Tips for Celebrating Black History in the Workplace: Part One

To mark Black History Month, we’ve called upon the insights of North Highland’s Black Employee Network (B.E.N.) to explore how to engage the workforce around the subject.

The last two years have been unprecedented times for everyone—not least due to the pandemic. But while the simultaneous civil unrest and wide awakening to societal inequalities may be new to some, it’s an escalation of an ever-present hardship for others. More inclusive conversations around racial disparities have been long overdue, and the time is now to find viable solutions and drive real change.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we not only appreciate the past and the hardships endured, but discuss the work needed today to achieve equality and justice. It all starts with an openness to dialogue.

At North Highland, we’re committed to taking action and creating an enviable culture that reflects our society: one team, one race, one humanity. Below, we share several ways to engage and leverage black talent, and to acknowledge black history:

1. Create an open forum

Host an educational roundtable, allowing employees to engage with colleagues and ask questions in a safe space. Be sure to set the ground rules at the start to create a non-judgmental environment of trust, camaraderie, and support. Building time for questions and open dialogue will be crucial to driving meaningful interaction.

2. Host a trivia game

Whether it’s on general history, sports, or entertainment, create an engaging forum for employees to simultaneously have fun and learn. A little trivia is the perfect way to generate cultural appreciation while paying homage to black excellence.

3. Support local black businesses

Partnering with local businesses to help strengthen black communities can take many shapes. You could recommend using apps and directories like those mentioned on Fast Company, as well as local black chambers, open search, or The Black Parade Route. And why not send care packages from local black-owned businesses (check out the Boston black-owned business gift box and this list of black-owned shops on Etsy).

4. Dedicate an online book club session to black authors

Spread awareness of black experiences or promote black authors by hosting a virtual book club. Consider sharing digital copies or covering the book costs for employees that want to engage. Arrange a meet-up after a few weeks to discuss the book. If your team is unable to meet virtually or in person, consider sending out an engaging quiz or short reflection that they can take part in.

Here’s a few recommendations for books by black authors from TED, along with a handful from North Highland:

  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
  • Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
  • A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

5. Take a virtual tour of historically significant sites

Organize a guided virtual tour or navigate your own self-led tour with museum staff by sharing images over a video call. There’s no better way to explore black history first-hand while in remote settings.

Here’s a few virtual tours that fit the bill for Black History Month:

How will you be celebrating Black History Month at your workplace? We’d love to hear your ideas on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Courtney James