Plan now to honor the achievements of African Americans and support a more equitable future.
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from the original.
Black History Month occurs every February in the U.S. and Canada. This is a time to honor the achievements of the Black community. Businesses, schools, and communities celebrate the month with history lessons and special events. There are also many ways to virtually observe the occasion.
Championing diversity at work is a way to improve company culture, as well as virtual employee engagement.
From virtual talks to mindful donations, here is a list of virtual Black History Month celebration ideas to promote education and inclusion.
1. Book a Speaker
Hosting an educational talk is one of the best ways to recognize Black History Month. The activity gives employees the chance to learn more about an interesting topic, ask an expert questions and get face-to-face time with remote co-workers.
First, find your presenter. You can put out an open call for speakers within the organization, or you could hire a virtual keynote speaker. Next, advertise the event to employees, and send a calendar invite with a meeting link. When the time arrives, attendees join the meeting and listen to the lecture. The chat function offers a non-disruptive way for guests to ask questions throughout. You should build in time for questions and answers during the session.
You can also share Black History Month quotes.
2. Play Black History Month Trivia
Trivia can be a fun virtual Black History Month activity for adults. The game recognizes and rewards the folks who know a great deal about Black history, while educating those who don’t. Try to have an energetic host lead the group in answering a series of lively trivia challenges that cover topics such as history, sports, and entertainment. Our group offers a version of this.
3. Offer a Black Business Patron Stipend
Supporting Black entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month at work. Virtual employees can choose to order from a Black-owned restaurant during your next remote dinner or buy a print from a Black artist to spruce up their home office.
To encourage employees to support Black-owned businesses, offer a stipend. You can choose the amount, and we recommend between $10 and $50. Then, ask employees to submit receipts, and reimburse expenses.
This app guide from FastCompany suggests 10 useful tools for locating Black-owned businesses. Or you can encourage employees to search for Black chambers of commerce or local directories, which may lead to them discovering and visiting other businesses in the area. Review sites like Google and Yelp also include attributes to identify Black-owned businesses.
4. Send a Care Package of Black-Created Products
Sending staff care packages of Black-created products is another way to engage remote employees while supporting the Black community.
You can send staff boxes of snacks, tea or coffee, stationery, and self-care products like candles and lotion from Black businesses. For maximum impact, include information about the sellers, and consider also giving the vendors a social media shoutout.
You can either purchase items from individual businesses and assemble the boxes yourself or order curated assortments of Black products. For instance, here is a Boston Black-owned business gift box and a list of Black-owned shops on Etsy.
5. Dedicate an Online Book Club Session to Black Authors
Black History Month exists to spread awareness of Black experiences, and reading is one of the best ways to learn about different perspectives. Hosting an online book club session is a great way to introduce employees to Black writers and different viewpoints.
To host your virtual book club, first choose and assign a title, then give attendees at least two weeks to read it. You could ship the book directly to club members, offer to cover the costs or send participants digital copies. When it is time for the session, hop on a video call and discuss the book together. You may be able to find lists of book club questions for your title online, otherwise you can draft your own.
If your group does not have time to meet, you can still recommend a book to your teammates. Then create a quiz or ask employees to turn in a short reflection.
For reading suggestions, check out this list of books by black authors from TED.
6. Send Messages about Black History
Intentional internal messaging is one way to ensure that all team members attend Black History Month programming despite staggered schedules. Throughout the month of February, dedicate a section of your company and team emails to Black history and current events. Including links to Black-owned organizations, businesses and creators is helpful. You can also dedicate blog posts to the subject. Be sure that your content is well-researched, culturally sensitive and authentic in tone.
If you do not regularly send out staff emails or publish a blog, then you can allocate chat messages for the cause. At regular intervals, post relevant facts and news in a company-wide communications channel. You can also encourage remote employees to share relevant insights, reflections and recommendations.
7. Take a Virtual Tour of Historically Significant Sites
TeamBuilding recently took a virtual team outing that toured the Black Broadway district of Washington, D.C. The team learned about the area’s cultural significance to the Black community and the U.S. at large and enjoyed team bonding in the process.
Taking a virtual tour of significant museums or cultural sites is a great way to explore Black history online with remote teams. You can either schedule a guide-led tour on Zoom or navigate a self-led tour with staff by sharing screens during a video call.
Here are some great virtual tours for Black History Month:
- Virtual Civil Rights Trail
- Freedom March Selma to Montgomery
- Google Arts and Culture Black History and Culture
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights Virtual Tour
There are many other tours you and your team can take, including paid Zoom tours with question-and-answer components. To find an online experience, first select a location and subject, then search those terms with the words virtual tours or Zoom tours.
8. Plan a Social Media Takeover
Black History Month offers chances for members of your community to tell their own stories. By planning a social media takeover, you give storytellers a stage. First, choose a timeframe for the takeover, such as a single day, a day each week or an entire week. Then, partner with a Black creator for content. The featured guest can submit videos, posts and stories sharing their business, art and insights. This approach is more personal than a generic “Happy Black History Month” post. Social media takeovers humanize your brand while potentially growing the following for enterprising individuals.
9. Promote Employee Resource Groups
Working from home is lonely, and underrepresented employees can struggle even more with feelings of work isolation. Even if your virtual team is close knit, diverse teammates can benefit from interacting with colleagues who have similar backgrounds and experiences.
If your company does not currently have a Black employee resource group, then Black History Month is a good time to launch and promote one. Note that if your organization has very few employees, then you can direct staff towards industry groups. Assisting interested employees with membership fees is an even more meaningful gesture.
Expressing your commitment to making the workplace a fair and comfortable place for all employees can boost your staff’s productivity, job satisfaction, and retention rates. Taking steps to reach this reality will resonate even more with your crew.
10. Support Organizations That Serve Black Causes
One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month at work is to make a charitable contribution. You can either make one donation to a single organization on behalf of the company or match employee donations.
Here are some possible organizations to support:
- Black Girls Code
- Brave Space Alliance
- Facing History and Ourselves
- Feed Black Futures
- Innocence Project
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Teach the Black Freedom Struggle Campaign
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund
Staff can also virtually volunteer for tasks like tutoring children in underfunded schools, serving as a Big Brother or Big Sister, providing entrepreneurial coaching, or creating content for an organization’s website.
You can also give worthy causes a platform by launching your own virtual fundraiser or dedicating posts to the cause on your social media channels and company website.
11. Sponsor a Black Mentorship Program
Sponsoring a Black mentorship program is a significant way to honor Black History Month. You can hold webinars and workshops that permit high schoolers, college students or people making a career move to explore your industry. During the event, you can answer questions, point participants towards resources, give attendees initial on-the-job experience, and share your industry expertise. These sessions can occur via virtual meeting or livestream with large audiences, or during one-on-one video calls.
You could even match learners with longtime mentors they can contact online for career advice.
These efforts are also beneficial for your organization in the long term. Virtual Black mentorship programs help grow diversity in your industry and attract promising candidates towards your future hiring pipeline.
As the need for thoughtful diversity and inclusion in the corporate world grows, so does the importance of meaningful Black History month celebrations. Celebrating the month in virtual environments is especially important, since it is harder to cultivate a sense of community and culture when working from home.
While remote work enables companies to recruit more diverse workforces, there is still a discrepancy in the distribution of resources that enable folks to work from home. Acknowledging and working to fix this inequality is important.
In the meantime, dispersed teammates need opportunities to connect with colleagues. Black History month offers the chance to interact around a highly meaningful topic and promotes positive culture throughout virtual organizations.
TeamBuilding Content Expert Angela Robinson has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.