By Jake Hayes - Director of the Champions Speakers agency
Black History Month is one of the most important celebrations of the year. It honours the history of Black communities around the world, and celebrations the great achievements made by Black thought leaders that have shaped life as we know it. The month is a moment of reflection, a reminder to educate and an opportunity for business leaders to use their power as a force for positive change.
When is Black History Month 2020?
Black History Month is celebrated from Thursday the 1st of October, to Saturday the 31st of October, 2020.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month, otherwise known as African American History Month, is an internationally recognised celebration of just that – Black history. By honouring the struggles faced by not just the African American community, but Black people as a whole, the month strives for equality and inclusion. First coined by US historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, though under a different name, Black History Month has since become essential to British education.
Additionally, Black History Month highlights the achievements made by pinnacle Black figures, to supply a platform for the icons of inclusion that have been silenced by our white-washed history. It is important to celebrate “Black joy”, culture and achievements, just as much as we reflect upon the historical racism still prevalent in society today.
Black History Month facts?
Black History Month was first proposed in 1915, 50 years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished US slavery.
In America, the month of celebration is February, the same month as Frederick Douglass’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays.
Black History Month was created to improve the public’s study of African American history.
In 1976, the celebration was extended from a week, to a month.
The UK started celebrating Black History Month in October 1987.
What is the theme of Black History Month 2020?
It is no secret that 2020 has been a turbulent year. Between the global Covid-19 pandemic, history-defining protests against police brutality and the landmark US election in November, Black History Month is more important than ever. This years’ theme is African Americans and the Vote, honouring the 100-year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote, and the 1870 Fifteenth Amendment, which gave Black men the right to vote.
How to meaningfully celebrate Black History Month 2020?
Asses your company's diversity policy
Put simply, a company’s diversity policy is a written agreement, laying out the steps that managers and employees alike must take to promote inclusion, and tackle discrimination. It should pledge to create a respectful, accessible working environment, and take a hard stance against bullying of any kind. For Black employees, a diversity policy sets the standard for the company’s approach to discrimination, in line with the 1976 Race Relations Act, and following amendments in 2000 and 2003.
Black History Month is the perfect time to assess your diversity policy, and take genuine, meaningful steps to improving the wellbeing of your staff members from minority groups. From establishing appropriate vocabulary, setting out diversity programs to improve opportunities for Black employees and taking claims of racial bullying seriously, your policy should be on the right side of history.
Raise money for good causes
When businesses raise money for Black communities, it sends a clear message to its Black employees; we see you, we hear you, we stand with you. It is important not to assume that employees of minority backgrounds will automatically help you plan a charity fundraiser because they are Black, but taking that initiative establishes your business as a haven for inclusion. It also helps local charities to support the Black community in your area, and improve resources for Black-owned business, mental health services and more.
UK charities raising money for black communities:
Pledge to tackle workplace discrimination - then do it!
It is one thing to create a workplace inclusion policy that tackles discrimination, but the real proof is in the disciplining. When an employee comes to you with a case of racism or ongoing bullying, it is imperative that you take it seriously and not make excuses for the accused. From unconscious microaggressions to more serious crimes of racial harassment, workplace discrimination can arise in many forms, but 40% of those who reported a racist incident were still ignored.
The best way to tackle workplace discrimination, is through education and prevention. By teaching your managers how to notice the warning signs of racial bullying and provide a step-by-step strategy for disciplining those accused, your employees will not be complicit in a system of oppression. Anti-racism training and diversity speakers can teach your team how to tackle workplace discrimination head on.
Value a diverse team
When a workplace is diverse, the company as a whole makes better decisions, benefits from wider perspectives and is more innovative – a study by Josh Bersin’s Research even found that inclusive workplaces are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders. When each and every single member of your workplace, no matter who they are, feels included, they are more like to thrive in their respective roles, improving the productivity of your business as a whole.
By valuing diversity, your business will stay ahead of the times. You will benefit from the top professionals of your field, regardless of their differences, and encourage a more open, welcoming workplace culture. With 67% of modern-day job seekers reporting diversity as a main factor when choosing their dream place of work, your business may actually be limited by its lack of diversity and inclusion.