Commemorating Black History Month Within Our Industry
Written by: Sahil Dhaliwal
February is nationally recognized across the country as Black History Month, dating back to 1976, when President Gerald Ford recognized it as an “opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Commemorating Black History Month annually is integral to understanding American history holistically and challenging our conventional education, often criticized for overlooking or watering down certain parts of history. However, it is not enough simply to celebrate this national observance, we all must participate in it.
As the Black Lives Matter protests raged persistently across the country for months on end last year, it’s evident that race relations and the social climate are tenser than ever. Therefore, it’s our social responsibility as Americans to educate ourselves on a history so many of us were never taught in-depth. With social media, it’s easier than ever to share, learn, and create pertinent information to further educate ourselves and our social circles.
How can we be more active participants in Black History Month, you ask? Supporting Black-owned businesses, volunteering and donating to various organizations, supporting Black artists, and even engaging in uncomfortable conversations is all a good start. It may seem daunting at first, as most assume they themselves can’t change something as widely pervasive as racism, but every little contribution counts towards a more informed and inclusive society.
Support Black-Owned Businesses
As social unrest made major headlines last year, a nationwide call to support black-owned businesses became louder and louder. While many black businesses experienced exponential growth as summer rolled around last year, few have seen their businesses continue to grow while many have seen a decline in interest, all while simultaneously struggling with the economic downfall brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering the history of economic disadvantages Black Americans have had to face in this country, supporting Black businesses is a great way to participate — and if you’re unaware where to start, here’s a great resource!
Volunteer or Donate
Another great way is to volunteer or donate to organizations that work to uplift, support and help the Black community. After the protests of 2020, social media was flooded with various informational graphics and resources on ways to give back to the community. For our fellow New Yorkers looking for organizations to support, we’ve got an inclusive list of organizations here, including the Brooklyn Bail Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and more!
Support Black Artists
Black artists have historically been undervalued and overlooked when it came to the mainstream, particularly because they originated outside its canon. Black art harnesses the truth of lived experiences, expresses the perspectives of communities also often overlooked, and has the power to educate audiences while uplifting the communities it represents. If you’re looking to support Black artists, particularly affected during this global pandemic, Black Art in America has compiled a list of excellent resources. For the cinematically-inclined, films are another excellent way to learn about Black History – I’d recommend starting with “13th” directed by Ava Duvernay, available for free viewing on Youtube.
Truthfully, we can’t speak about Black History Month as a marketing and production agency without also acknowledging the industry’s severe lack of diversity. In fact, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained massive attention last year, inciting public notices of solidarity from global brands or our previously discussed “woke advertising”, many seemed to forget that the industry itself is not inclusive of Black people. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 0.7% of advertising and promotion managers were Black (and it was 0.8% in 2010). Solutions to this troubling statistic may not be so simple, but do require a look within our companies and a concerted effort to seek out a more diverse applicant pool.
In a small effort to combat this lack of inclusivity and diversity, we’re highlighting a few (of many) noteworthy, successful and trailblazing Black marketing executives, leaders and creatives within the advertising industry.
- Founder and director of strategy at Seer Interactive, a digital marketing agency, founded in 2002, now home to over 150 employees in both Philadelphia and San Diego.
- Keynote speaker, Entrepreneur, author and Founder & editor of Smart Hustle Media, his podcast. Ray is also the best-selling author of The Celebrity CEO and The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing.
- Senior SEO marketing manager at Roku Inc. Robinson previously worked with companies like Myspace, Salesforce and Fox Interactive media as a senior manager of online marketing, SEO and social networking.
- Founding Managing News Editor for Audience Engagement and Distribution at Linkedin. Pope-Chappell creates and curates engaging and empowering content for LinkedIn’s community.
- Executive Creative Director of Experience Design of VMLY&R, a sport-bike racer, a multi-patent holder, and one of Adweek’s 50 most important people in Media, Marketing and Tech.
Ultimately, it’s no secret that America has a long way to go, and actively participating in Black History Month is a great way to get involved. However, as February comes to a rapid end, our participation doesn’t have to – after all, these massive efforts of inclusivity and telling the truth of our nation’s history should be year round.
Also published on Medium.