If you haven’t already started planning activities to celebrate Black History Month, it’s time to get started because it’ll be here in a little over a week.
That’s right. Black History Month starts February 1.
It’s a time to reflect on the contributions of Black Americans and celebrate their achievements and rich culture. It’s also a time to start conversations about race, support anti-racism as an organization and acknowledge how far we still must go as a society to end racism and inequality.
Why is it important?
Black History Month was born out of “Negro History Week,” which was conceived by historian Carter Woodson and four others who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History – the start of African American studies in the U.S.
Then, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month during America’s 1976 bicentennial.
Simple. The second week of February is when Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass celebrated their birthdays. Lincoln played a pivotal role in the emancipation of slaves and Douglass, who was a slave, was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement. This was a time when African Americans celebrated their emancipation.
You may think everyone knows all of this, but that isn’t necessarily true. A lot of people just know bits and pieces because they never study it. But you can help them learn about Black History Month by doing things in the office.
7 ways to celebrate Black History Month at work
Here are a few ways to incorporate Black History Month in the workplace while having a little fun.
Daily interesting facts
Once a day, send an interesting fact to everyone about Black History Month. You can do it via email or hang facts around the office. Then at the end of the month, give everyone a quiz. You can have more than one winner. And as prizes, you could give small gift cards to Black-owned restaurants.
Host a lunch
Consider hosting a lunch and having it catered by a Black-owned business. During the lunch, have the owner of the business give a 15-minute presentation on how they got their start and some of their favorite ethnic foods.
Create a new Employee Resource Group (ERG)
Consider building a multicultural group whose main purpose is to influence diversity and inclusion through education. Encourage them to host events, put on presentations, etc.
Organize a book club
A book club is fun and interactive. Consider reading books that celebrate a different group or cause each month. For example, in February, members could read a book by a Black author or a book on Black history.
Here are groups to celebrate – some you may know and others you may not – for the rest of the year:
- January is Mental Wellness Month (read a book by an author who espouses being open about mental health or who suffers from mental health issues)
- March is Women’s History Month (read a book by a woman)
- April is Autism Awareness month (You get the gist by now)
- May is Asian American and Pacific Island Heritage Month
- June is Pride Month
- July is American Artist Appreciation Month
- August is National Inventors Month
- September starts Hispanic Heritage Month and continues into October
- October is LGBTQ+ History Month
- November is Native American Heritage Month, and
- December is HIV/AIDS Awareness Month.
These aren’t the only celebrations for each month, but they give you a jumping-off point.
Bring in a speaker
Feature a speaker who can share stories/experiences that center around Black identity and/or how to promote diversity. Encourage employees to get involved and ask questions, and maybe even tell their own experiences around race. Maybe your speaker could even be an employee.
Support Black-owned businesses
Encourage employees to hand in a list of Black-owned businesses they enjoy frequenting in their home area or the office area. Then compile a complete list and send it out to all employees. You can include what the business does and a testimonial from an employee.
Spotlight charities supporting the Black community
Create a list of charities that support the Black community and consider giving employees a day off to volunteer for these charities during the month of February.