Black History Month 2022: Innovative Ways of Teaching & Celebrating
Since 1926 Black History has been celebrated annually, and what once was a celebration that lasted for one week now lasts for the entire month of February. Started by Carter G. Woodson, this time honors the contributions of African Americans to U.S. History. It’s a time to reflect on the many historical events that have changed the landscape of race and equality in America, and to remember all the historical figures who fought for the equality we have which we continue to fight for every day.
Celebrating Black History Month in your office is an incredible opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion within your organization. Recognizing the perseverance others had before us and incorporating this into educating employees on equality can be done in a number of ways, but first it’s helpful to understand why it’s so important.
Why It’s Important
Education during black history month is as much about today as it is about the past. It’s about preserving a people’s culture and drawing inspiration from it to generate more change in the present. Within the workplace, the importance of educating employees about the societal injustices that black Americans once faced and still face today garners more attention to both the history and the change that still needs to happen. Education will also promote stronger inclusivity practices, diversity appreciation, and a larger calling for equitable responsibility in every organization.
As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the opening of the Washington D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering”.
Ways to Educate
When it comes to talking about Black History, while there is only one month in the year set aside to celebrate it, the idea should be that the learning take-aways are carried into everyday work. For the month of February, a few ideas to get discussions started about black history include:
- Spotlighting Important Figures: Discussing the impacts that black historical figures had on the history of our country and the way race is viewed is a great place to start. Speaking on ideas they brought to light, looking at how their actions were received, and pulling inspiration from their courage are all strategic ways to educate.
- Choose Quotes to Analyze and Apply: Pulling quotes from past activists to analyze and then apply to everyday work is a simple and effective way to get employees thinking about what equality and diversity mean to them. Opening dialogues around this can lead to meaningful conversations that both spread awareness and have a positive impact on the culture of your organization.
- Guest Speakers: Bringing in speakers to share stories about race and their black identities can be influential on many fronts, creating a safe space and furthermore educating all employees on the types of challenges faced every day. Having diverse voices come in and share different perspectives develops a more inclusive environment that shows your team how appreciated their differences are.
While all of these are great ways to get conversations flowing and the learning started, the education of employees when it comes to equality and diversity should not just end with the end of the month. There are always next steps to take to further promote learning and awareness. By making inclusive practices part of yearly planning through things such as DEI training and workshops, and providing both the time and funding to explore any employee interest in diversity training.
Ways to Observe
When it comes to observation of Black History month, the possibilities are endless of how to encourage employees to celebrate. Ultimately it comes down to employee preference, whether it be learning something new, trying something new, or supporting a valued cause, here are a few ideas to inspire with:
- Support a Local Black-Owned Business: Research often shows that black-owned businesses tend to struggle more so than others. By encouraging employees to support these businesses or by sharing their stories with followers to inspire others to help can immensely impact the performance of these businesses. Websites such as WeBuyBlack can help locate these in your area, however, if you’re in the Philadelphia area we took the liberty of highlighting a few Philadelphia black-owned businesses in our 2021 Black History Month post- everything from food, to clothing, to nonprofits!
- Promote Black Art, Films, and Novels: Exposing employees to different perspectives through forms of art is a beautiful way to promote looking at the black experience. By selecting several books, paintings, or films to take a look at and stimulate conversation over, employees can share opinions and having thoughtful discussions while supporting black artists. Taking it step further and asking for employee recommendations is also a great way for team members to share their favorite art pieces with one another.
- Host a Lunch & Learn: Hosting a lunch and learn is a fun and engaging way to gather employees and connect history to the present. By doing something as simple as watching a quick documentary over lunch-break, or sending out light reading to do beforehand to talk about together is an interactive way of observing Black History Month that doesn’t require any additional time that employees may not have. Offering a few of these over the course of the month also offers more flexibility and opportunities for engagement.
- Black History Month Trivia: Challenging employees to test their knowledge on Black History Month is an entertaining way to bring to light exactly how much they know about the history and how much they can still learn. Creating a series of questions for them to answer can also be a first step to gauging which areas would be most helpful to talk about, and a competitive way to educate.
No matter how you choose to educate and observe Black History Month at your organization, the bottom line is that you’ll be instilling a valuable work culture that is inclusive of all employees. Learning about the history that brought us to where we are today and honoring the sacrifices that others made before us to be able to celebrate diversity instead of fear is the beautiful message that observing this month carries. Support employees on their way to becoming educated and making a difference!
This time of the year is also providing a great opportunity to review your organizations diversity strategy. After educating employees and collecting feedback, looking at your own DEI standards and adjusting them based on the industry-wide changes happening can be a daunting task. That’s why we’re here to help! At Exude, our experts will provide you with helpful feedback and redefining your DEI strategy. Get in touch with us today.