For Allies – Ideas On How To Celebrate Black History Month In The Office

February 2, 2016 Opinion

Its Black History Month! Its the time of year where we get 28 days (29 days this year) to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to this country. Unfortunately, in the past, we’ve seen a few companies make faux pas in an attempt to celebrate the month. So we’ve put together a handy list of ideas on how to celebrate as an ally.

Before we get started, there are a few don’ts when celebrating this month. The below list may seem silly, but unfortunately, based on experience it’s needed.

DON’T Host A Fried Chicken Day In the Cafeteria

If your company is doing this, speak up. Let them know that this action, as an attempt to celebrate the month, is just offensive. In a month that is chosen to highlight African American contributions and experience in America, fried chicken does neither. Hosting a cafeteria fried chicken day belittles the role many blacks have played in building this country and basically perpetuates stereotypes. Eat your fried chicken, but please do not tie it to this month long celebration.

DON’T Wish Every Black Person You See A ‘Happy Black History Month’

Black History Month is not a black celebration, its an American celebration. If your plan is to wish a “Happy Black History Month’ to black people, then you better wish it to everyone in the office. Simply put, black history is our history as Americans.

DON’T Ask the Only Black Person On The Team To Coordinate Something For Black History Month

See the previous. Black history is american history, so we should all feel empowered to do something. Now, if s/he has volunteered or really wants to lead or coordinate an event for the celebration, let them. Just don’t ask them to put something together or expect that they will.

So, What Can You Do To Celebrate Black History Month In the Office

  1. Host a Weekly Speaker Series or Panel Featuring Black Experts In Your Field Resist the temptation to host any talks on ‘diversity’ or ‘race’ issues. Frankly, these talks are overdone and equally uncreative. Instead, find experts in your field, that are black, and can speak to topics that are relevant to your company or team’s work. Invite them to your company to do a lightening talk about their work. Be mindful in your invite. Do not say: “Hey! It’s Black History Month! And since you’re black, do you want to come speak to us?.” Instead, here’s a better approach: “We are being intentional about recognizing people of color who are experts in X. Are you interested in coming to talk to our team about your work?”
  2. Host an office book (or article) club Find books or article written by black authors. The subject matter can be decided by the team. Meet weekly and discuss the topics addressed in the book or article.
  3. Host an offsite at your local african american museum If your company is located in the bay area, the MoAD is an excellent choice and is featuring a lecture series this month on ‘Exploring the History of African Diaspora Photography.’
  4. Partner with a local black professional association and co-host a networking mixer Again, be mindful in your invite to the association. Do not say: “Hey! It’s Black History Month. And since you guys are black, let’s hangout this month.” Instead, here’s a better approach: “It is our intention to seek more opportunities to connect and network with communities of color. Are you interested in cohosting an event with us this month?”
  5. Take a Pledge As A Team Or Company To Do More of 1 – 4 Throughout the Year