February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada, and it honors the accomplishments of the Black community. In schools, businesses, and communities, history lessons and special events are held during the month. There are also many ways for virtual offices to observe the occasion.
These ideas are similar to Asian Heritage Month ideas for work and Hispanic Heritage Month ideas. Diversifying your workplace is a good way to better your company’s culture, as well as virtual employee engagement.
List of virtual Black History Month ideas
From virtual talks to mindful donations, here is a list of virtual Black History Month celebration ideas to promote education and inclusion.
1. Book a Speaker
Hosting an educational talk is one of the best ways to recognize Black History Month. The activity gives employees the chance to learn more about an interesting topic, ask an expert questions, and get face-to-face time with remote coworkers.
First, find your presenter. You can put out an open call for speakers within the organization, or you could hire a virtual keynote speaker. Next, advertise the event to employees, and send a calendar invite with a meeting link. When the time arrives, attendees join the meeting and listen to the lecture. The chat function offers a non-disruptive way for guests to ask questions throughout. You should build in time for questions and answers during the session.
You can also share Black History Month quotes.
2. Play Black History Month Trivia
Trivia is one of the most fun virtual Black History Month activities for adults. The game recognizes and rewards the folks who know a great deal about Black history, while educating those who don’t. Black History Month Trivia is a sixty minute, fully facilitated virtual team event that combines cultural appreciation with team bonding. An energetic host leads the group in a series of lively trivia challenges that cover topics such as history, sports, and entertainment. The game is equal parts engaging and enlightening and allows teams to pay homage to African American excellence.
3. Offer a Black Business Patron Stipend
Supporting Black entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month at work. To encourage employees to support Black-owned businesses, offer a stipend. You can choose the amount, and we recommend between $10 – $50. Then, ask employees to submit receipts, and reimburse expenses.
Virtual employees can choose to order ramen from a Black-owned restaurant during your next remote dinner or buy a print from a Black artist to spruce up their home office.
This app guide from FastCompany suggests ten useful tools for locating Black-owned businesses. Or, you can encourage employees to search for Black chambers of commerce or local directories, which may lead to them discovering and visiting other businesses in the area. Review sites like Google and Yelp also include attributes to identify Black-owned businesses.
4. Send a Care Package of Black-created Products
Sending staff care packages of Black-created products is another way to engage remote employees while supporting the Black community.
You can send staff boxes of snacks, tea or coffee, stationery, and self-care products like candles and lotion from Black businesses. For maximum impact, include information about the sellers, and consider also giving the vendors a social media shoutout.
You can either purchase goodies from individual businesses and assemble the boxes yourself, or order curated assortments of Black products. For instance, here is a Boston Black-Owned business gift box and a list of Black owned shops on Etsy.
5. Dedicate an Online Book Club Session to Black Authors
Black History Month exists to spread awareness of Black experiences, and reading is one of the best ways to learn about different perspectives. Hosting an online book club session is a great way to introduce employees to Black writers and different viewpoints.
To host your virtual book club, first choose and assign a title, then give attendees at least two weeks to read it. You could ship the book directly to club members, offer to cover the costs, or send participants digital copies. When it is time for the session, hop onto a video call and discuss the book together. You may be able to find lists of book club questions for your title online, otherwise you can draft your own.
Here are some reading recommendations:
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
If your group does not have time to meet, then you could still recommend the chosen book to teammates. Then create a quiz or ask employees to turn in a short reflection. To encourage staff to take part, reward participants with a token of thanks such as a coffee gift card.
6. Send Messages about Black History
Intentional internal messaging is one way to ensure that all team members attend Black History Month programming despite staggered schedules. Throughout the month of February, dedicate a section of your company and team emails to Black history and current events. Including links to Black-owned organizations, businesses, and creators is helpful. You can also dedicate blog posts to the subject. Be sure that your content is well-researched, culturally sensitive, and authentic in tone.
If you do not regularly send out staff emails or publish a blog, then you can allocate Slack messages for the cause. At regular intervals, post relevant facts and news in a company-wide Slack channel. You can also encourage remote employees to share relevant insights, reflections, and recommendations.
7. Take a Virtual Tour of Historically Significant Sites
TeamBuilding recently took a virtual team outing that toured the Black Broadway district of Washington DC. The team learned about the area’s cultural significance to the Black community and the US at large, and enjoyed team bonding in the process.
Taking a virtual tour of significant museums or cultural sites is a great way to explore Black history online with remote teams. You can either schedule a guide-led tour on Zoom, or navigate a self-led tour with staff by sharing screens during a video call.
Here are some great virtual tours for Black History Month:
A Walk Through Harlem with The New York Times
Virtual Civil Rights Trail
Freedom March Selma to Montgomery
Google Arts and Culture Black History and Culture
National Center for Civil and Human Rights Virtual Tour
National Museum of African American History and Culture Online
There are many other tours you and your team can take, including paid Zoom tours with question and answer components. To find an online experience, first select a location and subject, then search those terms with the words virtual tours or Zoom tours.
8. Plan a Social Media Takeover
Black History Month offers chances for members of the community to tell their own stories. By planning a social media takeover, you give storytellers a stage. First, choose a timeframe for the takeover, such as a single day, a day each week, or an entire week. Then, partner with a Black creator for content. The featured guest can submit videos, posts, and stories sharing their business, art, and insights. This approach is more personal than a generic “Happy Black History Month” post. Social media takeovers humanizes your brand while potentially growing the following for enterprising individuals.
9. Promote Employee Resource Groups
Working from home is lonely, and underrepresented employees can struggle even more with feelings of work isolation. Even if your virtual team is close knit, diverse teammates can benefit from interacting with colleagues who have similar backgrounds and experiences.
If your company does not currently have a Black employee resource group, then Black History Month is a good time to launch and promote one. Note that if your organization has very few employees, then you can direct staff towards industry groups, such as the National Society for Black Engineers. Assisting interested employees with membership fees is an even more meaningful gesture.
Be sure to also remind employees of other available resources, such as mental health services, professional development programs, and procedures for reporting discrimination in the workplace.
Expressing your commitment to making the workplace a fair and comfortable place for all employees can boost your staff’s productivity, job satisfaction, and retention rates. Taking steps to reach this reality will resonate even more with your crew.
10. Support a Black Philanthropy
One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month at work is to make a charity contribution. You can either make one donation to a single organization on behalf of the company, or match employee donations.
Here are a few great philanthropies to check out:
Brave Space Alliance
Black Girls Code
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Facing History and Ourselves
The Loveland Foundation
Teach the Black Freedom Struggle Campaign
Feed Black Futures
Thurgood Marshall College Fund
The National Museum of African American History and Culture
There are many more organizations that could benefit from your organization’s support.
Staff can also virtually volunteer for tasks like tutoring children in underfunded schools, serving as a Big Brother or Big Sister, providing entrepreneurial coaching, or creating content for the organization’s website.
You can also give worthy causes a platform by launching your own virtual fundraiser, or dedicating posts to the cause on your social media channels and company website.
11. Sponsor a Black Mentorship Program
Many members of underrepresented communities are the first of their families and neighborhoods to pursue a chosen field. Because these individuals cannot receive guidance from existing circles, they often struggle to find the career counselling that could help them excel professionally.
Sponsoring a Black mentorship program is a significant way to honor Black History Month. You can hold webinars and workshops that permit high schoolers, college students, or career shifters to explore your industry. During the event, you can answer questions, point participants towards resources, give attendees initial on-the-job experience, and share your industry expertise. These sessions can occur via virtual meeting or livestream with large audiences, or during one on one video calls.
You could even match learners with long-time mentors they can contact online for career advice.
These efforts are also beneficial for your organization in the long term. Virtual Black mentorship programs help grow diversity in your industry, and attract promising candidates towards your future hiring pipeline.
Tips for celebrating Black History Month in remote offices
Here is a list of best practices for celebrating Black History Month in online offices.
12. Avoid singling out employees
Black employees should feel safe speaking about their experiences, and should not feel forced to. Expecting Black employees to educate coworkers about race issues or history can put unwanted pressure or attention on teammates. Plus, this task can feel like an added responsibility and unfair obligation.
A better approach is to welcome and encourage suggestions and contributions from all employees. Teammates may have suggestions for great virtual speakers or workshops, charities to donate to, or Black History Month virtual event ideas. Team members may even volunteer to give a lecture on Black soldier’s contributions to WW2 or lead a soul food cooking class.
However, you should not approach individual employees if they do not express interest in planning programming. As well-intentioned as your request may be, your behavior could have the unintended consequence of alienating your employee by treating them differently from the rest of the team.
13. Spotlight multiple perspectives
While Black History Month aims to honor the Black experience, it is important to understand that there is no single definitive Black experience. The Black community is diverse and filled with varying perspectives and histories. Black employees represent a variety of cultures and subcultures and come from many different backgrounds. There is no limit to the identities or intersections of identities Black colleagues may possess.
While the month is about uniting to share a common history, it is also important to acknowledge that members of the community have unique and divergent histories and cultures too. It is key to not make assumptions, and to seek out many stories instead of one single narrative.
14. Plan meaningful programming
Making a shallow gesture is almost worse than making no gesture at all. Posting a single “Happy Black History Month!” pictures on your social media or website will not automatically make your remote employees more aware of the cultural significance of the month. Nor will it impress your staff.
Planning meaningful virtual programming for Black History Month emphasizes your company’s commitment to creating inclusive environments. Ideally, events should be both entertaining and informative. Plus, your programming should include a variety of options, so that employees can participate even if they cannot attend a live event.
15. Pay special attention to diversity and inclusion
The month-long celebration of Black culture is a response to centuries worth of exclusion and under-representation. While it is important to acknowledge the past, it is also crucial to focus on the present and the future. Black History Month is a time to analyze the racial environment within your organization.
No diversity situation is strictly pass or fail. No matter how inclusive and accommodating your organization might be, there is room for improvement. Black History Month serves as a reminder of the injustices the Black community has endured, and a call to do better.
While you should always be conscious of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity within the company, February is a good time to re-evaluate your programs and make necessary updates.
16. Observe the values of the occasion yearlong
In the same way we do not limit romantic love to Valentine’s Day or gratitude to Thanksgiving, we should not limit the celebration of Black excellence to February.
While Black History Month is a great time to champion diversity and focus on inclusion, organizations and coworkers should work to promote these practices yearlong. The month can spotlight these values, but the efforts should extend into other seasons.
Showing a constant commitment to empowering Black employees will make your February celebrations seem more sincere. Not to mention, your colleagues will thrive at work and show greater levels of productivity, creativity, and passion.
As the need for thoughtful diversity and inclusion in the corporate world grows, so does the importance of meaningful Black History Month celebrations. Celebrating the month in virtual environments is especially important, since it is harder to cultivate a sense of community and culture when working from home.
While remote work enables companies to recruit more diverse workforces, there is still a discrepancy in the distribution of resources that enable folks to work from home. Acknowledging and working to fix this inequality is important.
In the meantime, dispersed teammates need opportunities to connect with colleagues. Black History Month offers the chance to interact around a highly meaningful topic, and promotes positive culture throughout virtual organizations.
For more virtual holidays to celebrate in February, check out our lists of virtual Valentine’s Day ideas and Presidents’ Day leadership quotes.
We also have a list of ideas for National Native American Heritage Month.
FAQ: Virtual Black History Month
Here are answers to common questions about Black History Month and remote work.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is an occasion celebrated during February in the US and Canada. The month honors the achievements and struggles of the Black community and promotes the principles of fairness, civil rights, and equality.
What began as “Negro History Week” in the 1920’s eventually evolved into Black History Month in the 1970’s. In the decades since, the scope of celebrations has grown. Businesses, schools, and communities typically observe the occasion with history lessons, ceremonies, special events, and mindful marketing.
Why should you celebrate Black History Month at work?
Celebrating Black History Month is a way to recognize and honor the significant contributions, struggles, and experiences of members of the Black community. It is more important than ever to understand and respect the cultural backgrounds of employees. If planned and executed with tact and care, these celebrations have the power to make Black employees feel more welcome and valued within the organizations.
What are some good virtual Black History Month ideas for work?
Zoom talks, Black business stipends or care packages, charity contributions, forming or promoting Black employee support groups, and virtual tours make good virtual Black History Month ideas for work.