As the New York lead for Onyx, the employee resource group for Black and African-American employees, I’m proud of the variety of Black History Month (BHM) events that were hosted throughout our U.S. offices. While the month is coming to close, and the last events are wrapped-up, it was inspiring to witness so many different moments that highlighted a range of people and cultural experiences.
This year in the New York office, we hosted five events with one goal: to not only feature educational content, but also celebrate the art, words, food, and courage of African Americans. We sought to continue to encourage the ongoing dialogue around activism and highlight those voices that are sometimes quieted by those in power. We also wanted to encourage those who were curious about a particular topic or social issue to speak up, ask questions, and participate.
The overarching theme of the BHM events were around perspective and how that influences the ways we interact with others, both inside and outside the workplace. To tell this story, Digiats hosted a Black Food Festival to not only expose people to various culturally significant dishes, but also provide their histories, showcasing the thinking and motivations behind them. We screened the film Get Out and led a Brave Space discussion about the film and the importance of having various perspectives at the table when it comes to advertising campaigns. We hosted an African Dance class that encouraged people to step outside of their comfort zones to learn and participate in something new. And lastly, we hosted a panel discussion titled All Eyez on Me: Fearless, Gifted, and Black that featured an engaging conversation about black intersectionality and staying true to one’s self while navigating corporate America.
Each of the aforementioned events highlighted a different aspect of the Black experience; whether it’s about being mindful of the often-painful histories behind the various cultural cuisines, or understanding the perspective used to tell a realistic story through film. Furthermore, it was great seeing the office come together to have discussions about various issues -- both top-of-mind and in the media -- as well as those that may not receive as much attention.
As we reflect on these events, it’s important that we also take a look at what Black History Month means on a larger scale. Given the current sociopolitical climate, it’s more important than ever for us all to come together and not only acknowledge one another’s differences, but also have respect for and be inspired by them. It’s my hope that people have used this month’s activities to listen, learn, and gain a better sense of understanding of those around us who may have a different viewpoint than our own. Let’s not only champion the bold, but also lift up those whose voices may not always be heard. I also hope that at the end of every event, people have walked away with a new piece of knowledge, a new office connection, or even a new sense of curiosity and desire to understand the complexity of the black experience in America.
3 Ways to Stay Engaged:
- Keep Talking: Continue the dialogue and reach out to the agency’s various employee resource groups (ERGs) and coworkers to keep the conversation going about Black culture and history. Perhaps there’s a question that you haven’t been able to ask, or maybe there’s a topic that you’d love to learn more about? If so, reaching out to your ERGs is a great place to start and could lead to Brave Space discussions that’ll allow the space and time to explore.
- Volunteer: Or perhaps there’s a volunteer event outside of work that has sparked your interest, but you don’t want to go alone? Bring your co-workers and make it a team-building exercise.
- It’s Not Just One Month: Remember that the celebration of Black History matters, not only this month, but every month of the year. I hope everyone across the different offices will continue to participate as we recognize and celebrate black champions, trailblazers, artists, and visionaries.