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5 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Black History Month at Work

February is Black History Month. What are impactful ways to celebrate in the office? Find out here.

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By James Collins | Chicago-based Author & Editor

February is Black History Month, a time when we recognize and celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of African Americans. 

Perhaps the most important contribution African Americans have made, especially in the United States, has been to act as a catalyst in the ongoing struggle for equality for all people. Unfortunately, racial and other forms of discrimination still exist at work as well as outside of the workplace. So what can you do to celebrate Black History at your workplace?  Below are some suggestions.

1. Examine your company’s internal efforts

Since February comes at the start of a new year, Black History Month provides an excellent opportunity for companies to examine their policies concerning the hiring, retention, and promotion of Black employees. 

As you consider your company’s DE&I policies, remember the importance of the concepts “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion.” The United States is rightly celebrated as the most diverse nation on the planet. 

A diverse workforce is an advantage and not merely “window dressing” – a tactic to protect your company from critics and bad publicity. Having people from many different backgrounds working for you provides you with a broad spectrum of knowledge and insight to make your decision-making more effective, and to make your company more palatable to potential customers, clients, and partners.

2. Celebrate as a whole

Your Black History Month celebration should be just that – a celebration. Make it a company-wide effort that can involve everyone in a way that they can feel good about. Invite interesting speakers, such as artists, educators, or civil rights leaders. Here are a few ideas to help you engage your entire team.. 

3. Educational efforts

More and more institutions are offering digital programming. For example, the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of African American History and Culture has a digital “searchable museum.” Confetti’s Black History Month collection offers fun and informative activities that your employees can participate in remotely. 

Literature is a time-honored tool for learning about different cultures. Your company can help your employees celebrate and learn about Black history by giving them books by Black authors. Everyone enjoys recognition for their accomplishments. Black History Month is a good time (but not the only time; see below) to highlight the achievements of individual Black employees.

4. Engage locally

If everyone in your company works in one place, why not invite a local Black Lives Matter activist to speak?  If you’re looking for a less controversial activity, perhaps the pastor of a local Black church could talk about the role of the Black church in America. Or hire a local chef and caterer to prepare a soulful meal. After all, who doesn’t like to eat?

5. Volunteer or donate 

Companies can also celebrate Black History Month by meaningfully impacting lives other than those of their employees. Your company can make a financial contribution to a historically Black College or a nonprofit organization that fights for equality like the NAACP. 

The National Urban League has worked to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and the guarantee of civil rights for underserved Americans since 1910. The League has enjoyed solid partnerships with the business community from the start. If there’s a local chapter of one of these organizations in your vicinity, a high-level employee could be appointed to serve on the group's board.

Supporting organizations that provide instruction, training, and mentorships to African Americans, such as blackgirlscode, is a great way to honor Black History Month, as is partnering with Black-owned businesses through subcontracting or the establishment of joint ventures.

These are just a few ideas and organizations to choose from. Take the time to find one that resonates with your company. Needless to say, you should involve your Black employees in planning your celebration.

Final thoughts

Of course, February is just one month – the shortest month – out of twelve. To truly honor the spirit of Black History Month, the ideas presented here – and many other good ones that haven’t – should be acted upon all year-round. 

Try to plan meaningful activities year round that can educate and inspire, thereby strengthening bonds between your team members. Don’t forget to make them as engaging and enjoyable as possible. And, of course, involve your African American team members in the planning.

Just as the Black struggle for justice and equality sparked efforts to bring justice and equality to all people, let Black History Month be a catalyst for celebrating, appreciating, and supporting the efforts of African Americans throughout the entire year.

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