Every February we celebrate Black History Month and the contributions made by Black Americans. But what if we could take it a step further—by using our impact to honor Black history year-round?
What if we also used this time to focus on how we can better support our friends, colleagues, and neighbors in the Black community and contribute to a more equitable future?
To kick off Black History Month, we’re looking at observance and allyship, and how we can use them both to create inclusive communities—in and out of the workplace.
Observing Black History Month
So what exactly does it mean to observe something, and how does that differ from allyship? First, let’s distinguish passive observance from active observance.
Passive observance is exactly how it sounds—observing Black History Month in a passive, disengaging way. A common example of this is social media posts or announcements, without any action or initiative behind them. It’s acknowledging Black History Month, but not truly participating in or contributing to it.
Essentially, passive observance is just surface level.
But active observance goes much deeper than a month on a calendar or a corporate announcement. In the context of Black History Month, it’s a conscious effort to understand the history of the Black experience and recognize how vital this community is to our country.
Education and engagement are two characteristics that separate active observance from passive observance. This means using this month to educate ourselves on:
- The history of Black musicians, artists, and other cultural icons
- The Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing fight for equality
- The importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion
And finding ways to amplify and support the Black community.
Allyship is in the way we listen, the way we speak, and the way we act. It’s the effort we make to ensure that everyone is treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
It’s also essential for creating a workplace that is safe and welcoming—where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
We can achieve allyship at work by:
- Using language that is inclusive and respectful
- Learning about microaggressions and how to avoid them
- Sharing resources with our peers to raise awareness of racial biases, and how to counteract them
- Getting involved in company DEI programs
- Becoming a coach, mentor, or sponsor to Black employees and empowering their career growth
But most importantly, being an ally requires us to actively and openly challenge discrimination and to create an empowering environment for everyone.
Throughout Black History Month
The official theme of this year’s Black History Month is “Resistance,”, and it signifies perseverance in the fight for equality, despite a long history of obstacles and oppression.
So, a great way to be an ally during Black History Month is to stand with the Black community and show support in any way possible.
Here are a few ways to be an ally in the community, even after February ends:
- Visit Black-owned businesses and restaurants
- Support Black artists
- Contribute to charities and other organizations that support Black Americans
- Read literature on Black American history
- Go to a museum on the Civil Rights Trail
Observance, Allyship, and DEI
Together, observance and allyship can contribute to the success of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
Observance raises awareness not only to the contributions made by Black Americans throughout history, but to the ways we can create more equitable and inclusive communities. Allyship then takes that awareness and puts it into action.
Allyship is our commitment to promote equity, foster diversity, and create a sense of belonging for all people, regardless of their race or ethnicity. And it has an immensely positive impact on organizations.
Benefits of strong DEI can include:
- Increased collaboration
- Uplifting company culture
- Unique and diverse ideas or solutions
- More productive partnerships
And ultimately a healthier workplace—where everyone is supported and encouraged.
It Takes all of Us
Black History Month is an important reminder of the unique experiences, challenges, and accomplishments of the Black community. And by honoring and learning from the past, we can find ways to be better allies going forward.
In February and every month after, we can support Black-owned businesses, amplify Black voices, and be intentional with our impact.
And if you want to create a more empowering workplace, our DEI experts are here to help.
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