4 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month All Year

Hey everyone, I’m Royce 👋

I’m the Head of HRBP, Diversity Equity, and Inclusion at Drift. That means I focus on improving business performance through building equitable HR programs that attract, grow, and develop employees.

Like many companies, our team has been doing a lot of preparation for Black History Month (BHM). What’s top of mind for me is ensuring the energy and attention used to curate BHM programs are carried forward in our actions to elevate the employee experience throughout the year.

When I think about BHM, it always takes me back to elementary school. For me, it was a time to learn and celebrate the achievements of people that look like me and my family.

It was also a time for me to shine. I eagerly looked forward to the opportunity to educate my classmates who were less familiar with history that included the achievements and lived experiences of Blacks in the U.S. and beyond.

Because Black history is world history, too.

I am grateful now, as I was then, for the dinner conversations, expanded literature, and even board games (shout out to Rise ‘N Fly!) with my family that emphasized the critical role Black Americans have and continue to play in our history – U.S. history.

Black History Month in Corporate America

When I reflect on celebrating Black History Month in a corporate setting, the feeling is familiar to that of my youth, and I imagine I am not alone.

There is a sense of pride in celebrating Black Excellence — despite the systemic hurdles we have faced and continue to face. At the same time, there is the burden of being the de facto team educator. In (home) offices across the country, Black employees are being pinged, “any ideas on how we should celebrate BHM this year?”

I have certainly felt this burden in previous organizations. BHM and other heritage months can become an afterthought without a corporate commitment to DEI.

The challenge for corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs is balancing 1) how to celebrate BHM in a way that represents the spirit of the occasion, while also 2) providing context to our colleagues in a way that authentically represents the lived experiences of the Black and African diaspora in a global, often digital, corporate setting. And lastly, understanding how we can use these two experiences to further our mission of an inclusive and equitable workplace.

Dig Deeper, Look Closer, Think Bigger

While there is no easy solution, let me offer this suggestion. Let’s focus our energy on progressing the conversation from the narrow view of historical Black achievements to a broader call to action — improving the Black employee experience throughout the entire calendar year.

To begin, I encourage each of you to take some inspiration from the U.K.’s BHM mission statement, “Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger” and carry the energy of Black History Month forward into practice.

So what can we do?

  1. Recognize that Black history is our collective history, and in many cases, it is recent history. For context, the bravery shown by Ruby Bridges (age 67) and Katherine Johnson (deceased Feb 2020) occurred during our parents’ lifetime.
  2. Observe the highs and lows of the Black experience and understand how history still shapes our experience today. There are those among us that experienced the trauma of both the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 and George Floyd in 2020. And others who lived through the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, are now watching the U.S. Senate debate on voting rights.
  3. Educate yourself. Take time out to learn more about Black history; from the extraordinary legacy to the mundane day-to-day life. Learn more about allyship and continue this practice throughout the year.
  4. Proactively find ways to acknowledge Black achievements, amplify Black voices, and/or be an upstander when the opportunity presents itself. Review The Manager’s Pledge and hold yourself accountable to foster an inclusive environment for all, even if you aren’t currently a people manager.

How Drift Is Celebrating Black History Month

I’ll end this piece by saying that I’m proud of the steps we are taking at Drift with activities and events that are unapologetically Black and for the culture.

I am excited to learn from Dr. CalvinJohn Smiley, a critical sociologist and criminologist whose work focuses on issues related to race, inequality, and social justice. Dr. Smiley will be leading a discussion with Drifters on February 16 and to listen to Nicole Obi of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) on The American Dream Podcast hosted by Elias Torres (the episode drops on February 15). On top of that, our Black at Drift ERG has some great internal programming planned for the month. Two things I’m looking forward to are the daily Black history fact via email, and being introduced to new Black-owned restaurants to try. We’re encouraging Drifters to order from Black-owned restaurants and post pictures of their meals. I already know I’m getting Dovi shrimp from Zweli’s.

At Drift, we carry our BHM energy throughout the year by running our Black-owned business onboarding programs and staying true to our commitment to continually inspect, audit, and improve the experiences of our Black Drifters and all of those who are historically underrepresented in Tech; women, Latinx, first-generation, LGBTQ+, and many others.

We’re doing great work, but there is always more that can be done ⚡️