Leaders: 5 Things You Need to Know for Black History Month 2021

Organizations are hustling to figure out what to do for Black History Month (BHM) this year. Two words: Accountability & Action.

I recommend that organizations use this as a time to recommit to any BLM or anti-racism statements they issued, and also speak to actions taken or that will be taken.

At this moment, employees and your culture (and frankly society) require more than films and learning that don’t result in action or accountability. They require more than the 3 Fs: Food, Fun, and Festivities.

  1. As quickly and urgently as those BLM statements and ads were issued, CEOs, Executive Directors and Board members should pen updates to the public on: What are the actionable commitments your company will make or has made? What are the measurements of success to date or anticipated?

2. Leaders make a point to be present for any BHM sessions, which hopefully builds muscle and fortitude for employees to be action-oriented and accountable for stewarding an inclusive and anti-racist culture. Also, proactively stress to people managers why its important that they show up and encourage team members to as well.

3. CEOs take the time to open the month with a townhall or a note to the full enterprise reminding employees why proactive efforts to be anti-racist are critical for the organization and even for employees as individuals. There is a specific sentiment and system of anti-blackness that requires leveraging BHM as a tool to counter and to condemn anti-black mindsets and actions.

4. No one should fix their mouths to say there isn’t enough budget to do BHM justice. No one.

5. If you are not naming racism and white supremacy, we don’t want it. The reason why there is a specific month dedicated to Black History is because white supremacy silenced, erased, dismissed Black Voices, Black Existence. This continues today.

Please don’t:

  1. Send updates on past BHM figures. Your employees are not in the second grade. Unless it is so very pertinent to your organization and world don’t do the weekly Black Person You Should Know post. If you are looking to elevate specific Black people, discuss why the lives of these individuals were cut short: Trayvon M., Breonna Taylor, … you get it, I hope.
  2. Let your Black affinity group or employee resource group (ERG) carry the weight on this. In fact, every ERG should be participating in BHM and carrying the banner on anti-racism and confronting anti-blackness. Leadership should reach out to Black ERGs and ask how they can support their efforts. (Leadership should do this frequently for every ERG.) AND, any leader can pause to acknowledge the importance of this work.

#race #blacklivesmatter #leadership #diversity #DI #DEI #inclusion #Blackhistorymonth #HR #leadership

Aiko Bethea

Aiko is Founder of RARE Coaching & Consulting, a leadership development agency that focuses on emotional intelligence. NYT Best Seller: You Are Your Best Thing.