How to Incorporate Activism Into Your Black History Month Celebration
Black History Month received official recognition in 1976 when President Gerald Ford extended the week-long commemoration to a month. This Black History Month, after two years of public outcry for racial justice, which some are calling “the second civil rights movement,” we explore how we can move the equality needle forward and take a greater role in social activism within our organizations.
Activism is not something that should only happen once you’re off the clock, but it is something you can participate in together as a team. Although it may seem counterintuitive to some, others believe that businesses have a responsibility to take action and speak out on the issues directly affecting the communities in which they live and work. Companies that engage in activism are found to create “stronger ties between their companies and their communities.”
Here are a few action steps your organization can take this Black History Month to inspire activism as a team:
1. Educate and empower your team.
When it comes to issues of race and social justice, many people don’t know where to start. Encourage your team to learn about Black history, both the known and lesser known historical figures, as well as about your state’s civil rights history to be better informed about your community’s legacy and racial roots. Start a Slack channel where your team can share questions, insights or recent finds about Black history and resources on how to take action. Create a month-long challenge where your team is encouraged to share a Black history fact.
2. Support local social justice movements.
Whether in person or virtually, your team can make an impact in the justice issues affecting your community. You can start by searching on VolunteerMatch’s website for service opportunities in your area. You can search by cause, city, skill and/or whether it is a virtual or in-person opportunity.
3. Start a diversity book club.
Activism starts with education. Start a virtual book club featuring Black authors and reading texts from other marginalized groups. Representation matters and reading about the experiences of underrepresented groups builds greater empathy.
4. Attend virtual Black History Month events.
Tune into Black History panels all month long through the ASALH’s Black History Month Virtual Festival. This year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness and panelists will share the disparities found in healthcare and about the leaders who are advocating for change.
5. Share why it’s important to teach Black history in schools.
Black history is often left out or minimized in K-12 curriculum, with some arguing that this erasure presents Black history “as a small footnote in America’s comprehensive history.” This removal has adverse effects — just four years ago in 2018, only 8% of high school seniors could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. A change.org petition is bringing awareness to this major lapse in the education system and calling for reform.
6. Support Black-owned businesses.
As a company, share a listing of Black-owned businesses in your area. Whether ordering a company lunch or finding a supply vendor, this type of support garners big rewards for Black entrepreneurs. You can easily search for companies in your area using The Official Black Wall Street app.
6. Create spaces of dialogue and learning.
Diversity training is just the first lap in an ongoing equity and inclusion marathon. Continued conversations around workplace equality are essential, and it’s important to ensure that employees from underrepresented groups are not only seen but heard. Create intentional spaces of education and open discourse through virtual or in-person panels, roundtables or check-ins. Make your team comfortable to share what they wish to about their personal experiences with discrimination, microaggressions and bias. Model behavior that is transparent and supportive.
What are some strategies your organization is incorporating to educate and empower your teams this Black History Month?