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Black History Month 2021: Unpacking History in Pursuit of Equity

President Gerald Ford declared Black History Month (BHM) a national observance in 1976, America’s bicentennial year.


He stated, “In celebrating Black History Month,” we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”


President Ford’s decree was a culmination of decades of efforts that began in 1915 with the creation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History by Dr. Carter Woodson and associates to help schools reverse the systemic under-representation of Black people in history books and curriculum.


Dr. Woodson’s position- “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”


It was his mission, and that of many that moved his work forward, that American history books include the contributions that Blacks have made to the arts, the economy, the physical and social landscape, and their many technical and scientific breakthroughs. Their completion of these accomplishments in the face of hundreds of years of seemingly insurmountable obstacles with little or no tangible reward or recognition should be noted as well.


Presently, it is also important that progressive organizations acknowledge the past and present contributions made by Black persons to the success of this country as a business initiative.


Companies making this effort show their Black talent, customers, and community members that their pursuit of equity has viable allies. It also raises awareness for non-Black stakeholders and provides bridges to the disconnects that have prohibited progress thus far.


If your organization is seeking best practices for Black History Month, we recommend the list below from various resources.


Lets make it happen– especially in 2021.

  • Contribute to a civil justice organization (Urban League, UNCF)

  • Host a virtual cultural day or hour including music, food(delivery or BYO)

  • Black History Trivia – Send out a weekly question regarding a prominent figure in Black History and reward the employees that respond with the correct answer

  • Develop a mentoring program with Black students from a local HBCU or public grade/high school. Offer paid volunteer hours if possible

  • Invite Black employees to blog about their experiences on the company website.

  • Make it a strategic effort and engage the “C” suite via blogs, companywide acknowledgment of community engagement, profiles of successful Black employees or recipients of philanthropic efforts in the Black community

  • Feature Black leaders in the community / Invite them to speak virtually

  • Launch a Business Resource Group to continue the conversations and focus

  • Purchase several books by or about prominent Black figures and create a basket to be raffled off with the proceeds going to a local charity

  • Set talent and development goals with specific measures and announce the accountable leaders tapped.

Additional resources: DiversityInc.com, Forbes(culture).com, Time.com, SHRM.com, WSJ.com, HRCI.com

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