During these extraordinary times, it's difficult to make the time and space in one's brain about just how to celebrate a cultural impact on American society. The disruption that COVID has wreaked on business has been historic. Disruptions in supply chains and knock-on effects on labor supply have made the business environment challenging to say the least.
So how do companies celebrate Black History Month on top of all their business objectives? Black History Month seems like a distraction in times like these.
Do we put books and posters on company walls? Do we ask staff to mindlessly watch online videos about African American history, of which there are many? Or do we provide lectures in offices when hybrid scheduling permits?
Let's start with the message and then decide the best medium to convey the impressions the celebration is meant to promote.
Business is all about doing business. Let's face it, sudden projections of culture into the workday and workplaces are awkward and asynchronous (to borrow a word from remote technology.) Somehow, it doesn't seem to fit into the go-go shareholder-first objectives that most American companies embrace.
So how about talking about the contributions of African American communities and businesses and leaders have contributed to commerce?
Back to the Future
American history after the Civil War is rife with cases of Black Enterprise. Take, for instance, the establishment of for Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the early 1900s. Just as Google places an image celebrating American traditions. The company website can place a thumbnail photo of a bustling Black Wall Street on its homepage. Write a short description of the historical period with an encouragement to click to enlarge the image.
Online photo archives are rife with photos from the 1940s and 1950s of black folks dressed up in suits, ties, dresses, and hats while they make their way to work or church. The photos, like those of Roy Decarava, are time capsules of times that may have been tough, but that exude the pride and strength that defines what it is to be American.
Place images at the beginning of each PowerPoint presentation to share the energy of a bygone era with audiences.
Technology is at the heart of much of business, commerce, and innovation today. So why not highlight African-American contributions to the foundation of modern business?
For instance, many people are aware of George Washington Carver, who made great contributions to the development of modern-day peanut butter. Create an online album of African American scientists and technologists with a link that you can place in the company's newsletter or intranet pages.
The album can contain photos of Patricia Bath, who received numerous patents for inventions related to cataract surgery. You can display a collage of group shots of the first "computers," as they were called; women who computed the trajectories for the first Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s.
Use technology to put business into your promotion — not just of African-American history, but the history of business, commerce, and discovery in the United States.
List Of African-American Inventors And Scientists
Black Wall Street
10 Black Photographers Who Shaped American History