Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, which honors the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. Starting as a week-long observance in 1926, it is now a month-long celebration with the month of February chosen to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist movement leader Frederick Douglass and former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.
Black History Month is not just for Black people. While this month was created to focus attention on the contributions of people with African or Caribbean heritage, it is also an opportunity for people to be better allies to the Black community. While we believe it’s important to learn about the contributions, struggles, and challenges of the Black community throughout the year, Black History Month is an opportunity to genuinely focus on learning more. This means listening and learning about the Black experience and reflecting on our own privilege and unconscious bias that contributes to the prejudice and discrimination that still exists today.
The sad reality is that in many schools throughout the country today, there is still limited information provided to our youth about the contributions made by the Black community that have benefitted the United States and the world. Black History Month is also a great opportunity to move from simply being socially aware, to being an active ally, one who takes the initiative to drive positive change in the world around them.
As leaders in the Black AvePoint Excellence employee resource group, Black History Month provides us the platform to effect positive change in the communities where we live and work. This year, we decided to make education the theme of our Black History Month activities throughout the company.
Why education? Every year we look at what has been most impactful to our culture – personally and professionally. If you think about the impact education has had on us, it’s given us the opportunity to grow, to make progress in our families – think of first-generation college students – and be in a position to have greater influence in the world around us.
We also know that while learning facts and history is an important step, actually getting out in the community to interact, engage and experience black culture is where the real learning happens. While it is important to be educated on the contributions of Black artists, taking actions like visiting an art gallery highlighting Black artists actively supports the community. Plenty of cities and towns around the country – including Chicago, Washington, DC and New York City – post local Black History Month event directories. We encourage you to check out your local town website for more information. Here are a few additional helpful resources to get you started:
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: The only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history and culture, home to more than 40,000 artifacts to help everyone explore Black culture through interactive exhibitions.
- Anti-Racism Project: A curated list of books, films and other resources to help you increase your awareness and education on racism.
- NPR Code Switch Podcast: This podcast features insightful conversations around race and how it affects society.
- Why does Black History Month Matter? : This piece in NPR gives a great overview into the history and evolution of Black History Month in America.
This year, we’ll double down on not just providing resources and opportunities to connect and learn about black culture, but give individuals the opportunity to receive an education that they may not otherwise have the means to receive through our partnership and donation drive with the National Center for Children and Families. During the month of February, AvePoint will match all employee donations made to the NCCF.
We will encourage our colleagues and their families to learn more about black history and support black-owned businesses and artists. In the spirit of healthy competition, colleagues from every office will post about their experiences to our internal Yammer community which will drive conversation, connection and encouragement to continue actively learning and participating in Black culture.
This is just one of the opportunities we have had to drive greater awareness and impact as Black AvePoint Excellence. Other opportunities we’ve had to educate, engage and make an impact include:
- We created a video internally – which we also shared with the world – about what Juneteenth was and its importance to Black culture before it became a federally recognized holiday.
- Our Black AvePoint Excellence team in AvePoint’s United Kingdom office partnered with StepNow to give local students an opportunity to learn more about AvePoint and open the door for what career possibilities are available – another form of educating the community and educate about the art of the possible
- We conducted an Employee Spotlight Series to share the stories of some of our BAE members, including
- We were also proud to provide a scholarship to a student of color at Virginia Commonwealth University last fall, another opportunity to invest in the education of our community.
By taking the opportunity to learn and engage during Black History Month, you may find it sparks a passion that follows you throughout the year and generates support for the Black community that lasts past February.