The past year has been trying on so many levels. A global pandemic has gripped our attention and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The political stage in the United States continues to capture media headlines around the world tearing focus from our everyday work. And the issue of racial justice and equity has surfaced with a force and intensity that none of us can ignore. It’s from this maelstrom that Black History Month emerges for a month-long celebration in February with the 2021 theme: The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.

In 1976, President Ford issued his first Message on the Observance of Black History Week but the genesis of BHM dates to 1915 when Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-educated historian, came up with the idea after attending a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Woodson, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, chose February to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). The idea evolved over decades but it wasn’t until 1986 that President Reagan issued a proclamation calling upon citizens to observe February 1986 as Black History Month, a time to celebrate the many achievements of African Americans in every field from science and the arts to politics and religion.”

As small business owners, itâ’s important to acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month at work. Diversity in the workplace fosters equitable environments and practices. Diversity also helps employees stay alert to societal injustices, and keeps businesses progressive and relevant to global audiences. Inclusivity and diversity are essential components of good business. Sound equality, inclusivity, and diversity practices ensure that the services provided to people are fair and accessible to everyone, that people are treated as equals, they get the dignity and respect they deserve, and that their differences are celebrated. Promoting those values in the workplace is primarily concerned with preventing discrimination, whether active or passive.

Consider celebrating the contributions of Black Americans with some of these activities:

  1. Attend our free webinar: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on February 16 at 3PM. Leadership and Change Innovator Chana Anderson will lead a discussion that explores the impact of diversity and equity on small businesses and identifies the steps on how to create a diversity initiative in the workplace.

  2. Invite a speaker to attend a business or organization gathering to talk diversity and inclusion.

  3. Support Black-owned or operated businesses by hosting a service day and volunteering with organizations such as 100 Black Men of AmericaBlack Lives MatterCampaign Zero or the NAACP. Order your takeout from black owned restaurants or caterers and frequent other small Black and minority-owned businesses.

  4. Host a Black trivia event at work over lunch. Spark Zoom discussions about prominent Black leaders, authors, actors, and events, both current and historical.

  5. Create a #blackhistorymonth Slack channel to keep employees up to date about relevant events, and more. Post regularly in the channel about historical figures and other facts about black history to encourage a culture of learning and awareness.

  6. Learn about Black art and culture that has contributed so much to the fabric of our society. Share resources that will help illuminate the experience of being a person of color in our country. Some books and movies include:

West Center is always ready to help you with your small business. Please call us with your questions and concerns at 707-964-7571.