It’s that time of year again! Black History Month is here and somewhere I’m nervous that somebody has dusted off the ole faithful MLK poster to hang sadly in the break room. Not this year. We’re not doing that.
What are other ways that workplaces can show that they appreciate my presence, culture and history without it being forced, underwhelming, or just another “good effort?” How can black employees feel seen, appreciated and celebrated? Here are a few reminders and suggestions:
Black history happens all year.
Celebrate and acknowledge other major milestones in Black History. For example, Juneteenth (June 19th) is now a national holiday that, for African Americans, mark the true ending of slavery.
Celebrate the black excellence of today.
WE KNOW Rosa Parks said “Nah.” Year after year we get “educated” on the same 7 historical figures of our youth. We realize that other employees of non-African descent may not have heard of these notable figures and this isn’t to say that there isn’t a place to honor them everyday but let’s highlight today’s history makers. Ayanna Presley, Simone Biles, or heck, Blue Ivy, anybody that represents present day Black Excellence is more than welcome to be celebrated.
With time and commitment, there are plenty of resources available. We know BHM is upon us, but guess what? It happens EVERY YEAR. What if you put a few months of planning and a good sized budget into the hands of your black employees to honor Black History Month properly? There are a myriad of artists that could create some really cool installations that are modern, keep morale high and don’t seem forced. Have a black ERG group? Ask them what they’d like to see happen around the office, not only for black history month, but all year.
Surprise your black employees with a lil bonus!!! Just kidding (am I?) but consider this point as your EQUAL PAY REMINDER. Black Men get paid less than White Women and Black Women get paid even less than that.
Now this is a solid rule:
If you only have one black employee, don’t shower your office with more black faces on posters than are black individuals in your office. Social media should also reflect the truth of your workforce. Maybe you just wanna send an email acknowledging black history month has started and try again next year. Let’s concentrate on your hiring practices, recruiting efforts and retention rates before you go slapping posters of Malcolm X all over the place.
This Black History month there is a lot to celebrate and still a lot to dismantle. Pick a cause that benefits communities of color and donate as an individual, educate yourself on different eras of black history and more importantly, send the message to your black employees that you genuinely appreciate the contributions of what black people have done for this country.
FYI – this is a leap year so we’ll be celebrating for a full 29 days!