Ensuring the Long-Term Celebration of Black People in Your Company

It’s February 1st. You’re scrolling through social media seeing dozens of posts celebrating Black History Month, and for a brief moment you can’t help but think: “This is so inspiring! I wonder why these stories aren't showcased the other 337 days". **Insert side-eye emoji.**

Let’s discuss some ways your team can go beyond the social media posts, and ensure that your organization is one that celebrates the accomplishments of Black Individuals 365 days a year.

When did Black History Month start?

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, the “father of Black History”, recognized how important it was for people to become educated on the topics of Black history and culture. It was Woodson’s idea to have a week-long celebration, which would engage Black Americans, as well as individuals from other backgrounds, and hopefully, encourage the teaching of Black history in public schools. 

By the late 1960s, there were an increased number of protests surrounding racial injustice. It was during this time that America grew to accept Woodson’s idea, so much so, that it grew into Black History Month. Observed from February 1st to March 1st in the United States and Canada, Black History Month celebrates and honors the incredible sacrifices of the many African Americans who have shaped this country. 

COVID-19 and Black History Month

Every year there is a theme for Black History Month. The theme for 2022 is Health and Wellness. This month's theme was selected to recognize healthcare workers and the sacrifices they have madam as well as to acknowledge the immense impact, and loss of life, that COVID-19 has had on the Black Community.

Eliminate the Concept of Color-Blindness

Race, in any conversation, is a very personal subject. Many companies have observed this, and as a result, adopted the idea of being “colorblind”. However, choosing to ignore a fundamental piece of someone’s identity is disrespectful and prevents us from taking the first key step in ensuring a welcoming community, and that is having a discussion. As MLK once said: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people”. 

Make It Company-Wide

You can’t change the culture of a community with only 3 people on board. It’s important that everyone in your organization feel encouraged and able to participate. Oftentimes, individuals outside the Black community feel it’s, not so much better, but safer to remain silent during conversations that include race, but it’s not the responsibility of your Black employees to generate their own recognition. And that goes for all days of the year, not just the ones in February. 

Don’t Single Anyone Out

Though it’s important that your organization has a culture where people feel like they can have respectful conversations about race - you need to remember that not everyone may want to participate. That includes Black employees. It’s important not to put too much pressure on people, especially if they’re a visible minority, as this could result in them feeling tokenized. 

Bring in Speakers

The best way to gain perspective on a topic is to speak with an expert. That being said: it only makes sense that your organization hears from a Black person what it’s like to be Black in America, but you can’t put all that on your Black employee! That’s where speakers come in!

Panel discussions are a creative way for various speakers to showcase their areas of expertise and share stories. Another method is to bring in a speaker, author, historian, scientist, activist, or any member of the Black community willing to educate on the critical topics surrounding Black identity. We strongly encourage that your organization has these conversations face-to-face, as opposed to a recorded “Diversity Training” or video. Face-to-face interpersonal communication establishes a level of empathic understanding that is lost in a remote world. For a topic as important as the Inclusion of Black individuals in your organization, this understanding cannot be lost. 

Volunteer

Volunteering for non-profits is the best way to have a direct impact on your community, and an excellent way to support the Black community during and after February! Not to mention it’s a great way to bond with your team, re-establish your company’s values, and take action on those values.

Black-Led Non-Profits:

Unfortunately, it is a universal truth: talk is cheap. It’s action that establishes character, on both a personal level and a communal level. That being said, what actions is your organization taking to ensure Black employees feel valued and heard? How often does your organization visit that question? How can you expand those questions to potentially help support other employees? 

Though these questions, can be uncomfortable for organizations to unpack, they are absolutely necessary if you want to have a company culture that genuinely fosters Diversity and Inclusion, and in our opinion, understand the long-term value of celebrating this month (today and everyday)!