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Diversity & Belonging

How adland can rekindle its relationship with Black History Month?

Showing your support takes more than just words – you need to practise what you preach.

Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in 1987. It is now an annual event, taking place every October to honour the historical contribution made by the black community.

But the message seems to have been lost in translation over the years – particularly in adland.

Tokenistic gestures, such as launching black mentoring programmes and putting black team members into the spotlight, have become a staple every time October rolls around. Businesses have lost sight of what’s important. Black History Month is under threat of being replaced by "Black Celebration Month".

And while inclusivity and diversity remain important topics of conversation, this event’s focus shouldn’t waver from history. It’s time that Black History Month went back to basics.

Take it from me…

I come from a local authority background. And I know from my own experiences that councils always try to celebrate Black History Month. Not all of these have been major success stories (in some cases, the less said the better).

The point is tht they never overlook it and, regardless of the activities they have planned, the council always ties it back to black history and how it’s influenced its borough. And this is the sentiment that the private sector consistently misses.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t book Black keynote speakers to come and give talks or highlight the achievements of your Black members of staff. The reality, however, is that you shouldn’t be waiting for permission to amplify your team. They’re Black all the time and you can be doing things in the name of inclusivity 12 months a year.

When October arrives, this is your opportunity to highlight the pioneers and changemakers that have impacted your industry.

Black history is about triumph and celebration. There is trauma attached – everyone is painfully aware of this. But Black History Month signals your chance to also present different narratives.

There are plenty of ways you can pay homage to Black History Month. At Jungle Creations, we have adopted the pan-African colours (inspired by the Ethiopian flag, and introduced by Marcus Garvey in 1920) to illustrate our historical understanding.

We also recently launched the second season of "Black to the Beginning". This series involves our team shining a light on black storytellers and creatives relevant to our industry – so far we have covered figures such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Mary Prince and Horace Ové.

Showing your support takes more than just words – you need to practice what you preach.

Put your thinking caps on

We hosted the first Big Black History Month Quiz last year to try to help people understand that Black history isn’t steeped exclusively in trauma and challenges.

The questions, which ranged from "Who is Mary Seacole?" to "Name three famous black composers from the 1800s", had one thing in common. Namely, they didn’t talk about suffering.

Yes, slavery and oppression play a big part in our story but there is so much more to Black culture than this. Black History Month was created by Black people to address this massive gulf in understanding.

Our goal is to highlight the historical impact that the Black community has made. What it looks like, what it feels like, what its history is, how far it has come and, most importantly, how much it has affected everyone.

Black history shouldn’t be siloed. We’re talking about world history. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from – you are a beneficiary of this community’s input over the years.

This year’s quiz, hosted by yours truly on 27 October, will focus specifically on Black British history. And while I’m not planning on giving too much away, expect questions to be around historical events, facts and individuals that have made a difference. It’s open to everyone and a lot of fun, you should come along.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important

It is more than 30 years since the UK’s first Black History Month and since then it has become a landmark occasion.

This is a period designed to bring communities together. But when you boil it down, there is one word that you cannot afford to miss – history. This isn’t just a phase. Black history doesn’t exist for one month a year; it doesn’t fade into the darkness when 1 November arrives.

Black History Month shouldn’t be the prompt to start talking to (and about) your Black team members. Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the Black historical contribution that everyone benefits from, so it should be celebrated by all.

Read the original article on Campaign

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