Managing Your Business
How Your Business Can Celebrate Black History Month (And Mean It)
Black History Month is an annual celebration to recognize Black stories, raise awareness of Black American history, and draw attention to the longstanding, institutional racism that continues to permeate all levels of our society. Every February, many businesses show their support through marketing messages, social media posts, and promotional videos.
While this type of participation is common, it shows little effort and can easily be perceived as nothing more than performative activism. Well-meaning companies across the U.S. will post their support of Black Lives Matter and other movements, but without action backing up the words, these sentiments feel insincere. Are these businesses genuinely committed to equality, or are they paying lip service just to bring attention to their brand?
If your business is serious about celebrating and supporting the Black community, your actions need to go beyond a Twitter post. Here are four ways your business can intentionally celebrate Black History Month this February, both internally and externally.
Reflect on Current Diversity and Inclusion Efforts
One way to participate within your company is by reviewing your current diversity and inclusion efforts. While race can be a touchy subject in the workplace, it’s essential to create an environment where employees can openly share their backgrounds and differences.
If you’re not sure where to start, first make sure that your company doesn’t fall into the trap of being “colorblind,” or ignoring racial or demographic differences in organizational policies. While it might be tempting to downplay racial and demographic differences in an attempt to establish equality, studies show this approach only increases negative biases among employees.
Instead, everyone in your company should be encouraged to discuss and recognize their differences, with those from the majority serving as allies to those who are underrepresented. When current events affect individual racial communities, this can help create a safe space to provide support during the workday.
As you review your efforts to foster inclusion, reach out to Black leaders within your organization. Meaningful and impactful actions should support Black employees in leadership positions. Empower them to create events that celebrate Black culture, community, and people — this month and throughout the year. If your business has no Black leaders, it may be time to examine institutional biases within your organization.
Make It a Companywide Effort
When celebrating Black History Month, make sure events promote participation by all employees. When the entire office works together to support Black and other underrepresented groups, it can become a retention tool that continues to transform your company culture over time.
One of the easiest ways to support change in your community and promote employee participation is by volunteering as a company for local organizations. To get started, look for local Black-led nonprofits and charities that need help on a community project. Reach out to national organizations like Black Girls Code, Black Women’s Blueprint, or Center for Black Equity to learn how your company can help.
Bringing in speakers is another excellent way to foster discussions around race, civil rights, and other vital topics surrounding the Black community. Reach out to authors or activists within your community to speak to your employees and bounce around different perspectives. Speakers can even plan a workshop to add a hands-on approach and help promote bonding among team members from diverse backgrounds.
If you’re having difficulty planning an in-person event, consider setting up an online donation drive to support racial justice. Arrange a fundraiser as a company and pool together donations for a local or national organization, such as the Equal Justice Initiative or The Sentencing Project. Giving money is an easy and impactful way to show your support both within and outside your company.
Partner With Black-Owned Businesses
Owning a business is never easy, but Black business owners face unique challenges. Eight out of 10 Black-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months. This Black History Month, it’s more important than ever to support Black entrepreneurs in your community and help remove barriers that hold them back from success.
Many Black small business owners struggle with gaining access to capital, as minority-owned businesses are less likely to secure funding than white-owned businesses. Lenders often discourage Black-owned businesses from applying for small business loans under COVID-19 programs compared to white business owners in similar conditions, showing a stark disparity in access to financing as a minority.
The easiest way to support a small business is to become a loyal customer. Research Black-owned businesses in your area to see if there’s any that you can use for recurring events or in your office. For example, you could purchase gift cards from a local Black-owned restaurant and give them to employees or hire the restaurant as a catering service for an upcoming corporate event.
If you want to take it a step further, reach out and partner with a Black-owned business directly. Business partnerships are essential for small businesses in need of financing. Partnerships help drive more business, increase visibility, and further customer reach. By partnering with a Black-owned business, you can provide long-term support while raising each other’s brand awareness.
Amplify Black Voices
Black History Month recognizes Black stories across the U.S. and raises awareness of Black American history. A meaningful way to participate within your company is by simply making time for your Black employees to share their individual experiences with their colleagues.
Black voices and perspectives should be actively engaged and amplified within your company, providing feedback on company inclusion practices and sharing cultural experiences. In this way, you can create an open, safe space where dialogue is welcome from both the majority and underrepresented groups.
On the other hand, it’s important to make sure you’re not putting the burden of reform on your Black employees. While there is a need for Black voices in the workplace, it’s not their job to educate their colleagues and serve as the sole drivers of systemic change. Instead, amplifying the voices of your Black employees should simply open discussion on company reform and any current issues with race in the workplace.
Continue Your Efforts 365 Days a Year
If you plan to participate in Black History Month, the most important thing to remember is that your efforts shouldn’t end on February 28. While the celebration is a month-long holiday, supporting your Black employees, celebrating the Black community, and fighting for racial justice should continue 365 days a year.
As you take action, make sure your company efforts are authentic and sustainable, allowing you to prioritize diversity and inclusion year-round.
If you want to learn more about Black History Month, read our article on How to Support Black-Owned Businesses and Why It Matters.