4 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month at Work
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month of February as Black History Month, celebrating the “too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” However, it’s not only a time to reflect on and recognize past contributions from black Americans; it’s also a time to look forward – reflecting on the progress that still needs to be made with racial justice.
This is also an ideal time to promote and educate your team on racial inequities, diversity, inclusion, culture, and representation, encouraging progressive conversations and actions to acknowledge this significant month. Read on for how to celebrate Black History Month at work.
1. Encourage Sharing and Communication
One way to promote Black History Month is to encourage sharing, communication, and listening among your entire workforce. Through this communication, employees can explore culture and representation, for example, while learning about the month’s significance. Here are some ways to encourage sharing and communication:
- Host a book club focusing on black authors such as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou. Have your employees suggest authors.
- Create a brown-bag lunch series – on Zoom or onsite – where you encourage black history education, race relations, or diversity and inclusion. Having these often difficult discussions may be made easier over a meal. Be sure to emphasize that this is a friendly, judgment-free conversation.
- Create online chat rooms or Slack channels, where employees can continue to share and communicate throughout the year. After all, learning how to celebrate Black History Month at work shouldn’t be limited to the month of February.
- Schedule a virtual or onsite speaker to talk about leadership, DEI initiatives, team-building, culture, and other anti-bias topics.
- Organize diversity and inclusion training sessions, focusing on unconscious biases in hiring, workplace harassment, or lack of representation.
2. Advocate for a Good Cause
Another way to celebrate and support Black History Month is to advocate for a good cause. And, don’t just write a check from the organization; involve your employees at a grassroots level. For example, find ways for your employees to volunteer locally. Reach out to charities, schools, or non-profits to see how your employees can donate their time, allowing them to make a difference in your community. And, don’t just encourage your employees to volunteer. Be sure to lead by example.
3. Support Black-Owned Business
Supporting black-owned businesses allows you to celebrate Black History Month all through the year. For example, purchase your office supplies from a black-owned business. Use the services of a predominantly black accounting or law firm. As an incentive, give your employees gift certificates to black-owned businesses around town. And don’t forget black-owned online businesses.
If you’d like to explore black-owned businesses nationwide, try some of these directories:
By purchasing from underrepresented black business owners, you directly contribute to economic empowerment. Additionally, you’re setting an example of inclusivity, another way to triumph as a leader.
4. Establish Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs
As we celebrate Black History Month, you may want to beef up your internal mentorship and sponsorship programs, helping you to promote representation, equity, and diversity within your organization.
Most of us are familiar with mentorship programs. However, numerous organizations are bolstering their DEI initiatives with sponsorship, taking mentorship one step further. For example, a sponsor can advocate for a younger employee for raises or promotions. By focusing on mentorship and sponsorship, companies can help minority employees break through the “concrete wall,” which serves as a roadblock to more senior positions.
Like other employee initiatives, mentorship and sponsorship programs should continually be reviewed, allowing them to truly serve your company and employees – especially employees from underrepresented groups. For example, consider how to pair mentors and mentees. Decide how to encourage more senior employees (of all genders, races, and ethnicities) to serve as sponsors, advocating for junior employees. Finally, ask for feedback from all groups, learning how to continually iterate your programs.
After all, if one of your goals is to diversify your leadership, you need to start mentoring and sponsoring young talent.
As you can see, there are numerous ways in which you can celebrate Black History Month at work. (And, this list is only the tip of the iceberg.) However, as a human resources leader, your team will look to you to set your organization’s pace for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, allowing your employees to thrive in all aspects of their jobs.