Five authentic ways workplaces can celebrate Black History Monthby
Authentic Black History Month initiatives should go far beyond marketing campaigns and must play a wider role in combating inequality by boosting inclusion and educating employees.
This month, institutions, organisations and communities across the UK are celebrating the contributions and achievements of Black Britons – from supporting Britain during WW1 and WW2 to helping build the NHS and London’s transport system and influencing music, fashion and other creative industries.
While many will acknowledge the event on social media, the most effective efforts will take place internally with your team. Despite it being a time to celebrate those who have historically been overlooked, it’s also time to reflect on the inequalities that still exist in our societies today – including our workplaces, where Black employees are experiencing the most discrimination and have the lowest percentage of workers in ‘manager, director or senior official’ roles.
Avoid appearing tone-deaf by celebrating Black leaders on your marketing channels, while doing little to support Black leadership in your own workplace
Here are a few things that HR can implement that could make a difference in your organisation:
1. Double down on your commitment to building an inclusive workplace
Reflecting on your internal D&I efforts and making necessary changes is the most impactful thing you can do as a business. Performative allyship is easily recognised by employees when businesses offer surface-level support for the sake of their brand image. Your statements about diversity will only seem authentic if they’re in line with your company values and practices.
Avoid appearing tone-deaf by celebrating Black leaders on your marketing channels, while doing little to support Black leadership in your own workplace. Show that you really care about inclusion by assessing your current strategy and identifying which areas need improvement, i.e your recruitment process, your management team or collecting data to track your progress.
2. Plan your internal comms too
While marketing teams will have external comms ready to go, don’t forget about talking internally to your team too. Publicly sharing support on social media without saying anything to your employees runs the risk of appearing performative. Acknowledging the event through your internal comms is an easy and cost-effective way to show support.
If you already have an internal comms channel, you could ask Black and mixed-race employees if they’d like to contribute this month (though do note, we don’t advise solely relying on those employees to lead your initiatives), or you could send a company-wide newsletter sharing some context around BHM, local happenings, books and resources.
Don’t forget that the purpose of this month is to celebrate Black history in the UK
3. Support a relevant cause through donations, partnerships or mentoring schemes
Another way to show that you genuinely care about making an impact is by raising awareness and supporting Black initiatives and causes – especially as they relate to improving equality within your industry. Tech companies could look for funds or groups that address the lack of diversity in tech and make a donation or use their platform to highlight the initiative.
Companies like Meta have even started their own funds to invest in the skills of young black creators. While we don’t all have the budget of Meta, something we can all contribute is our time and knowledge. Mentorship programmes or partnerships with local schools/community groups are just some ways to support the career progression and skill development of young Black students /workers who wish to join your industry.
4. Learn about Black history in your local area with a fun team event
Don’t forget that the purpose of this month is to celebrate Black history in the UK. Most of our knowledge is centred around the U.S experience, and many of us weren’t educated on Black British history at school (a problem that still persists today). This means there’s plenty of opportunity to engage your team with an exciting and informative experience. Organise a team outing to a local event, which will be taking place in most cities across the country.
The Black History Month website allows you to search by region, though it’s also worth checking the pages of local venues too. If you have a remote team working across different locations, don’t feel like you can’t bring everyone together for an event. Invite a historian or an activist to host a virtual talk or workshop so that your team can still take part in a thought-provoking discussion.
Cultural awareness is the first step towards becoming an ally who takes meaningful action
5. Host a Black British history-themed book club
Hosting a book club is an excellent way to educate team members and get them comfortable talking openly about race. Understanding Black history and experiences is important for everyone to know, as it helps to develop a greater understanding of the systemic challenges and biases that are still in place today. That cultural awareness is the first step towards becoming an ally who takes meaningful action.
While there are multitudes of non-fiction books to choose from, there are also brilliant historical fiction options that may be preferred by your team. Small Island by Andrea Levy shares the experiences of the Windrush generation, while Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi showcases the impact of the British slave trade across generations.
If you’re looking to build inclusivity into your organisation, focusing on your leadership team should be your first step but implementing these ideas is a good way to start.
Interested in this topic? Read Making Black History Month a catalyst for change.
Charlie Stainforth is the Co-Founder and CEO of Circl, which offers an inclusive leadership development programme using coaching skills to enable powerful conversations, promote social mobility and build more inclusive leaders capable of leading diverse teams.
Charlie is an accredited Executive coach and has been developing leaders for...