10 Ideas to Celebrate Black History Month at Work

10 Ideas to Celebrate Black History Month at Work

Discover 10 creative ways to honor Black History Month in the workplace with our latest blog. From engaging book clubs to inspiring activities, learn how to celebrate diversity and foster inclusivity in your workplace!

10 Ideas to Celebrate Black History Month at Work

February is Black History Month in the US, which means it’s time to start thinking about how to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans in your company and your community. Choosing to honor Black History Month with thoughtful and meaningful celebrations and events helps your organization stay true to your commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging (DEIB).

And doing the right thing for DEIB has benefits for your company’s HR goals as well, particularly in hiring. In fact, 32% of all jobseekers and 41% of Black jobseekers would not even apply to a company that lacks diversity. So celebrating the diversity in your organization is more critical than ever at a time when talent is scarce.

But what is the right way to go about celebrating Black History Month at work? This guide will give you 10 ideas to honor Black History Month now, and to carry that spirit of inclusion and equity through the whole year as well.

The History of Black History Month

In 1926, the first Negro History Week was established by journalist and author Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH). Woodson chose a week in February because it was the month that both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were born, and he aimed to inspire future generations of leaders with a celebration of Black American history.

Then, the civil rights movement in the 1960s pushed the idea of a larger, nationwide celebration of the contributions of Black people in the US into the forefront. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month for the first time, and since then it’s been a positive fixture on the DEI calendar.

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10 Workplace Black History Month Ideas

These Black History Month celebration ideas will help you start thinking about ways to honor your Black employees and the Black community as a whole, whether your organization is fully in-person, fully remote, or hybrid.

1. Create a Company-Wide Celebration

First, it’s important to keep in mind that Black History Month shouldn’t only be celebrated by Black people — it’s a commemoration of the contributions that the Black community has made to the society we all live in.

Black History Month activities in your organization should include all team members, and be sure to include a variety of people when planning those activities too, as the burden shouldn’t fall only to your Black employees. Including everyone in these activities and celebrations can be truly transformative for your company and all of your employees, which is one of the big benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace.

2. Bring In Guest Speakers

Hearing from the experts is a great way to learn more about everything the Black community has achieved and lived through, so bring in a few authors, historians, activists, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who can inspire your company. You could also include Black artists to talk about Black art if that would resonate with your employees.

For teams that are hybrid or remote, these talks can happen over Zoom so everyone is included.

3. Host Educational Events

You can go beyond guest speakers too and host other kinds of educational events centered around Black excellence and contributions.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture’s Searchable Museum, the NYT's “Black History, Continued”, and the National Archives on Black History are all great resources to find ideas and information to share with employees, and are remote and hybrid-friendly as well.

Plus, don’t forget to check out what your city or community is doing to honor Black History Month — they may have events or educational opportunities you can tie into your own efforts. These are great opportunities for some team building too!

4. Tie Recognition to DEI Goals

Social recognition is a powerful way to increase not only employee engagement but also show your employees that your company lives up to your stated values. And it has a strong impact on turnover for people of color as well: after just one year in a recognition program, turnover dropped 20% for Black, Asian, and Hispanic employees.

Recognition is a critical part of making all your employees feel a sense of belonging and inclusion because it ensures that their contributions are seen and valued. You can, and should, use your recognition program to drive progress on your DEI goals and shout out the people who are key in making that progress happen.

5. Start a Book Club

Who doesn’t love a book club? February is a great month to start a year-round one focused on Black authors, historians, and activists to develop a deeper understanding of Black culture and contributions (here’s a great list to get started).

Plus, once you’ve all read the book, you can host an open and honest discussion on what you learned and the issues the book raises. If you’d like to have a more structured discussion, you can bring in a skilled moderator or let an experienced employee guide the discussion. If you have remote or hybrid employees, you can start a Slack channel for the discussion or hold it over Zoom so everyone has the opportunity to participate.

6. Share Employee Stories

Shine a light on the wonderful work your Black employees are doing with employee spotlights — you can ask employees if they’re willing to share their stories with your organization or even on external social media. Just be sure to get full permission from each participant first.

Your employee resource groups (ERGs) can be a great place to go to find these employee stories. In fact, the ERG leaders may have inspiring stories of their own to share, and these spotlights can encourage more people to join them.

7. Support Black-Owned Businesses

If you’re not already focused on supporting Black-owned businesses, then Black History Month is a great time to start! For the events you might be hosting, you can reach out to Black-owned restaurants and caterers to see if they’re available to provide refreshments or meals. And be sure to check the Shop Black Owned site for vendors and share the list with your employees too so you can support Black businesses all year round.

8. Donate to Black Community Organizations

Making a donation to non-profit organizations in your community or across the country that are dedicated to racial justice and improving the lives of Black people is a powerful gesture at any time of year, but especially during February.

You can find a local organization if you want the impact to be closer to home, or you can donate to a national organization like Black Girls Code, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, or the NAACP Defense and Educational Fund. You can involve employees by asking them what organizations they’d prefer the donations to go to.

As you explore these 10 innovative ideas to celebrate Black History Month in your workplace, understanding your team's perspectives on diversity and inclusion is crucial. Enhance your efforts by downloading our comprehensive DEI Sentiment Survey, a valuable tool to gauge and improve your organization's commitment to creating a truly inclusive environment.

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9. Start a Youth Mentorship Program

Supporting the next generation of Black leaders means supporting Black youth today with education and career opportunities. A program where your employees can mentor at-risk and underserved Black youths can be a powerful way to make a difference in your community and provide opportunities for growth.

If you’re not sure where to start, contacting one of your local Historically Black Colleges and Universities to see about forming a partnership with a mentoring program is a great first step. They may already have programs in place that you can tap into and support.

10. Review Your Organization’s DEI Progress

Black History Month is a great time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to reflect on your organization’s progress toward your DEI goals. Are you where you had hoped to be at this point? Are you lacking in Black managers or leaders despite efforts to diversify your hiring? It might be a good time to look carefully at your company culture development and see if you’ve created a truly inclusive workplace, or if there’s work to be done.

Creating a diverse, equitable, inclusive organization for your Black employees and everyone else is a year-round task — it won’t happen in a month. Looking for more ways to expand your DEI strategy and create a better workplace for everyone? Cooleaf can help!

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