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Black History Month begins today. Celebrating is vital for companies – offering employees an opportunity to learn, appreciate, and reflect on the rich history and achievements of the Black community. Company participation honors the resilience, talents, and contributions of Black individuals, encouraging a deeper understanding of their societal impact and inspiring ongoing efforts for equity and social justice. This commemoration not only fosters internal solidarity but also contributes to enhancing company-wide cultural competence.

There are many ways your company can commemorate Black History Month. Consider the following do’s and don’ts:

  1. Educate and Raise Awareness:
    • Do: Share educational resources, historical facts, and achievements of Black individuals to increase awareness. Encourage employees to participate in learning sessions or workshops focusing on Black history and culture.
    • Don’t: Put the burden of developing programs or education on your Black employees.
  2. Support Black-Owned Businesses:
    • Do: Encourage partnerships with Black-owned businesses for suppliers/vendors, events, catering, or collaborations.
    • Do: Conduct a vendor audit to understand how many Black-owned businesses your organization works with and commit to increasing this number this year.
  3. Recognize Black Talent:
    • Do: Highlight achievements and talents of Black employees through spotlights, profiles, or recognition programs. Review pay and promotion data and address racial inequity where it exists.
    • Do: Create compensated opportunities for Black voices to be heard, such as panel discussions, speaker series, or workshops.
  4. Drive Community Engagement:
    • Do: Engage with local Black communities through outreach programs, partnerships, or volunteering initiatives.
    • Do: Support community events or organizations that promote diversity and inclusion.
  5. Be Mindful of Marketing
    • Don’t: Resort to stereotypes or clichés in marketing materials or events. Don’t assume a monolithic representation of Black culture; recognize its diversity.
    • Don’t: Engage in performative actions solely for publicity without genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  6. Maintain Ongoing Initiatives
    • Don’t: Focus only on Black History Month; ensure that diversity and inclusion efforts are consistent throughout the year.
    • Don’t: Use Black History Month as only a marketing tool without undertaking substantive internal efforts.
  7. Welcome Feedback
    • Don’t: Disregard employee feedback about the company’s approach to Black History Month. Ensure that Black employees are discussing programs, training, and actions that the company will take.
    • Don’t: Assume that one event or initiative meets the needs of all employees; seek ongoing input.
  8. Avoid Tokenism
    • Don’t: Use Black History Month as a token gesture without addressing ongoing internal diversity and inclusion gaps and efforts.
    • Don’t: Highlight only one aspect of Black culture, such as food; instead, consider a holistic approach that covers the breadth of achievements of the Black community.
  9. Invest in Employee Development:
    • Do: Prioritize professional development opportunities for Black employees, including mentorship programs, training sessions, and leadership development.
    • Do: Ensure that career advancement pathways are equitable and provide equal growth opportunities.
  10. Establish and Resource Employee Resource Groups
    • Do: Support the creation and active participation of Black Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) within the organization. Provide resources and a platform for ERGs to organize events, share experiences, and contribute to company-wide discussions.
    • Don’t: Tokenize ERGs by treating them as symbolic; ensure they genuinely impact shaping policies and fostering a sense of belonging.

Black History Month holds profound significance for communities and companies, offering a valuable opportunity to honor, learn, and reflect on the rich history and contributions of the Black Americans. Through active participation, organizations not only pay tribute to the resilience and talents of Black individuals, but also foster a deeper understanding of their societal impact, inspiring ongoing efforts for equity and social justice.

As you navigate your company’s journey in commemorating Black History Month, keep these dos and don’ts in mind. Emphasize the importance of genuine and sustained efforts and ensure your initiatives contribute meaningfully to diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence within your organization. By embracing these principles, companies can create a commemorative experience that goes beyond symbolic gestures, fostering a workplace culture that values and respects the diversity of the Black community throughout the year.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile