The Importance of Black History Month - Inclusive Employers

The importance of Black History Month

Black History Month is a great opportunity for employers to start conversations about race. Here, some of our Inclusive Employers’ Consultants give their views as to why it’s important to recognise Black History Month in the workplace and how it's an opportunity for all of us to learn.

“Black History Month means acknowledging the Black community for their contributions to society and the home. Where would we be without the three traffic lights system invented by Garret Morgan in 1923? How would mum get her food from Iceland’s if Frederick Jones hadn’t invented refrigerated trucks in 1940? And how many parents would have had to sleep in their children’s room at bedtime, if Lewis Latimer in 1881, hadn’t used his innovation to create longer-lasting light bulbs, with a carbon filament for all those night lights?

Whilst it’s important to educate ourselves during Black History Month, it’s even more important for us to recognise that there is still so much more for us to uncover and learn.”

Cheryl Carty

You can hear more from Cheryl in her blog, ‘Black History Month: what it means to me.

“Black History Month serves as an annual reminder that my education at school hardly touched on the Black experience, and that huge gap in my knowledge is something I am working on to this day. As a White person in the UK, it’s very easy for me to view my way of experiencing the world as the default: the whole system is set up for me to feel this way. BHM keeps me on track with my commitment to anti-racism by expanding my horizons and centring Black people’s in the history of the UK.

The BHM website is an amazing resource that’s worth finding some time to explore, and if you’re a fan of archival material like me The National Archives microsite has a variety of archive material about Black British History.” 

Addison Barnett

“Black History Month is the opportunity to reclaim the contributions and legacy of Black people and the Black community across the globe that has time and time again been silenced, forgotten or brushed under the carpet by White-centric narratives and societies. It provides the opportunity to reflect on everyone’s responsibility to be anti-racist, and a reminder that Black History should not be relegated to one month of the year, but studied and celebrated every single day of the year.”

Matheus Carvalho

“Black History Month is an opportunity for us to take a step forward towards being open and enlightened by the history of those in a community which often is the subject of racial discrimination.

BHM is not about passing a mic over to those who have not had a chance to share, nor is it about asking questions in the hopes that our black colleagues, friends, neighbours, or acquaintances will share their experience. It is a time in which we, as allies, listen actively and take the initiative to learn more about the history of our friends and colleagues’ heritage.

If you want to be a better friend, you need to be a better listener. BHM is a time to reflect, regroup and reconnect – beyond the present, but understanding the role history has played in the lives of so many. We all have a responsibility to increase our racial literacy and open minds to a history that whilst we may not relate to, but we can listen to.”

Aamani Rehman

“Black History Month, for me, has always been an opportunity to learn. I am a firm believer in always trying to be better educated and informed around areas of diversity that I can’t personally identify with. I am aware of my own privilege as a white woman, brought up in a predominantly white area, with little exposure to anyone of colour until being an adult and I can’t pretend to know what it feels like to grow up experiencing racism.

Not just because my day job is in Inclusion, but because I personally care about trying to create a truly anti-racist world, I need to read, meet, watch, listen to the experiences of people of colour so that I can be better informed and better able to be an active ally to that community.

I believe there has been more progress in the last 12-18 months than there has been, maybe ever, around race. I can see more commitment, less tokenism and more action focused activity, however progress is still slow. Until we have a world where diverse people truly have a voice, have support, acceptance and can live safely then we need to use awareness dates like BHM to champion them.

I love seeing black stories and history getting the deserved spotlight during October. Hopefully more people than ever will engage, reflect on their own behaviour and commit to being more actively anti-racist going forward.”

Lindsay Lerigo

“Black History Month is a chance for us to recognise how the power of education links with activism. We must reflect on how we can commit to learning and re-learning throughout the year, and turn our words into action and active allyship.

It’s important we recognise that not everyone is at the same point in their inclusion journey and an inclusive workplace can be a great safe space for people to educate themselves, identify actions they can take and find a community of support along the way.”

Courtney Wright

“Black History Month to me as a white person is all about allyship (link to being an ally training?). I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know hardly anything about Black history before starting my work as an EDI professional (I now understand this to be due to my white privilege), and knowing what I know now, we all still have so much work to do.

This month can be used as a catalyst to start many difficult conversations around race in the workplace, ant-racism as well as learning about the hugely important history of the Black community and celebrating the culture and contribution of the Black community to our society.

I know I still have so much learning to do, and this month raises the voices of the Black community, while also reigniting how important it is to continue our learning not only during Black History Month, but all year round. Black History Month is a great way of continuing conversation, education and learning for everybody around Black history.”

Steven Taylor

BHM is an essential part of becoming anti-racist. We must learn about people and events that have come before us to give us context, understanding and appreciation of the challenges we face today.

As a white person, so much of what I understand about the world is from a single white perspective, BHM gives me the opportunity to widen that perspective and carry that new knowledge into being an anti-racist colleague.

Rosie Clarke

You can find out more about Black History Month 2021 here.

To help more organisations to embed anti-racist cultures, we are really pleased to launch our anti-racist toolkit – Building an anti-racist culture: A toolkit for your workplace.

The toolkit contains a suite of ‘how-to’ guides to support you to build an anti-racist culture in your workplace. You can find out more about the toolkit here.