Ask SGO: How do we prepare for Black History Month?

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This video about how organizations can prepare for Black History Month was taken from our January 18, 2022, Ask SGO on LinkedIn Live. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to …

This video about how organizations can prepare for Black History Month was taken from our January 18, 2022, Ask SGO on LinkedIn Live. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about upcoming LinkedIn Lives and other events.

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We are coming up really close to February 1st, which is the beginning of Black History Month. Some organizations may have a full plan at this point. Some of them may be realizing, “oh this is coming up a little faster than we thought. We’re not quite there yet.” How can organizations responsibly prepare without putting expectations of emotional labor on their Black employees? What can we do for this year? What can we do for next year? What does that look like?

If you haven’t already done things, think about next year now. This happens every year. The beauty of this is we already know it’s coming up. You already have it on the calendar. They put it up there for you. So you can start thinking ahead of time, “What are we going to do to honor our black colleagues and fellow citizens?”

Start pre-planning. Now if you’re just looking today and think, “oh, yeah that’s coming up. We need to start thinking about things,” there’s definitely a fine line between getting the input of your BIPOC staff, and not putting all of that emotional labor on them to do all of the “Black things.”

So ask yourself, how are we honoring this month intentionally, and are we doing this annually in an intentional way, that’s not really last minute? It’s really important to sit with.

Almost every year you see that post or that meme that says, “Black History Month isn’t just Black history, it’s American history, it’s international history.” A lot of us need to really reflect on how we’re celebrating some of these months. In what ways have folks within the Black community, within the Black diaspora, contributed to where you are today? Even in your current workplace, or your community, your environment.

While it’s important to honor and celebrate Black history in the workplace, let it not stop there. What are some things that you’re doing in your community? How are you also leading the way as a manager,as a colleague, or whatever your role is in the workplace? If you’re kind of late and you’re thinking, we don’t want to put something together and be messy about it, what role are you taking as an individual? Maybe you have certain platforms like Slack or LinkedIn, and you want to share and connect with your colleagues. That’s an opportunity to do so.

We’ve worked with a client before who, every month, she’s really been trying to figure out, how do I not tokenize folks from certain communities, but then how do I also do this in a way that feels good? One of the things that she’s really been focusing on is having those conversations within those platforms. Sharing some prompts during the month. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be this big event, and if it is awesome, but also those conversations that you’re having daily and weekly also contribute to honoring and celebrating Black History Month.

Another point to consider is where are the black folks at your company? If we’re thinking about creating that change that we talked about, we defined equity and inclusion earlier, what does your staffing look like right now? Are folks really represented across the hierarchy? What we’ve noticed through DEI data is that folks who are Black and other racialized minorities in the US are oftentimes frontline staff, but as you climb up that ladder, it gets whiter, it gets more male, it gets more heterosexual, or able-bodied and so forth. How do we take a moment to say, not only are we celebrating and honoring Black History Month, but we’re also doing the work by fixing and adjusting our structures and systems so that folks are adequately represented at our company.

Finally, just because it’s a month on the calendars, does not mean that that’s the only time that we acknowledge the contributions of these folks. This country was built on the backs of African enslaved people, for free and constantly acknowledging that, thinking about how you’re honoring that, looking at where you are within the country, in the world, rather, and how those contributions helped you get to where you are today. Outside of February, this is not the only time we can acknowledge that and honor them.

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