For Us, By Us

Happy Black History Month, beautiful people. In addition to the celebration of Brown Skin (cue India Arie), this month represents a reset on the reset that is a new calendar year. It's a great time to set intentions if you haven't, to double down on your existing ones if you have, or to dedicate yourself to learning something new about the culture. February is always a hectic month for me: two of my "plus ones," Communications Lead for Accenture's National African American Employee Resource Group (ERG) and Collegiate Connection Co-Chair for my alumnae chapter (oo-oop, sorors), dictate my intentions for the month before I even have a chance to set them myself. I simply intend to get through the month in one piece, despite the fact that I'm on the hook for communications, social media campaign development, and event planning for two month-long celebrations: Black History Month and Collegiate Connection Month.

There are bright sides to the madness, though. One: I signed up for this. I know it's coming. I have time to plan. Two: I truly enjoy getting knee deep in my ERG's efforts to celebrate the 28 days allocated to our culture and our pride boldly and brightly. I have the pleasure of working with two dynamite co-leads and a team of astoundingly passionate team leads (a group comprised overwhelmingly of black women; just saying, we do tend to hold it down) to create a vision for the month and to see that vision through to fruition.

Though BHM 2019 is already underway, I want to share a few themes and initiatives I've supported and developed communications for through my ERG in the hopes that these initiatives will encourage others to get involved with Black History Month efforts within their own Black ERGs, consider championing similar efforts at companies without ERGs, or seek out ways to plug into Black History Month events within reach (either with or without co-workers).

I'd like to take a quick commercial break to briefly acknowledge my privilege: working for a company with 400,000+ employees globally and having a pre-established ERG with over 2,000 members that I can plug into from a leadership perspective is not something everyone can, or will, experience. Leadership support (and dollars, let's be real here, funding enables our efforts) is key in ensuring that we have the free reign to execute the initiatives I'll share. But, our ERG didn't always exist, and our firm was not always this size. If you believe it, you can achieve it, even if it starts with an email blast to a small group or a small potluck with a few close colleagues. No matter the size of your organization or your level of desire to get involved with efforts like these, the fact of the matter remains the same: who will celebrate our rich history and culture if not us?

Unlock Your Brilliance

This was the 2018 theme for Black History Month for our National AAERG. The full theme was actually "Unlocking the Brilliance in Our D.N.A. (Destiny Named by Our Ancestors)." At its core, the theme was inspired by Kendrick Lamar's "DNA." We wanted to provide our membership with a few platforms through which they could share their experiences as black people in America - their brilliant, rich, and inspiring experiences. There were four ways to share (in addition to a plethora of local chapter events, which included a limitless number of Black Panther screenings and watch parties):

1) Inspiring Video Series

During the course of the month, we gathered videos from both leadership and members of our ERG. Participants were required to answer one of three questions in video form:

How are you your ancestors' wildest dreams?

What is your destiny?

What is the best advice you have received that has helped you unlock your brilliance?

We posted these videos individually to a media repository within our company network and compiled them into a master overview at the end of the month. This might sound like more effort than it's worth, but we eased the burden on participants by encouraging them to submit videos taken on their phones or with the webcams on their computers - whatever worked best for them in the moment. Them includes me, and as you can see, my web capabilities are not exactly Spielberg quality (not at all, was I underground while recording this...?), but, the sentiment comes across nonetheless.

2) Daily Quotes

I had a bit of fun in Canva with this one. Every day, we would post a pre-selected quote to both our private ERG Facebook page and, believe it or not, our informal (note: non-company sponsored or affiliated!) GroupMe.

For those who are seeing red flags pop up in their peripheral at the mere thought of joining a Facebook group with their co-workers, rest assured: members of private Facebook groups don't automatically become Facebook friends with each other. Your colleagues would still have to request you to have full access to your profile. All this shared group does is allow you to share posts with members of the group, including quote graphics in this case, but also including inspirational videos and event updates that members themselves choose to post, even outside of the confines of Black History Month. Again, private group: my communications team monitors the requests that come in, so, if anyone requests to join without providing a valid email address, we can politely refuse to accept.

3) Photo & Poetry Contest

Submissions for this contest were also gathered through our Facebook group. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of submissions we received. Photos of events and landmarks related to Black History Month in our members' respective cities and video recordings of poetry recitations were ranked according to the number of likes they received in the group. And yes, the winner did receive a prize.

4) MyGiving Campaign

MyGiving is Accenture's official corporate citizenship fundraising platform. Even if your company doesn't have a hub for donation gathering, it's always a nice idea to bring people together around the support of a worthwhile cause. Last year's charitable organizations of focus were NPower and 100 Black Men. NPower "creates pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities." 100 Black Men offers "programmatic services rendered to disadvantaged, disenfranchised and low-income youth and families positively change their life trajectory." Both amazing organizations that we (admittedly, ambitiously) sought to raise $10,000 to support.

The United Cultures of Black America

Moving on to 2019, year of the now. This theme is centered around celebrating the rich tapestry of cultures that weave into Black and African-American Culture across America. We're talking giving props and lifting up a different sub-culture within the African diaspora each week through the following activities.

1) Recorded Speaker Series

We love videos in this camp, that we do. This year's recorded snippets will cover off on interviews with compelling figures in local communities across the US. These figures can span the full spectrum, from well-known and underground artists and other notable figures to wise family members (parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles) of our members. We'll also be highlighting video clips of our own employees who have close familial ties to the various regions we'll be highlighting. This interview series will allow us to compile a few brief broadcast presentations that will take the place of the huge national webcast we hosted for Black History Month last year.

2) Apple/Spotify Playlists and YouTube videos

Get with the times, always and forever. As I mentioned, each week we'll be highlighting a different group within the diaspora. This year's social media blasts will include playlists to listen to and YouTube videos to watch that are related to the region in question. For additional context, the three segments are as follows: African continent, Afro Latinx, Afro Caribbean, and African American communities. Today actually kicks off our week of content dedicated to the African continent. We have Spotify playlists dedicated to Afrobeats, Highlife, and Kwaito music and YouTube videos that include "The Danger of A Single Story" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and "Meet the Artist" by Andrew Dosunmu. Music, dance, and storytelling are great ways to connect people with cultures that are and aren’t their own, and we hope to do that by meeting people where they are: on apps that they already use.

3) Advocate Campaign

Accenture's PRIDE ERG is one of the most, if not the most, engaging and active ERGs within our company. PRIDE has an ally program that allows employees to sign a pledge indicating allyship with, and support of, PRIDE. This year, our ERG launched an Advocate Program. While advocates and allies do serve different purposes, our goal in providing an opportunity for our colleagues to commit to developing connections with our groups is the same: to encourage our colleagues who may not identify with our group socially or ethnically to commit to advocating for our needs and for our voices within our company, and more broadly, within the world.

This post was pretty detailed (read: long), but, this was in the hopes that providing the keys would help you drive off into the sunset blasting "Outstanding" by The Gap Band and living your best, black life this Black History Month. One thing I’m always looking to strengthen is my dedication to being unapologetically vocal about my support of my community and of the many groups I consider myself an ally of. This work is important, particularly for those of who operate in diverse spaces, consistently surrounded by people who may not understand, or even realize the existence of, this celebration of history and culture that honors our lives and the lives of those who came before us.

Championing Black History Month efforts loudly and proudly is my way of saying "if ya don't know, now ya know" in a meaningful and enlightening way to my non-black colleagues and friends. What's your preferred way of engaging in and outside of the workplace for Black History Month? Feel free to share in the comments below or on Instagram.

Please note: these views are my own and are not officially sponsored by, or affiliated with, the views of my company. Social media posts, video recording, and lockups included are my original work.

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