More than one Month: Tips for an Impactful Black History Month
On 27th July 2022, Race Equality Matters hosted over 300 attendees and expert speakers in the Race Network and Network Lead event: Get Ready for Black History Month 2022.
With just a little over 2 months to go, how can your organisation celebrate Black history in October?
Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK for over 30 years, yet its value and importance remains just as prescient in today’s society. It is a month for celebration of culture and history, whilst also an opportunity for reflection and education for ethnically diverse people and allies. However, Black History Month can be used as a PR gesture for organisations, often failing to stimulate genuine change within the workplace.
We need to move beyond symbolic words towards action to create sustainable impact.
Through interactive polls, attendees informed Race Equality Matter’s co-founder, Javed Thomas, that 71% did not have plans for Black History Month and over 70% attended to be inspired and learn from the expert speakers. The expert speakers that informed, inspired and illustrated what a successful Black History Month looked like, were:
– Lorna James (Membership Coordinator/subscriptions, Institute of Physics | Chair of the Multicultural Network)
– David Adekitan (Future Portfolio Training Head, Siemens Mobility Limited | Chair of embRACE)
– Natalie Watt (HR Information Systems Manager, EQUANS | RISE Network Chair & Central Functions | National Employee Forum Representative)
More Than One Month
Black History Month ought to have an impact beyond October. Speakers advised attendees that the month can be utilised for educational purposes and should not be side lined to 31 days of the year. David Adekitan, chair of Siemen’s race network (embRACE), told attendees that:
“It is a celebration and at the same time a form of education and reflection for all of us… Black History Month should not end in October, it should be a yearlong event.”
David informed attendees that Black History Month is an “opportunity” to create awareness and recognition in the workplace, through education of historical figures as well as employees with lived experience of racism and resilience against this.
Lorna James, chair of the Multicultural Network, echoed David when she stated that the deeper meaning of Black history must be understood and resonate within an organisation. Lorna begun her interview by sharing with attendees that:
“Black History Month is really important to me… It is really important to me to share my history.”
New Ideas and Collaboration
Often a successful Black History Month is a planned one.
94% of attendees learnt something new in our event that they can utilise in their organisation in October.
Natalie Watt, as chair of the RISE Network, exemplified the importance of planning the month, using structure, resources and enthusiasm.
Natalie explained how the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge was successful at tackling racial inequality and educating her organisation. For all the working days of October 2021, Natalie organised an activity with further resources signposted for employees to access and learn from:
“We covered a whole raft of different topics, such as: workplace challenges around race and ethnicity, allyship, inspirational figures, how to be an anti-racist, the ethnicity pay gap and even historical events such as the 1919 riots.”
Natalie also suggested other ways attendees could teach Black history and culture by “pushing boundaries”, such as the use of Afro and reggae beats in a corporate environment. Natalie inspired 70% of attendees, who may implement the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge during Black History Month. This was alongside 70% of the audience that also considered implementing #MyNameIs through using phonetic name spelling to tackle racial inequality after hearing from Mahari Hay and Lọ́lá Béjidé.
David also sought to create change using the growing power and reach of Siemen’s race network by welcoming ally members through a designated ally chair. The network invited guest speakers to attend network meetings, in an attempt to collaborate effectively. David reminded attendees:
“We need to engage with other organisations and share best practices.”
Lorna also encouraged a form of collaboration in her organisation’s Black History Month through the Tea Break initiative. The network created a feedback survey to establish themes for future Tea Breaks and understand the impact of them. With this feedback, Lorna’s network chose the themes of microaggressions and holidays/celebrations to unearth honest conversations to help tackle racism in the workplace.
Impact of Black History Month
Our speakers informed attendees of the positive impact Black History Month had on their organisations and workplace culture. Over 60% of attendees felt that the Tea Break solution (of which Network Rail’s Culture fusion network with the architects of the concept) could be effectively used by their organisation, and Lorna told attendees it created a “social space” for ethnically diverse colleagues and allies to have “comfortable and uncomfortable conversations” about race.
David’s interview reminded attendees of the link between impact and senior leadership support, as sustainable impact at Siemens was assisted by the 80% of senior leadership that attended their Black History Month event. This senior leadership buy-in facilitated long term shifts in Siemen’s approach to race.
Natalie also demonstrated that impact can go beyond an organisation, and reach wider society through friends and family:
‘We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those that partook…. Some employees even said that they completed the challenge of an evening time, after the work time so that they could do it with their family.”
How can your organisation’s Black History Month create sustainable impact?
To make Black History Month more than a publicity stunt, take action not just words.
To make Black History Month a time for education and celebration, start planning today.
For more information on how your organisation can take part in October 2022 Black History Month: listen to our expert speakers from the event on our website, access our free solution guides and keep up to date with us on social media.