Despite the best efforts of our nation, racial injustice at work is unfortunately still a reality. Many people in the United States and around the globe still face unemployment and discrimination because of their racial identity. Thankfully, many organizations are beginning to focus on building a diverse and inclusive corporate culture to address these inequalities. One popular initiative is celebrating Black History Month in the workplace. This can be a great way to promote inclusion and celebrate the power and resilience of the Black community.
With this in mind, we have put together 8 ways to celebrate and honor Black History Month 2023. Hopefully, some of these ideas will inspire you to take positive action this February and build on your existing DEI initiatives.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Black History Month overview
The deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement sparked a global outcry about racial inequality. As a result, Black History Month gained a lot of attention. However, Black History Month isn’t a new concept. People have just become more aware of it since these racial inequalities have been brought into the spotlight.
Let’s take a look at where Black History Month began.
Black History Month takes its roots from Negro History Week, an initiative that was launched by the writer and historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, who also founded the Journal of Negro History and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Woodson, who is recognized as the “father of Black history”, believed that education and awareness were the best ways to fight racial inequality.
Negro History Week was adopted by many schools across the nation. However, most of these schools were located in primarily Black neighborhoods. Nonetheless, over time, the demand for education in Black culture, history, and literature began to spread. Black communities began establishing Negro History Clubs and new ASALH branches around the country, and this helped Negro History Week gain a lot of traction.
In 1934, President Roosevelt took an interest in the movement. He made an official declaration for “National Brotherhood Week” to be celebrated during the last week of February. After this, it didn’t take long for progressive whites to join the movement. National Brotherhood Week grew more popular year after year. The week-long event eventually evolved into Black History Month in 1976. At this time, President Ford announced that the event would “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans throughout history”.
Black History Month has been celebrated every February since.
8 ways to celebrate and honor Black History Month
The theme for Black History Month 2023 is Black Resistance. This theme reflects how African Americans have resisted prejudice, discrimination, and oppression throughout history, especially in terms of lynching and police killings.
So, how does this relate to the workplace? How can organizations celebrate Black History Month in a way that honors this movement? How can businesses educate the workforce on the resistance of Black Americans throughout history?
The key is focusing on the discrimination that many Black employees still face when it comes to employment. As employers, we have a responsibility to eradicate discrimination from all aspects of our business practices, including biased hiring processes and performance management discrimination. It’s also our job to raise awareness of the issue and nurture a corporate environment that is built on diversity, equity and inclusion for all.
There are many different ways that you can choose to celebrate Black History Month in your organization. We have put together a list of some of the most popular initiatives. Our hope is that this list of Human Resources tips inspires you to create your own unique initiatives to celebrate and honor Black History Month 2023.
Support black-owned businesses
One way to celebrate Black History Month is by supporting black-owned businesses in your local area. This is a great way to invest in underrepresented minorities and get your employees and clients involved.
For example, you could hold a team lunch or corporate event and get a local Black-owned restaurant to cater. Or you could give your employees a Black History Month gift bag with products sourced from Black-owned businesses. If you’re not aware of any in your local area, check out WeBuyBlack online. WeBuyBlack is the largest marketplace for Black-owned businesses, and you can search for all sorts of products related to health & wellness, games, and entertainment, among other things.
In terms of your clients, you could promote a #BuyBlack campaign through your social media pages to showcase Black-owned businesses in your community and encourage others to support them too.
An employee spotlight is a form of published content that promotes the successes of one of your employees. Content usually includes their history with the company, personal achievements, education and experience, and personal interests, plus any successes and challenges they’ve experienced during their time at your company. Put simply, it’s a way of showcasing your employees that enables you to recognize their achievements and show appreciation.
To celebrate Black History Month 2023, why not spotlight one of your Black employees? This can be a great way to show your Black employees that you value their contribution. You can share a post about them internally. You could even share an external post through your social media pages (with their permission).
Donate to an important cause
A great way to show your employees that you value diversity and care about Black History Month is by donating to an important cause on behalf of the organization. Or you could even organize a fundraiser to raise money to support racial justice. Donating money in this way can make a positive impact by providing relevant charities with valuable resources that they can use to educate and raise awareness in society.
Here are a few non-profit organizations that you could consider donating to. All these NGOs work towards ensuring equal rights for the Black community.
- Black Lives Matter and Campaign Zero (nonprofits fighting against police brutality targeted at the Black community.
- The Sentencing Project (a research and advocacy center that seeks to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system)
- Black Girls Code (an organization that empowers young Black girls to excel in tech through mentorships and instruction)
- SisterLove (an AIDS and reproductive justice non-profit that focuses primarily on the health of Black women)
- Trans Women of Color Collective (a grassroots non-profit that supports the promotion of trans and non-binary Black people in leadership roles)
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund (a non-profit organization that supports and represents students from historically black colleges and universities)
- The NAACP Defense and Educational Fund (America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice)
Alternatively, you can encourage your employees to donate their time. Volunteering with local non-profits that help the Black community can be a great way to give back and raise awareness of the difficulties associated with racial injustice.
Invite in a speaker
Many organizations celebrate Black History Month by inviting a guest speaker to talk to employees. This can be a great opportunity for someone to share their insights and their experiences surrounding race and Black identity. Plus, promoting a diversity of voices in this way can be an excellent strategy for helping employees gain fresh new perspectives on racial discrimination and social injustice. With the right speaker, you can help to develop empathy on the subject and create a platform for learning, inclusion, and understanding, especially if you have a predominantly White workforce.
If you are a large organization with a substantial budget, then you might consider inviting a notable figure from the Black community to give a talk or host a panel discussion. For instance, you could reach out to an influential author or activist to talk about race relations, civil rights, and other important topics relating to Black identity.
- Angela Davis: Feminist, social activist, professor & writer
- Dr Bernice King: Minister, attorney, author & daughter of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
- Bobby Seale: Political activist & co-founder of the Black Panther Party
- Tommie Smith: World record-breaking gold medal Olympian & civil rights icon
- Kimberle Crenshaw: Civil rights advocate & leading scholar in critical race theory
- Cornel West: Philosopher, professor, political activist & author of “Race Matters”
If you are a smaller business with a limited budget, you can generate just as much interest and awareness by reaching out to local Black figures in your community. What matters most is the message that they transmit.
Organize a workshop
Aside from inviting a guest speaker to your business, you could also organize a workshop for your employees. This gives them an opportunity to take a hands-on approach and develop critical thinking skills that can help them understand the perspectives of others.
For example, you could hold a Black History Month workshop focused on DEI and unconscious bias in the workplace. This can help your employees understand their own unconscious biases. It can also give them insight into how they may be affecting their colleagues and the wider community. Plus, because these events are collaborative, they can help build team spirit and break down barriers.
Invest in and prioritize DEI training all year
The best way to raise awareness of racial inequality and create a diverse and inclusive working environment is by offering all your staff regular DEI training. Don’t just offer this training during Black History Month, though – make it one of your core DEI initiatives.
For example, we’re all guided by unconscious bias to some degree. We unknowingly make assumptions about people based on unconscious thought processes. We pick up these stereotypes from our childhood, society, media representations, and life experiences. And because they’re so deeply ingrained in our worldview, they can be difficult to recognize. This makes them arguably more damaging than conscious bias, which is easier to identify and eradicate.
Unfortunately, these unconscious biases can be very problematic in the workplace. They can influence your hiring practices, employee performance and development, and your overall corporate culture. The best way to address this is by offering unconscious bias training to help your employees identify, understand, and correct their own biases.
You could even take this a step further and establish a DEI committee at your organization. This will show your entire workforce that you are dedicated to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that strives to eliminate discrimination.
Collect and analyze your DEI data
We’ve talked a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but we are now going to expand on the importance of tracking and analyzing your DEI data.
The only way to understand the make-up of your organization and the impact of your DEI initiatives is by measuring your progress towards defined diversity objectives. And this is precisely what DEI metrics do. Analyzing these metrics regularly can give you valuable insights that help you make better-informed decisions about your workforce based on data and feedback.
Once you’ve defined your metrics you need access to the right tools to track and analyze your data. The best solution for this is a DEI dashboard. A DEI dashboard, such as the one included in Factorial’s HRIS, is a centralized interface that gives you a visual representation of the impact that your diversity, equity, and inclusion practices have on various KPIs in your business.
Why DEI data matters
There are many reasons why DEI data is so important.
Here are just a few examples:
- Having access to clear data helps you establish your current level of diversity, equity, and inclusion. You then have a benchmark to work from and a clear method for measuring your progress towards your established DEI objectives. For example, the right data can help you determine if you are building an inclusive culture. You can also identify whether your hiring practices are fair and if all candidates have equal opportunities, regardless of race. What’s more, if you use a DEI dashboard to manage your data, you can centralize all your metrics and get instant access to clear visuals about your progress towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Tracking your DEI data helps you stay compliant. There are a number of laws in the U.S. that protect employees from workplace discrimination. These include The Civil Rights Act, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By maintaining accurate records of your workforce demographics, you can ensure that you are not knowingly or unknowingly creating an environment that fuels discrimination.
- DEI transparency helps you build a positive and diverse company culture based on equal opportunities for all. It can also help you create a safe environment where your employees feel valued, supported, heard, and understood. And this is a highly effective way to build a motivated and engaged workforce.
Make it a year-long initiative
Finally, don’t limit your focus on DEI to Black History Month. Instead, strive to make it a year-long initiative where you continuously promote the importance of nurturing workplace diversity and inclusion. No matter how much you raise awareness of discrimination, there is always room for improvement.
Conduct regular DEI surveys to find out how people are feeling. Do employees from minority groups feel valued and included? Do they have any recommendations for making your business more inclusive? Are there any behaviors that make them uncomfortable?
You could also establish an Employee Resource Group to promote inclusivity and give employees from minority groups a voice. This will help you keep your employees engaged. That way, you are all working towards a shared, long-term goal of inclusivity.
Ultimately, the more you keep your finger on the pulse of these matters, the easier it will be to build a genuinely diverse and inclusive culture all year round.
Black History Month: summing up
We hope that today’s post helps inspire you to celebrate Black History Month in your organization. Whether you launch a big event or roll out a series of smaller initiatives, these activities will help you raise awareness of the importance of promoting racial equality and eradicating discrimination in the workplace, and beyond. And this, ultimately, is what Black History Month is all about.
With the right approach and the right level of participation, these initiatives will teach your employees that you value diversity, equity, and inclusion. And this, in turn, will help you build a more cohesive and collaborative team of happy and motivated employees.
Happy Black History Month to all!