First published on LinkedIn.
Happy Black History Month!! Despite the short month, it's one of my favorite times of the year. February always leaves me wanting for more. PLUS...it's my birthday month, too!
This year's theme is focused on Black Resistance, and I tell my clients that with resistance comes resilience -- the ability to overcome hardships that are often outside of our control. Resilience also becomes easier to manage when we receive help from our community and our Allies.
As I've said over and over again in my trainings, Allyship comes in many forms. Sometimes it's one loud voice in a room, other times it's a quiet and one-to-one.
The silent part of Allyship is when we educate ourselves. The global African and Black diaspora is so colorful and complex.
I haven’t come across many organizations who are 100% NOT performative. But if you wonder whether your company is doing so, I've put together a BUILD acronym for you to test if it’s true for the Black community:
B = Boxes don't work. Even within the Black community, there are many differences in our traditions, what we like to be called, our ways of living, how we speak, our lived experiences and so on... Like any other group, the Black community is embedded with rich and vibrant cultures that is reflective of the path our Black ancestors have had to face. The last thing you want to do is simplify a lived experience, boil it down to a stereotype, and group people in a box.
U = Understand that you won’t have everyone on board. During my time working in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, I’ve run into many individuals who aren’t convinced that this work can lead to change…or that it’s even necessary! If you’ve faced this resistance, that means you’re doing something RIGHT. Many individuals don’t like change (it's uncomfortable!), especially if the individual has been successful for a long time under an old, non-inclusive and inequitable model — but it’s worse to be stagnant! Constant change is a prerequisite for an organization to be successful in Corporate America.
I = Intentions don’t override impact! I’ve told my clients this over and over, and it bares repeating. Maybe you have good intentions and want to highlight a marginalized community and you don’t realize the negative impact it may have. If you’re not certain whether a method of recognition creates the right impact, you should ASK the impacted employee group directly (i.e., ERGs). As Oscar Wilde famously quipped, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
L = Learning never stops. You can never truly ‘get’ a community. Even myself, despite all my travels to Africa through 11 countries so far, I still have so much to learn about myself, my culture, and my people. It’s important to keep an open mind, because even if you know something to be a fact, it may not ring true for everyone (we are not a monolith). Afterall, we are our own individuals with our own lived experiences.
D = Do better than before. What makes a successful and authentic ALLY? It’s someone who is constantly looking to do better. Now...I’m not suggesting you be self-critical of your past actions; rather, I encourage you to take this moment and reflect. Were there moments of silence where you could have spoken up? Did you give everyone the space and safety they needed to speak up? What were some missed opportunities? Think back to moments in and outside of work.
So…do you think you have the tools to become a better Ally?
And let me know your ideas in the comments below on how your organization is observing Black History Month!
It's my honor to announce that I will be a speaker at SXSW in March 2023 in Austin, TX. My topic will be 'Driving Diversity Forward with Data'.
Tickets are available now. Hope to see you there!
Black History Month - February is Black History Month in the U.S. and Canada. Black history is American history...so I encourage you to explore history that has been far too neglected and pushed to the wayside.
Ethnic Equality Month - No matter what race or ethnicity you are, everyone deserves dignity and respect. This month is an opportunity to challenge your thinking and bring light to biases that impact us everyday.
National Freedom Day, February 1 - An observance in the U.S. that honors the signing of a resolution that proposed the 13th amendment of the nation's constitution on February 1, 1865.
National Caregiver's Day, February 17 - According to the AARP Research Report, more than 1 in every 5 Americans are caregivers. Oftentimes this work is unpaid labor, so I welcome you to honor the caregivers around you.
Parinirvana / Nirvana Day (Buddhist), February 15 - Parinirvana Day, or Nirvana Day, is a Mahayana Buddhist holiday celebrated in East Asia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
World Day of Social Justice, February 20 - Recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, the day is an opportunity to recognize the need for more international efforts on poverty education. Social justice is necessary for peace, security, and development around the world.
February 18 - Dr. Tana M. Session's birthday (lol)
Presidents’ Day, February 20 - A federal holiday in the U.S. to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present.
Until next month... Be well and stay safe & healthy!