“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions”
The Miseducation of the American Negro – Carter G. Woodson (1933)
Dear Black History Month Connoisseurs:
Black History Month 2021 will not be a traditional Black history month celebration. In fact, this blog post is not your traditional Black history month story. Times have changed and the need for a new way of looking at Black History month is necessary. I am here to offer a new way to celebrate Black History this year. I hope you join me.
Negro History Week
Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926. The week in February was selected because it was the birthday week of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas. Negro History Week became Black History in 1970 when it was celebrated by students at Kent State University. Since that time February of each year is celebrated as Black History Month. Editor’s note: Black History takes place in February and every month throughout the year.
Black History 2021
Black History Month in 2020 occurred right before the Covid19 pandemic and right after the tragic deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several other parents and children in a terrible helicopter crash. In addition to those events, we experienced the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other incidents of police brutality. We also experienced civil unrest throughout the world because of these incidents. We experienced the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the shooting of Jacob Blake. We experienced the endorsement and acceptance of white supremacy groups in the United States. We experienced the disproportionate health impact Covid19 is having on Black and Latino communities and the economic impact Covid19 is having on Black, Latino, Asian and Native owned businesses and employment. Many of us also saw that we live in a divided country as exhibited in 2020 by many of the aforementioned incidents, and also the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021. Some of us knew that this division has long existed and some us are are realizing this for the first time.
Black History 2021 will be different. As always, I suggest we learn about the history of the holiday and also appreciate that Black History started long before slavery. Let me repeat that for some, BLACK HISTORY STARTED LONG BEFORE SLAVERY! The birth of civilization occurred in Africa and is the actual beginning of Black History and World History. These tenets should always be learned and shared widely. In 2021, I plan to resist the urge to return to the “new normal” of Black History month. I refuse to just have speeches, panels, virtual meetings, food celebrations and pledges this year. I resist the urge to write a poem or make a sign with BLM for Black History Month. I resist the urge to make our collective Black ERGs in corporate America bear the burden of educating the world on all things Black during the month of February. Instead, I have prepared the following list to illustrate how you can spend Black History Month in 2021. The theme is simple – Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
Black History Month 2021 Action Plan
1. From February 1, 2021 to February 1. 2022, you will personally (and also hold your employer responsible) increase by 100% the amount of money spent with Black owned businesses. If you live in Minnesota, please use this resource to locate Black owned businesses. https://www.mnblackchamber.org/. The statement, “I can’t find Black owned businesses ” should not be used as an excuse in 2021. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
2. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase Black board members by at least 100% if your board has one Black board member and only adds one more that would be an 100% increase. That is not enough. In that case, a 200% or 300% increase should be considered. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
3. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase Black executive leadership. Your company should set a hiring goal for all open executive positions and work intentionally to meet that goal. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
4. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase by at least 100% the amount of money invested in Black owned banks, venture capital firms and money managers. Companies with millions and billions of dollars collected from the spending of the Black. community, should at the very least invest monies derived from these investments in Black owned financial institutions or with Black money managers. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
5. From January 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer’s executive leadership accountable for the acts of sponsoring, endorsing and mentoring high potential Black leaders in the company. Please note that there is a difference between sponsoring, endorsing and mentoring. All executives who commit to this work must be held accountable. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
6. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable for increasing by 100% financial sponsorship of community organizations and community events that support the Black community. Community partnerships cannot be achieved without financial investment in the community. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
7. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase by 100% the corporate spend with Black media. Black media is best teller of the community’s stories. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”
Do Something for Black History Month
Many organizations will have traditional celebrations during Black History Month. In addition to those traditional recognition events, I encourage you to try something different and “Do Something” sustainable and measurable that will not only last a month, but that can last a lifetime and make systemic changes.
Editorial note: This blog post is applicable for Asian Heritage month, PRIDE month, Latino Heritage month, Native American Heritage month, Disability Employment Awareness month and Muslim Heritage celebrations as well as others.