Did you know the annual celebration of Black History Month (BHM) was founded by a Harvard-trained historian and a prominent minister?
Starting in 1915, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland first recognized the month formally, nearly half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. The same duo, Woodson and Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an organization that researches and promotes the achievements of Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.
Since then, the U.S. and Canada recognize BHM in February, while the United Kingdom recognizes it in October as a time to observe and deepen understandings of the historic strides Black communities have made.
This year, global talent solutions firm Robert Half and global consulting firm and Robert Half subsidiary, Protiviti, have broadened the traditional scope of BHM to include Black heritage — embracing the past, present and future of Black communities and their contributions to life, culture, innovation, leadership and excellence.
Robert Half’s Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Kacey Jones says, “I’m thrilled we’re interpreting this year’s Black Heritage Month theme of Black Resistance through the lens of trailblazers. Black people have been inventors, entrepreneurs, artists and innovators in big and small ways, but unfortunately, many of their contributions have been overlooked or lost.”
She adds, “This month, we have the opportunity to discover and celebrate the work of legends and pioneers of the past while highlighting the influencers and creators who are innovating and breaking present-day barriers.”
BEN members share what BHM means to them
Kacey and fellow Robert Half employee Marcie Reese, senior human resources business partner, founded Robert Half’s Black Employee Network (BEN) to create a community and sense of belonging for Black employees and their allies. BEN’s mission is to improve equality and equity for Black employees and affirm Robert Half’s commitment to DEI.
We asked some BEN members to share what celebrating BHM means to them:
- “The founders of BEN paved the way for Black employees, and other underrepresented communities and allies, at Robert Half,” says Tracy Tierney, employee communications manager. “As we honor heroes from the Black community this month, I am especially grateful for the Black employees who make a difference all year long through the efforts of BEN.”
- “The month is a chance to celebrate the foundation of our ancestors and the advancement of Black culture,” says Felicia Hall, operational support administrator. “I also like to reflect on the strength and unity — strength mostly because of what they endured during that time. My ancestors came together for unity and fought for a common goal throughout history.”
- Michelle Boyd, a recruiting manager at Robert Half, notes this year’s focus on trailblazing is about “creating and lighting a path toward a brighter future for those who come after you.” She adds, “Trailblazing serves as inspiration, sets an example for what’s possible and opens doors to provide opportunities for others, specifically those who might have steeper mountains to climb.”
- “Robert Half continues to increase its focus on and intention around recognizing heritage month and affinity days,” says Greg Mathurin, senior human resources business partner. “By encouraging participation in diverse programming, BEN will provide all employees with examples of the rich history of Black individuals and communities.”
Planned activities and ideas for celebrating BHM
This BHM — and beyond — we’re honoring the trailblazers who have come before us and supporting future change-makers who will follow. Led by BEN and Protiviti’s Black Employee Inclusion Network Group (BEING), the national theme for this year is Black Resistance and will guide weekly themes for the enterprise’s internal programming: Music & Art, Film, and Business.
Activities will enlighten colleagues on these topics by curating experiences and events that create awareness by promoting allyship, inclusivity and belonging. Some of the planned activities include:
- An internal event for employees featuring trailblazer Daymond John, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of FUBU, a global fashion brand
- BEN’s second annual leadership conference, Elevate Black Leaders, is organized by our Talent Solutions Task Force, BEN’s subcommittee responsible for aligning BEN’s mission with Robert Half’s core business. Elevate Black Leaders is a powerful development experience designed to explore the intersection of inclusion and leadership excellence.
- The Evolution of R&B (workshop)
- Celebration of Black artists (panel discussion and member paint class)
- Black Women Trailblazers in Science (presentation)
Here are some ways that guide action for celebrating BHM as we collectively learn, grow and work toward a future where respect and the opportunity to flourish are accessible to all:
- Read about Black American life and history
- Support Black-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations
- Create alliances with organizations focused on advancing Black professionals like the National Urban League, NABA, Inc. and Black is Tech
- Find virtual events and in-person opportunities to celebrate in your area
- Look for matching gifts opportunities, if your company offers them, and donate
- Encourage employees to share stories, photographs and artwork
- Host a panel event or Q&A
If you’re interested in working for a company that values DEI, we’d love to have you join our team! Robert Half is an Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans. You can view our current job openings here.