomever I encounter – to not give up and continue to run the race and go after their dreams.”
Holloway also loves to give back to her community each year by providing hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies so children have all the essentials for a successful school year. She and her team also give back to the Downtown Birmingham area by bringing food, clothes and warmers during cold winter months to those in need.
Holloway also donates to and sponsors a Breast Cancer Awareness event annually and has made it a tradition at her agency. “African American women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate, being the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group,” shared Holloway. She said she feels it is her duty and assignment to provide in all ways possible to her local community.
After 2020 protesting and vandalism led to many stores and restaurants closing down, Agent Dwan Johnson-Bell and her team prepared and served 500 hot meals to the community.
Chicago Agent Dwan Johnson-Bell echoes the opportunities to educate as a community leader. “I grew up without a lot of means and wondered how I could change the plight of my own family and others around me. I always felt that it was my purpose to educate my community.
“When I was introduced to State Farm, I felt it was the perfect platform to educate.”
When others wonder about becoming a State Farm agent, Dwan says, “Go for it! Agency has truly changed the trajectory of my life. It has allowed me to gainfully employ others and to give back to my family and my community in a way that I had not been able to do before.”
“Black History Month is a celebration of achievements by Black Americans like our amazing, agents Dwan, Alyssa and Sherry, and it’s a time to recognize African Americans’ central role in U.S. history,” said State Farm Chief Diversity Officer, Victor Terry.” We know there is still much to be done and more doors to be opened as we continue to work together to build a better future. Coming together to celebrate both our 100th anniversary and our future is where we’ll see real progress.”