African-American heritage and culture are a fundamental part of American society. For instance, African-American innovators and entrepreneurs have made a profound impact on the business landscape in the U.S. Technological innovations, including automatic elevator doors, caller ID, traffic lights and more sprung from inventive black luminaries. However, the contributions of African-Americans to society are often distorted, ignored, or overlooked. Much of the history curriculum in most schools doesn’t give enough recognition to the innovation, hard work, and sacrifices made by Americans of African ancestry.
Through Black History month, everyone gets an opportunity to understand, share and celebrate the contributions of African Americans.
Where Did Black History Month Originate?
Carter G. Woodson, a child of formerly enslaved people who is considered the “Father of Black History”, was born in 1875 in Virginia. Despite the limited access to job opportunities and education, he enrolled in high school after saving money by toiling in coal mines. Over the years, he accumulated impressive qualifications, including getting a history Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 1926, he founded America’s first Black History Week.
Carter G. Woodson spent his life tirelessly promoting black history, leaving a humbling legacy. In 1970, the Black History event was expanded to a full month, and all U.S. presidents since 1976 have officially designated February as Black History Month. February was chosen because it coincides with the two important figures in the history of the U.S.: former President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas – an icon of social activism who escaped slavery. Both men played a key role in ending slavery.
How Is Black History Month Celebrated?
The event is meant to highlight the contributions and achievements of Americans of African ancestry. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for everyone to learn about the impact of racism and how to overcome negative stereotypes.
Celebrating Black History Month
Black History Month is a great time for business owners and employees to learn about various aspects of Black culture. Here are some of the ways your business can mark Black History Month:
Invite Black Speakers
Black History Month provides an opportunity for your employees to learn about their Black co-workers’ experiences, as well as openly ask questions. A great way of sparking these conversations is to invite a Black speaker. Choose a relevant topic and have an expert conduct a workshop on that topic. Encourage your workers to explore that topic and ask questions freely. If you don’t have the budget for external speakers, you can work with your employees. Create a panel of employees in various career levels and have a conversation about their experiences in the workplace.
Support Local Black Businesses
Recent studies reveal that Black-owned enterprises often struggle to remain open due to limited access to capital. However, your business can support local black-owned enterprises by using their products and services. For instance, you can choose to have brunch at a local black-owned restaurant.
Highlight Internal Success Stories
If you have Black employees who are thriving in your business, Black History Month can be a great time to highlight their success stories. Seeing Black employees succeeding in your organization, can give a major morale boost to your junior Black employees.
Find Ways to Advocate for African-American Causes
If possible, you can update your marketing campaigns and business offerings to show that you recognize and celebrate Black heritage. For instance, Black employees at Amazon taught Alexa Black History facts. As a result, users can now easily access facts about Black History since the 19th century.
Economic Development Collaborative provides businesses, civic leaders, and community partners, in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara Counties with the resources they need to thrive. As you celebrate Black History Month, consider reaching out to us for business consulting and funding that will help you succeed. To learn how we can help you grow your business, contact us today!