Black History Month is, every year, a time of learning, making space to listen and celebrating. This year, however, the observance is charged with an urgency — rekindled this past summer after the death of unarmed civilian George Floyd at the hands of police officers — informed by the increasingly apparent need for wholesale systemic reform. The news that heralded the month underscores this need: Black Lives Matter has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Norwegian MP Petter Eide said in his nomination papers that “Black Lives Matter has become a very important worldwide movement to fight racial injustice,” because it’s raised awareness across the globe about racial iniquities.  

Injustices have, unfortunately, always been here, but along with them so have the trailblazers who have marched, protested, and educated, pointing defiantly at these injustices. This is why Black History Month is so important. Dating back to the abolition of slavery in the U.S. in 1915, its observance was sparked by the establishment by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland of what is now known as the Association of the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The ASALH is to this day dedicated to promoting and celebrating the achievements of Black Americans and of others of African descent. The ASALH designated the second week of February as a week to teach and educate about Black History, and by the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s, Black History week grew to cover a month-long period of education and remembrance. In 1976, American President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month officially. In Canada, Toronto MP Jean Augustine successfully motioned to have the House of Commons recognize Black History Month nationally. Now the month is observed and celebrated by numerous countries. 

When it comes to celebrating Black History Month virtually in the workplace, there is much a company can do by way of ensuring that the period of learning and growing is nuanced and inclusive. Here are some things you can do to learn and unlearn. And keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming Thriver Blog article sharing a collection of resources worth bookmarking.  

Learn (and unlearn) with your team

Important as it is to listen to POC colleagues about their lived experiences, it’s also important that non-POC employees become active agents of change so that they foster meaningful relationships with and become allies to their colleagues. In other words, bring all employees into the mix. In speaking with Human Resources Director Magazine, founder of the diversity consulting firm Parris Consulting Tamisha Parris said that an effective way for HR professionals to have employees participate in Black History Month is by having them take turns educating and being educated. Employees can create educational Black History Month content on a preassigned or chosen topic, and present it virtually (via Zoom, for example) to colleagues and the organization. This approach will have participants contributing and learning actively. 

It’s important to foster open and respectful dialogue when learning, because this will allow for everyone to feel safe and heard, and ultimately it will have your team learning lessons they will take with them into the rest of 2021. After all, Black History is so rich and nuanced, it takes more than just one month to appreciate all that these thinkers and artists have given us. 

What companies can do to build on a thriving culture

Thriver’s Virtual Experience platform has a collection built for Black History Month and dedicated to help your teams become better through education and hands-on learning. The Chocolatier History and Sampling experience, for example, is led by chocolate and food educator Anya Zelfond. With more than 15 years of experience under her belt, Anya takes participants on a fine chocolate-tasting journey, featuring delicious samples from up-and-coming African American craft chocolatiers. What’s more, 10% of the proceeds from this experience will go to C.R.E.E.R, a residential and vocational centre for rehabbing children rescued from the illegal labour trade. 

Another insightful virtual experience opportunity for teams is the Allyship at Work workshop, which recognizes that allyship in the workplace is crucial because underrepresented groups of people will not eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion problems alone. The workshop is led by a Black thought-leader, who will walk your team through a discussion of ways to incorporate allyship into the workplace year-round. This workshop will be a judgment-free zone where attendees can ask questions and gain insight.

Virtual Experiences offered on Thriver’s Platform – Sign up/Log in to view more!

An exciting part of the Black History Month virtual experiences collection is the workshop on Black History and Culture, which is grounded in a discussion of Black History, art, culture, resilience, and allyship. If your team loves trivia, then the Black History Trivia event is just the thing for you — with a focus on historical people and places within Black History, this experience will test your team’s knowledge through some friendly competition.

This month is all about focusing on the achievements of our Black communities, and the work we need to do to make sure that Black creatives and thinkers and innovators continue to thrive. To this end, we must foster diverse workplaces and make room for marginalized voices to speak freely and safely, because when we make sure everyone on our team feels respected and valued, we see our company culture bloom and flourish in all the best ways. 

So check out how to be a part of the change in your company and community by booking activities that are contributing to organizations focused on supporting our Black communities. Log in or Sign Up to discover activities on Black History Month, so that you’ll be better positioned to take these learning well into the new year!