More Action Than Words for Black History Month
By Crystal Borde, Vice President, Diversity + Inclusion Lead at Vanguard Communications
This month is Black History Month, a cultural observance to pause, acknowledge, reflect and celebrate the history, culture and contributions of the Black community. It also offers a platform to communicate our organization’s commitment to the fight for equity, inclusion and justice for all Americans.
Organizations and individuals celebrate this observance by highlighting the lives and contributions of Black Americans and flooding social media, blogs and websites with stories, quotations and statements reaffirming that Black Lives Matter.
While reflective and inspiring, is that enough?
So much has happened since Black History Month 2020 — COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice movement, rising unemployment, a contentious election season and more. Black and other BIPOC communities have disproportionately been impacted by these crises — the same communities at the center of this annual observance.
As we heard during the height of the racial justice movement last year, BIPOC communities and their allies want less words and more action.
We should still honor and talk about Black Americans throughout our history who have shaped our nation and the American experience — we need to know their names and contributions — but the time for only sharing stories, platitudes or words of support has passed. Today, our audiences are interested in what organizations are going to do in response to inequities within their framework, as well as in the communities that they serve.
The scrutiny of how to participate in Black History Month will be much higher. Followers, supporters, donors and employees will be reading between the lines of our shared content and messaging and calling out whether our statements about supporting diversity, equity and inclusion actually align with our organizations’ actions and values.
Much like crafting responses to the Black Lives Matter movement, consider the following when developing and elevating your Black History Month content can help ensure thoughtful, authentic dialogue is taking place.
- Align Black History Month content to diversity, equity and inclusion components in your organization’s mission and values. Share Black History Month-related stories, quotations, messages and content that best represent your organization’s DEI considerations and actions.
- Be authentic in messaging accompanying Black History Month content. To build credibility (and quiet critics), state honestly how your DEI structure and actions within the organization align to racial justice issues and values. Be open about shortfalls related to racial equity as well as action plans to address them.
- Be transparent and share actionable steps to fulfill the racial justice and civil rights movement demands. Don’t overstate where your organization is on the DEI spectrum. Be clear in messaging regarding strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats when communicating about the issues at the core of the ongoing civil rights movement. Change will take time; reflect where you are now and outline the DEI action steps your organization will be taking.
- Make Black History Month a month of action for your organization’s communications. When sharing Black History Month content throughout February and around other cultural observances throughout the year, consider what your organization is sharing. Demonstrate in your content and messages that you understand that Black and other BIPOC communities need more action and not just statements of support.
- Consider and promote clear commitments for taking DEI-related actions and policy changes as an organization and share as part of these social justice conversations.
When your audiences receive and engage with your Black History Month content, don’t place them in a position to think your organization should have spoken less and taken more action. It’s critical that we ensure that our message and content are authentic, transparent and aligns with your organizational mission and values, and takes action to make a more equitable, just world for our Black families, friends, colleagues and neighbors.
About the Author
Crystal Borde is a Vice President and Diversity + Inclusion practice lead at Vanguard Communications, a Hispanic woman-owned PR and social marketing firm working for more than 30 years to open hearts and minds about issues and individuals, and realize a more inclusive and equitable world.
Personal Twitter: @crys78
Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/crystalborde/