Black History Month is a yearly reminder of the struggle for equal rights and an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contributions made by Black Americans to this country.
This is when Black and non-black Americans come together every year in February to revisit a rich and deep depiction of Black culture and celebrate Black creativity, heritage, resilience, and accomplishments.
However, it’s essential to make this a year-round event, i.e., a continuous effort to inspire people and keep mainstream narratives from flattening Black existence to mere stereotypes.
And your brand has a vital role to play in this fight.
Here are a few ways you can inspire your audiences to embrace differences and help them learn about empathy by looking through the lens of history.
Shed light on important figures that played a part in African American history
From Maya Angelou to Malcolm X and from Jesse Jackson to Oprah Winfrey, the civil rights movement has many heroes to look up to and fuel its passion.
Here’s how you can pay an ode to them:
Post relevant social media content
You can share informative posts about legendary Black figures, statistics on their reform, and other types of educational content to inspire, motivate and educate your audiences. A great way to do it is with Instagram carousel posts, Twitter banners, or customized display pictures made using online tools and templates.
In today’s highly digitalized world, people are active on almost every social media platform, especially Twitter and Instagram. These avenues serve as a perfect way for users to connect with people from different ethnicities and cultures and know more about their lives and struggles.
Look at how Refinery29 creates social media posts in collaboration with Black content creators like Chrissy Rutherford:
In fact, two of Twitter’s most used hash-tags include #BlackLivesMatter and #Ferguson, used with tweets about race, injustice, and everyday personal experiences of black people.
Organize a local event to talk about BHM
Conversations about inequality and injustice shouldn’t just happen following a trigger event or celebrated only in a particular month. Organizing discussions about the Black community’s struggles might be challenging, but these are critical conversations that can bring a meaningful change in our society.
Some ideas for a local event include:
- An interactive event like a 5K race can be monetized, with the proceeds going to black-owned charities.
- Hold a movie night to watch famous Black movies and engage in dialogue about the character arc, the plot of the movie, and how it conforms to or is different from reality
- A game night with trivia interactive quizzes about black history
- Set up stalls to showcase black artifacts and displays. To limit social contact and still help black businesses make some money, direct buyers to the seller’s website
Support black owned small businesses
Besides attending lectures and discussions on Black History, it is also essential to show your support to Black business owners and entrepreneurs.
Here’s what you can do:
Refer to the official black wall street app
Some popular black-owned businesses include:
- Aliya Wanek (women’s clothing)
- Label By Color (sustainable and hand-made designs by three women of color)
- Clare Paint (interior home design products)
- Linoto (linen company)
If you have trouble finding black-owned businesses in your area, download The Official Black Wall Street App to find at least one company to support.
Demand retailers commit to the 15% pledge
The 15 percent pledge is a brilliant way to support black-owned businesses.
This is where you urge major retailers like Alibaba, Amazon, and Target to dedicate 15% of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses. It offers large corporations a chance to show diversity, empathy, and accountability in their business dealings.
Many famous brands like the Banana Republic, The Gap, and Athleta have already embraced the idea. They showcase products from Black-owned businesses on their websites and in-store.
You can also sign a petition here and call out large multi-corporations to commit to the pledge.
Write online reviews for minority-owned businesses
Almost 93% of consumers refer to online reviews before purchasing a product. This means that leaving positive reviews for a business can significantly help drive sales and benefit small businesses.
Reviews submitted via feedback forms, social media comments, and re-sharing stories are some of the best ways to spread a good word about your favorite product from a locally owned black store.
This may seem like a tiny thing to do; however, social media algorithms recognize pages mentioned on people’s stories, increasing brand visibility. And when it comes to supporting black businesses, every little drop in the ocean counts!
Read a Book (or two) by a black author
There is no other way to deepen your understanding of systematic racism than indulging in a good book about Black history. Following are a mix of Fiction and Non-Fiction book recommendations that you can read according to your tastes:
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This classic should definitely be at the top of everyone’s reading list. It follows a black woman in the 1930s and her turbulent journey through three marriages towards financial, emotional, and sexual freedom. This book is a lovely blend of romance, history, classic and literary fiction, making it perfect for people who want to know about the struggles of black women in the 1930s.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If you still haven’t heard about this book in 2021, you’re missing out on brilliant literature that’s super relevant today!
THUG has been all the hype ever since this New York Times Bestseller was adapted into a movie. If you think the BLM protests and activism couldn’t get more real, read this book.
Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A raw memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates, this is a series of open letters written by a father to his son about his revelatory experiences in America.
From Howard University to Civil War battlefields, the author takes his son (and the readers) through a terrible history of oppression in America and how his experiences formed his thoughts on systemic racism.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
If you’re interested in learning about the American justice system and how unfairly it treats people of color, this is the book for you.
Michelle Alexander makes readers realize the subtle ways in which systematic racism is embroiled in the nation and how mainstream media is responsible for forming false stereotypes about POC.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
White fragility refers to defensive actions that white people often resort to when challenged racially. The book carries accounts of subtle acts of racism that are so ingrained that it’s often difficult for people to call it “unjust’.
It is a perfect book for EVERYONE to understand how white fragility develops and how it protects acts of racial injustice.
To truly explore, understand, and form a connection with the Black community, it is vital to educate yourself on their history and give them the due recognition they deserve.
Remember, the best way to engage with Black History Month discussions is to acknowledge and collaborate with the Black community on multiple platforms.