What We’re Chattering: Black History Month and Beyond

Black History Month and Beyond

At Education Pioneers, we prioritize talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout the year. DEI is one of our core values and a primary category of our blog.

DEI is the work we do, the experiences we have, the organization we want to be, and the world we want to live in.  It isn’t just our core mission—DEI is personal, challenging, and institutional. 

One aspect of DEI is for all of us to have a rich understanding of our national history, and especially black history which is too often overlooked, marginalized, or relegated to only being discussed in February.

To celebrate Black History Month, our EP team across the country is turning to Salesforce Chatter (a tool we use to connect with each other virtually), where we’re sharing and discussing articles, stories, and resources to honor our nation’s black history.

To keep the conversation going, we wanted to share here some of what our staff are sharing.

(To note, this is, obviously, only a tiny fraction of the rich history of African American and black Americans. What we’re sharing here is meant only to be a first step.)

Articles we’ve shared so far:

  • The New York Times, “Unpublished Black History”. Each day this month, in honor of Black History Month, the Times is publishing previously unpublished moments and photographs of black history. There are beautiful images and poignant stories here that are worth spending some time with.
  • Afro.com, “Yale University Removes Portraits of Controversial Slavery Advocate”. Like the Confederate flag, scars from our nation’s racist history remain. At Yale, three portraits of politician and slavery advocate John Calhoun were recently taken down, and the college named after him is currently being renamed.
  • The New York Times, Courses in Manhood for African-American Boys”. The Oakland Unified School District in California has an elective course for its African American boys from third through 12th grade, “Mastering our Cultural Identify: African American Male Image.” For younger students, the curriculum focuses “on the stories, legacies and images of black people,” while “high school students take a deep dive into African-American history and culture, from ancient civilizations to the civil rights movement to contemporary media.”
  • International Business Times, “Black History Month In The White House: Cross-Generational African-American Leaders Meet With Obama In His Final Year”. President Obama convened a multigenerational group of leaders to celebrate Black History Month, called a “first of its kind” event. See photos of a number of events at the White House celebrating Black History here.

Stories we’ve shared so far:

Google celebrates Frederick Douglass, a civil and human rights advocate who escaped slavery to become one of the most important African-American 19th century leaders.

Charlotte E. Ray, the first African-American woman to become a lawyer in the U.S. (1872), and the third woman of any race to complete law school.

Mary Jane Patterson, the daughter of fugitive slaves and the first African-American woman to receive a college degree; she graduated from Oberlin College in 1862.

Joshua Gibson, who was one of our greatest baseball players, and known as the “black Babe Ruth” (and some called Ruth the “white Josh Gibson”).

Beyond Black History Month, at EP, we’re continuing the conversation by having discussions, building experiences, learning, and sharing resources that are initiated by a variety of things:

  • Staff experiences:  EP’s mentorship program connects staff of color with senior leadership team members to build relationships and share perspectives.  We also have an internal reflection space called Open Air, where staff write blogs and lead discussions about a topic of interest to them that is something personal and true.
  • Current events and media: At EP, discussions about current events happen organically and are often staff-led. One of our staff members recently led a discussion group using Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and this week we’re chattering about Vanguard of the Revolution, the Black Panthers movie currently on PBS.
  • Our work: Staff actively bridge connections about diversity in their work, whether it is our recruitment for fellows or staff, learning opportunities for our November conference, diversity commitments in our vendor selection, or partnerships we are building with community organizations.
  • Professional development: All of our staff are going through individual reflection and diversity work this year using the powerful resources from World Trust and their “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity” video series, while a group of staff are attending the White Privilege Conference this April.

Just as diverse perspectives, insights, and backgrounds strengthen our communities and workplaces, knowing the complete history of our country matters for all of us.  And this isn’t always what we learned in our own early educational experiences.

What are you and your organization doing to celebrate Black History Month and to keep the conversation going year-round? Please share in the comments.

Kathleen Fujawa is the Vice President, Talent for Education Pioneers. She oversees our people strategy for Education Pioneers – ensuring that our staff of transformational leaders can grow, develop, and thrive in a supportive and innovative environment. Kathleen is obsessed with organizational culture and great management, and believes that Education Pioneers is poised to change the face of education with its focus on diversity and management strength.

 

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