Celebrating Black Excellence & Addressing Anti-Black Racism Must be Year-Round — Not Just During Black History Month

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Image © Matthew D’Agostino, 2020

February is Black History Month, a month when we celebrate the contributions and achievements of Black communities throughout history and present day, in addition to exploring how to interrupt anti-Black racism. Unfortunately, in past years Black History Month has been a month that is rife with performative allyship, as organizations focus their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming on celebrating Black excellence and anti-Black racism for a month and then move on to other DEI offerings for the rest of the year.

While this approach was never sufficient for making a real difference to the lives of Black professionals, in light of the events of last year and the ongoing racial justice movement, it needs to be recognized that this approach is just not good enough.

In order to create more equitable and inclusive places to work — especially for Black professionals — organizations must make racial inclusion programming that focuses on anti-Black racism part of their regular DEI offering. We must continue to push learning and development for leaders and team members on how to interrupt anti-Black racism in the workplace, how to cultivate the skills development and career advancement of Black professionals, serve as sponsors for Black professionals and cultivate workplace cultures that are rooted in authenticity and belonging. All of our efforts in these areas are must dos for creating environments where Black professionals feel valued, empowered, confident and more.

There is also a need for specific empowerment, inclusion and leadership development programming for Black professionals so that Black team members feel like they are better able to thrive in the workplace, to access skills development opportunities that enable them to advance in their careers and to bring their authentic selves to work.

As a DEI professional who identifies as a person of color who isn’t Black (I’m South Asian/Punjabi – a.k.a. a Brown girl!), I also want to note that the majority of this leadership and empowerment training ought to be delivered by Black DEI professionals who are paid to do so — and who are compensated at the generous rates that organizations pay white leadership consultants, coaches and experts. The expertise of Black educators and experts must be spotlighted, and Black educators and experts must be equitably compensated.

While this last year has been challenging for many reasons, it has also been a period of incredible growth for and interest in DEI and, in particular, anti-Black racism. We are in a place now where we have an extraordinary opportunity to shift society and our workplaces for Black professionals.

As we celebrate Black history and Black excellence this February, let’s continue this momentum throughout 2021. There is still so much work to be done.

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