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8. The Death of DEI
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  • Writer's pictureAntonio Da Veiga Rocha

BHM...Make it a Celebration


Black History Month is here, and along with it, all the requirements that outward facing companies place on their DEI (or HR) departments and committees. There is quite the need now to communicate one’s participation in black culture, to signal awareness, and show levels of empathy, especially considering the recent atrocities that have made their way into our current fields of vision.

In many of the institutions I have participated in, be it as a student, worker, volunteer, etc., I can recall black history month being something of a duty. Even as a child I remember doing work on the subject with the focus being squarely on the presentation. I find many institutions still practice this outward facing process and it is sad to know that so much more could be done focusing on some key components.


The Task Given


There is some understanding, especially when such activity making comes off as tasks. We’re often faced with time constraints, and quite honestly, the unsettling reality that what we do as creators may come off offensive and/or insensitive to some. On top of this, we’re usually given limited resources to carry out such works and then high requirements as to what it needs to do.


In thinking of such diverse set of circumstances I wanted to share a proposition with you, a way to centralize your thoughts and remain pure to a founding characteristic of this special month. The word to keep in mind is CELEBRATION, but before that a quick history.


Quick History

Black History Month came from Negro History Week. Prominent African Americans, headed by noted historian Carton G. Woodson, felt the need to spotlight the negro culture at that time. They felt that great achievements by African Americans and their everyday contributions were important to communicate to the wider audiences. They wanted the black culture specifically to have references so they may see value and worth in their historical efforts. The goal was to provide the community with information that was not readily available and to do it through a celebratory process.


Mr. Woodson along with Minister Jesse E. Moorland, (and other colleagues, as such works are never done in isolation), sought to educate through celebration and information. They did this by way of their association, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), today named the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), and decided to place what initially was a week of celebrations in the month of February. This month was chosen so it would coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas, two figures that also played key roles in American black history life.


Woodson and his colleagues encouraged nationwide celebrations but of the kind that was locally focused and practiced. This was to promote the importance of black history in a more familial and reachable way. They took the form of shows, performances, talks, debates, and more. In 1976 President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month of February as a month-long celebration of the life and achievements of African Americans and their culture.

Thematic?


Did you know that since 1976 every president has designated February as Black History Month? Yes, it is a designation that is given. Part of this designation is a specific theme that is assigned to it. This year the theme is Black Health and Wellness. This theme continuous utilizing two main components initiated by the Association for the Study for Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) which was that of Celebrating and Learning through historical references.


Celebration, Learning, History


Key suggestions to keep in Mind in activity planning/creating:


Celebration


Make your activities a celebration in some form or another. The key here is to highlight the continuous resilience of African Americans, how in the face of incredible odds there are everyday achievements and growth. One of the most consistent characteristics of black life is that of inter-community celebrations, which has always aided resilience and maintained a sense of hope. That is why celebration is imperative.


Learning


In the face of continuous historical discoveries, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History understood that what made a community stand tall and reach for higher and further cultural growth was information and knowledge about its own advances. Through learning and increasing education on the subject, it was felt that further progress could be achieved, progress that was self-motivated, community and culturally inspired and led. The further reality is that such actions have a universal affect. Leaning about people’s achievements has a positive and motivating effect on the mind and encourages doing, which leads to knowledge (community and national knowledge).


History


This word has always been central to the continuing process that is Black History Month. It communicates the importance of knowing where a culture’s progress comes from, where the long line of footsteps we leave behind linked with another's’. It provides us references to pull from and be motivated by. It not only gives us discoveries but also insight and foresight.


Let’s Remember to…



The African American historical experience has been incredibly rich despite the deliberately overwhelming pressures placed on it. In so many ways, the richness within it is simply beautiful and quite incredible! Remember to celebrate the absolute wonders that make the survival of such a history often border a miracle. So let's honor the initial thoughts and actions of this event, an event that is more than one-hundred years old. Do it through History, through Education, but just as importantly, do it through Celebration.

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The information on these two websites assisted the writing of this blog post:

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