February marks Black History Month and the theme for 2023 is: Ours to Tell.
Black History Month is a time for Canadians to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians today and throughout history. Their communities have done so much to create a culturally diverse and prosperous society. This month we not only celebrate, but we reflect on the challenges Black communities face and have faced and continue our commitment to recognizing and reconciling anti-Black racism and systemic racism in Canada.
Alongside the celebration this month, we also continue to examine our organizational policies and practices to ensure we take accountability and continue the commitment to demolishing anti-Black racism.
This blog will provide you with tips on how to meaningfully commemorate Black History Month and implement inclusion strategies within your organization. Please note that this blog isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide and only provides a brief overview. We encourage readers to use the linked resources below for further learning.
How To Commemorate Black History Month Within Your Organization
Education | Collaboration | Inclusion
The first step is education. Organize workshops, activities or other learning opportunities for your organization to raise awareness about Black history and excellence. Create spaces for intentional and focused conversations that recognize Black history, achievement and contributions – past and present. This is also an opportunity to facilitate workshops to create learning and reflection spaces on the realities Black Canadians face regarding anti-Black racism and discrimination.
To go beyond hosting workshops, organizations can honour Black History Month by collaborating with Black Businesses, diversifying their suppliers, donating to local non-profit organizations that work towards racial justice and using social media to elevate Black voices by sharing their content.
It’s also a great time to reflect on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work you are doing and assess whether it is having its intended impact. Organizations that can foster a culture of belonging and inclusion see higher rates of employee engagement. In fact, this correlation between belonging and higher engagement is stronger for equity-seeking groups. An important consideration here is to also create safe spaces for employees to process current events. Employees’ lives at work don’t exist in a vacuum and are impacted by current events, so creating a safe space for reflection and ensuring accommodations as needed is an important way to ensure employees are supported.
Creating Anti-Racist Organizations:
(Continuously) Learn | Assess | Act
Take this month to reflect honestly on your organization’s existing policies, procedures and practices. As you take these workshops, how are we implementing the learnings to ensure that we are removing institutional and systemic barriers that limit the participation and advancement of equity-seeking groups? Adopting a practice of continuously learning, assessing and taking action is an excellent way to propel your organization forward.
Assess your workplace with a demographic survey. This will allow you to understand the makeup of your organization, and the diversity at different levels and across wage ranges. Following this assessment, create clear goals with accountability measures in place that ensure its progress.
After you have a complete understanding of the makeup of your organization, consider whether your organization reflects and takes into account the interests of diverse people in its operations, products, and services. Ask yourself if the products and services you provide are impacting different groups of people differently and whether you can provide these products and services in a more inclusive way.
All of these practices will require a proper allocation of resources. Be it allocating enough resources to provide your staff with learning opportunities about anti-racism, or hiring a DEI consultant to perform a workplace audit, or creating mentorship and professional development opportunities for racialized colleagues, ensure that your DEI strategy is supported by the proper allocation of resources.
Dive in further with the following resources:
- Learn more about Black History in Canada here
- A comprehensive resource guide from the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) *Note: some resources are limited to employer partners*
- CCDI Black History Month Commemoration guide
- CCDI Webinar: Black History Month: Unlearning anti-Black racism
- Racism and Anti-Racism guides from the Winnipeg Public Library
- Black in Canada: Acknowledging our past, owning our present, and changing our future by Deloitte
- Black North Initiative and their Racial Equity Playbook
- Anti-Racist Organizational Assessment
- Anti-Black Racism Reading List by the University of Toronto
We hope that you have found these resources, events and guides useful. We remind you to ensure a commitment to continuous learning and action within your organization that does not stop at the end of February but continues year-round.