February is Black History Month, and all over the world, people are honoring it and sharing Black history facts and topics. It is also commonplace in many workplaces to also participate and celebrate Black History Month and the contributions African Americans have made to the world. Cultural awareness and diversity are now things that we see encouraged at work through programs and special events, and as a former HR manager, I feel that it often brings unity and strengthens company culture. But while there are many workplaces that do acknowledge and participate in Black History Month, there are many others that do not.
Does your workplace participate in Black History Month?
I have worked in workplaces that celebrated it as well as those that didn’t think it was necessary. I found that those companies that did celebrate it, were ones of inclusion. They were often large corporations with many offices worldwide, and felt responsible to partake in the sharing of information that Black History Month offers. The smaller companies I worked for usually did not celebrate Black History Month, or any other celebratory event outside of holidays.
If your employer is on the fence about participating in Black History Month, it could be that they don’t know how to. It may seem like it is a given that companies would know ways in which they could participate in Black History Month, but perhaps, they could use some suggestions or feedback.
Here are a few ideas to help the workplace participate in Black History Month:
Some workplaces invite guest speakers to speak during a Black History Month event, usually a luncheon type of affair. The speaker can be someone who is knowledgeable in African American history and studies, or who may have a story to tell about their life and past. This can be a civic leader or someone within the community. You could also invite someone who is able to talk about inclusion, embracing one another differences, cultures, etc. These luncheons or chats would be voluntary for those employees who wanted to participate.
A workshop or seminar can be a great way to get employees involved and engaged on the subject of race. Again, a guest speaker could be brought in to facilitate the workshop and answer questions. The purpose is to have employees perhaps role-playing or completing exercises that can help them learn to work better with one another.
Posters that celebrate black history, quotes, photos—these can be used throughout the workplace to educate others and to acknowledge our contributions. In one office I worked in, there was a massive bulletin board in the main lobby area, and for Black History Month each year, it was decorated with all sorts of pictures, collages, and messages regarding African American history.
During my tenure as the HR manager for a call center, during Black History Month, each day, I would email out a different Black history tidbit or “little-known” fact. It was wonderful to get so many of the employees talking to one another about the emails saying, “I didn’t know that or, I forwarded the email to my colleague at so and so”.
Black History Month is about teachable moments. I hope that more workplaces participate in Black History Month to inspire, encourage, and educate all employees, no matter the color.