THE BEGINNINGS OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH
American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week in 1926 to honor and celebrate the contributions made by people of African descent. For approximately 50 years, the second week of February was reserved for this celebration. It coincided with the birthdays of abolitionist/editor Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, who supported the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and issued the Emancipation Proclamation resulting in the ending of slavery.
In 1976, during the nation’s bicentennial, Black History Week was expanded into a month-long celebration, and each U.S. president since has proclaimed February as Black History Month.
“Since its inception, Black History Month has never been just a celebration of black America’s achievements and stories—it’s part of a deliberate political strategy to be recognized as equal citizens.”
–Dr. Theodore R. Johnson
Below are 3 tips and strategies for celebrating Black History Month within Your Organization
Tip 1: Turn off “Colorblindness”
Race in the workplace can be a prickly topic to discuss, and many organizations attempt to be “colorblind” to try, misguidedly, to establish equality.
In actuality, when organizations minimize demographic differences, it increases the perception of bias underrepresented employees’ feel from their white colleagues, negatively impacting engagement and work performance.
Organizations should embrace demographic differences in the workplace. Encourage your employees to openly discuss, embrace, and be proud of their unique cultural and ethnic backgrounds!
Tip 2: Provide Educational Opportunities
Bring in guest speakers, organize a virtual or in-person panel discussion with influential Black authors, leaders, historians, and/or plan a workshop series. Topics can include cultural sensitivity, race relations, recognizing unconscious bias, civil rights, strategies for increasing diversity, and other topics critical to Black identity. You could also start a book club; suggestions could include:
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, an anthology edited by Jesmyn Ward
- Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- The Sellout by Paul Beatty
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Tip 3: Put Action to Your Words
Create services opportunities to volunteer with local or national nonprofits, such as My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, to foster employee motivation and engagement, meet Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) goals, and bond with your colleagues.
Volunteering as an organization can be very powerful. Not only are you able to bring mass support to a project, but you are also able to foster organizational partnerships and create lasting relationships by establishing internship and/or recruiting programs.
Looking for more ways to increase your organization’s cultural competence? Contact Agentix today!