Every February is celebrated as Black History Month. This month-long event is a chance to celebrate success, provide a new reminder to take stock of where racism exists, and celebrate the people and organizations achieving change.
Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs, and adversities that are an indelible part of our history. Understanding what Black History Month is and its significance can help your company create a more inclusive environment.
How did Black History Month start and when was it first celebrated?
Black History Month’s original incarnation was Negro History Week.
It was inaugurated in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, considered the ‘father of Black history’ - who wanted to create a national holiday that would celebrate black people's contributions to society.
This historian helped develop the discipline of African American studies, and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, intended to encourage ‘People of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to debate the Black experience.’
Why do we celebrate Black History Month?
Leaders decided that a month should be set aside to honor the contributions made by African Americans to the history of the United States of America. It pays homage to all Black people in the United States, from the earliest enslaved individuals from the early 17th century to the current generation of African Americans.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Mae Jemison, and Barack Obama, the first African-American president and first black Supreme Court justice, are just a few of the notable figures that are often highlighted during Black History Month.
Black History Month is not just about commemorating historical figures; it also celebrates the accomplishments of African Americans today and their contributions to science and culture.
How can companies celebrate Black History Month?
There are many ways corporates can celebrate Black History Month and create a more inclusive environment but also inspire and contribute to real social change. Some ideas to celebrate Black History Month with your teams are -
- Bring in speakers
Celebrate Black History Month by bringing in speakers to share stories and experiences around race and Black identity. Promoting diverse voices creates a space for inclusion, understanding, and empathy. This kind of event can take on many formats, from panel discussions to round tables to workshops.
Involve people and open up the conversation to anyone who wants to participate by sending out a company-wide email asking for speaker and topic suggestions. Whichever style your company goes with, it’s sure to be an interesting and engaging experience.
- Highlight employee stories
A good way to celebrate Black History Month is by sharing great voices and their work. Whether you’re highlighting your own team members or just sharing some of the best content from around the web, it can be a great way to encourage greater diversity internally at your company as well as show appreciation for the amazing contributions made by Black people everywhere.
Companies should share their successes and accomplishments, highlighting the contributions of their Black employees. This is an opportunity to honor their hard work and celebrate what they bring to your company.
- Volunteer your time
Volunteering for a good cause is never a bad idea. Additionally, it boosts company morale, inspires engagement and motivation, and helps employees develop a healthy attitude toward work.
Whether you're a business owner, executive, or someone who wants to contribute more to their community, there are tons of ways to volunteer with and support local organizations. For example, you could join other professionals and volunteers at your company by volunteering at a local nonprofit event to help communities.
Even if you’re not sure where to begin, a great use of your money is to pool resources together or support a fundraiser for a good cause. Check various fundraising platforms and engage with communities to meet their needs.
The gift of money is the most impactful thing you can give to a charity, especially when it comes to education or legal funds. Every penny you give is worth it, especially in the face of potential institutional change. Consider establishing a scholarship fund or initiate mentorship opportunities.
Black History Month provides a valuable opportunity for companies to actively promote diversity, inclusion, and positive change. To celebrate and honor the contributions of African Americans, companies can take actionable steps such as organizing speaker events, highlighting employee stories, volunteering time, and donating to relevant causes. By doing so, companies can not only create a more inclusive environment but also inspire and contribute to real social change.