Skip to content

Honoring Black History Month: Where To Start?

February 14, 2023

The lessons of Black History Month are important, not only for individuals but also for institutions, organizations, and governments. The goal of this series is to inspire conversation and authentic expression among colleagues in the workplace. It is designed to give Human Resources leaders a way to engage in these sensitive conversations, and context for why they are important.

Where to start? Do we start with dramatic stories of death and violence? There are too many: Medgar Evers (assassinated), Tyre Nichols (beaten to death), and George Floyd (fatally suffocated). These compelling stories are an important part of the Black American experience but do not capture the complexity of the Black American experience. Should we focus on brilliant successes despite immeasurable odds, such as Sojourner Truth (abolitionist), Madame CJ Walker (the first self-made, female millionaire), and Barack Obama (44th President)? These tragic and hopeful stories may provide a frame for black history, but do not capture the whole of it.

Black History serves to inform, educate, inspire, and provide for improvement and show us an exit from the labyrinth of racism. It does not matter where we start in our examination of living Black history, but that we make a strong beginning and continue to ask difficult questions. This is especially true at present when politicians and activists are trying to eliminate the lessons of Black history altogether. So it is more important than ever to tell the tales of individuals and to weave their narratives into the fabric of American history.

When light shines through the prism, the diamond which is the Black historical experience, all corners of the American experience are illuminated. Black people and their impact are felt everywhere because they are the American experience.

They are irreplaceable and, with other facets of history, constitute the American experience. They hold it together in the worlds of music, arts, business, culture, politics, and in everyday life. Black history is alive, on the street, and in our world.

I hope that the messages in this article have been instructive, informative, and engaging. A best practice for any organization is to engage with a certified DE&I provider who can assist, as an outside observer, in making this conversation a fruitful one, and at the same time, providing a safe space to do it in.

So, whether we begin with tragedy or triumph, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the stories are told and that those stories are heard. And, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that this invaluable history continues to be shared, promoted, and appreciated. This will shape our future together for the better.

Please reach out to Karen Spencer Kelly for any questions regarding this topic.

Subscribe For The Latest