6 Impactful Ways To Celebrate Black History Month UK at Work

September 29, 2021

Wondering how to celebrate Black History Month at work?

October marks Black History Month in the UK, where nationwide events are held to celebrate and recognise the contributions and achievements of Black Britons. The initiative was started in 1987 by Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council, to celebrate those who have been left out of British history. This year the theme is ‘Proud To Be’ with the aim of “celebrating being Black or Brown, and to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture.” Source

While many workplaces in the US have long participated in the celebrations, we predict that more UK businesses will be following their lead this year as they ramp up their D&I efforts. 

If you want to do more than a quick post on social media, we’ve got you covered. Here’s some impactful ways that your workplace can celebrate Black History Month UK.

Why You Should Celebrate Black History Month

You might be asking yourself, ‘does my company need to acknowledge Black History Month?’ If you’re aiming to be a truly inclusive business, then we encourage you to do so.

The aim of having an inclusive workplace is so that your employees can feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. For Black team members, this is far more likely if they see that their employers are celebrating, acknowledging and caring about Black culture and history. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that this isn’t just for Black employees. Black history is British history; it’s for all of us to know. By educating all employees, your business plays a wider role in combating inequality and creates a more open space to comfortably talk about race. 

Ready to celebrate? Here’s some ideas for celebrating Black History Month at work.

6 Impactful Ways To Celebrate Black History Month at Work

  1. Host a team activity learning about Black history in your local area or city. Mention the Black Civil Rights Movement and what immediately comes to mind? We’d bet that whatever you’re thinking of is part of American history. Stick to the event's purpose and surprise your team with some unknown facts about Black British history. With it rarely covered in schools or in the mainstream, your team will be engaged by an activity that uncovers Black history in your local area. If you’re based in London, why not try something like the Black History Walking Tour or River Cruise? Events will be taking place throughout cities nationwide - do your research and see what’s out there. 

  1. Host an October book club with the theme of Black British history/culture. We love any opportunity for personal development and hosting a book club at work is a surefire way to get your employees learning. Why not use October to switch up the usual career theme and read something around Black British history instead? Developing your cultural knowledge is an important part of becoming an inclusive leader. Find a book that appeals to your team (some may prefer fiction over non-fiction), and set a date to discuss the chapters and what you’ve learned. Some of our suggestions include;

- Small Island by Andrea Levy

- Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsh

- Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Addo-Lodge 

- Natives by Akala

You can find a great compilation of other suggestions here too.

  1. Invite a Black speaker to host an internal event or workshop. If your team is still working remotely from different locations, don’t let that stop you from hosting a brilliant event. Talks, interactive workshops and panel discussions are all ideal options for virtual Black History Month celebrations. By inviting an activist, historian or thought-leader to speak, your team gets to hear about thought-provoking topics from people who are experts in their field. 

  1. Spread the word internally (not just externally). While events and activities will require some business spend, acknowledging Black History Month through your internal comms is a cost-effective way to show your support. For example, you could send a team newsletter with facts about BHM, local events, books and resources, and local Black businesses to support. Avoid the mishap of sharing a Black History Month post on your social media accounts, while doing nothing internally for your team. Making an effort just for your online audience could seem as though you care more about how your business is perceived, rather than genuine D&I progress. 

  1. Show your support for a relevant cause. Many businesses will use Black History Month to raise awareness and support race equality initiatives and causes. Google awarded a grant to NAACP's Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, while Facebook decided to invest in skills by allocating $10 million to fund the Black Gaming Creator Program. Granted, these are huge organisations who have the means to make large contributions, but your donation doesn’t have to be huge. If you’re a small business on a budget, you could even show your support through time rather than money by volunteering or putting your skills to good use.

  1. Reflect on your internal D&I efforts. Keep in mind that while showing up for Black History Month is great, the most impactful thing you can do as a business is to reflect on your own D&I efforts. Are you promoting diversity as an organisation? How are you fostering inclusivity in your workplace? Are there areas of your business that can be made more inclusive such as your recruitment process or your management staff? Speak to your employees and see if they’re willing to share how they think you could improve as an organisation. 

Feeling inspired with ways to celebrate Black History Month at work? Have fun celebrating and don’t forget that diversity should be acknowledged and supported all year round too. 

If you’re looking to build inclusivity into your organisation, focusing on your leadership team should be your first step. Our development programme provides employees from the UK’s top businesses with the skills they need to become an inclusive leader. Read more about our unique approach here.