It’s 8am Wednesday morning, January 20th, and I’m sitting at the desk of my makeshift home office, the design inspired by COVID-19’s shelter-in-place orders. I grab a remote, turn on the TV and put it on mute. I don’t typically turn on the TV when I’m working, but today is different. I’m anxiously excited about this year’s Presidential Inauguration. People have all kinds of reasons to be excited about today, but I’m excited because this is a Black history-making moment. I’ve got my VP-elect-inspired chucks on and my pearls just like all of my Black girlfriends who are either sitting at home in front of a TV while they work or streaming from their tablets surreptitiously from their offices. We all have our smartphones nearby so that we can engage in play-by-play texting to each other when the big moment starts. We are going to acknowledge, validate, and celebrate this moment with our Black sister! None of us are going to miss this—America’s FIRST-EVER BLACK, FIRST-EVER SOUTH ASIAN, FIRST-EVER FEMALE to hold the second most important position in the United States—Kamala Harris is preparing to take the oath to become the Vice President of the United States of America!
The first set of texts call out a virtual fashion show—A colleague reaches out first with, “Michelle looks amazing!!” I immediately respond with a heart emoji. The next text comes from a dear friend and reads, “Purple is one of my favorite colors and that coat Kamala has on is beautiful!” It may appear that we’re not focused on the most important thing, yet in many ways we are. We understand that purple is the color for this year’s Inauguration and represents different themes for different people. There’s a theme of unity—merging together the political colors of red and blue; there’s the women’s suffrage movement; and for Kamala Harris an acknowledgement of the first Black woman to ever be elected to Congress and also to run for President of the United States, Shirley Chisholm. Either representation is acceptable. But what my friends and I are experiencing right now is Black joy! At this very moment, we ARE Kamala Harris because her story makes us all Madam Vice President, and it speaks leadership potential to us, to my granddaughters, to my friends’ daughters and to little Black girls everywhere. This beautiful Black woman is committing the next four years of her life to serving our country and working to make it a better place.
Every year, a theme for Black History Month is set by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), an organization that was founded in 1915. In 1926, historian and Harvard-trained Dr. Carter G. Woodson led the charge to celebrate Black History Week during the month of February which coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It was Dr. Woodson’s vision to educate African Americans about the achievements of their ancestors that opened the curtain to a stage of cultural pride. This celebratory week would become a celebratory month in 1970. As Black people, many of us aspire to entrepreneurship, and we hold our heads up high when we listen to the story of how, for example, Madam C.J. Walker became one of the first self-made female millionaires by selling cosmetics and hair care products specifically for Black women—always a good story to hear, especially as Black women have begun a movement to embrace their natural hair. As Black parents, we fortify the confidence of our sons when we encourage them to be the best that they can be by sharing the history and successes of Black men past and current, like agricultural scientist George Washington Carver or former President of the United States, Barack Obama. And, there are so many others who we can talk about, whose impact on our nation has been long-standing and far-reaching--so many who have done the culture proud. It brings great joy to Black people to learn of, and to celebrate, the achievements and contributions of other Black men and women throughout time and the influence that those achievements have on our lives today; it brings great joy to celebrate the Black Family, Leadership and Service—the 2021 theme for Black History Month.
There’s no disputing that Blacks have been chronically faced with difficult challenges and even during current times, having been identified as a group at high-risk of mortality from COVID-19 and the chronic victims of police brutality which has oftentimes resulted in murders. The wretchedness of these specific situations merge themselves with a catalog of issues that have plagued Black people for centuries—YES! CENTURIES! But in the words of the great Black American poet, Maya Angelou, “Still, I Rise.” The Black experience has been an interesting one—one that is certainly not absent of its trials, but Black people have always been resilient—bouncing back from the most difficult of circumstances. We’ve always been a joyful culture, have always found ways to celebrate, always found things to celebrate—DESPITE the struggles that compete to entangle us. We’re largely a faith-based community, and that connection keeps us grounded. It elevates us above life’s difficulties by reminding us that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow, and that belief makes us smile, makes us laugh, makes us stand up no matter how many times we fall--it makes us CELEBRATE!
This month, in particular, we focus our attention on those who have come before us and their influence on our prosperity. We celebrate the great role models that Black women and Black men are for our sons and daughters, whether that means getting them comfortable in their own skin, their own hair, the beauty found in the rich history of our culture, or their own potential for greatness. We celebrate, for example, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, and her being privy to stand comfortably in her gorgeous, gold-jeweled African braids reciting her poem, The Hill We Climb, during this year’s Presidential Inauguration, shooting her to the top 2 spots of Amazon’s bestsellers list.
C+R’s CultureBeat team is inviting you to share in celebrating Black Joy. We encourage you to continue to educate yourselves about the Black experience as we prepare to highlight some of the things that make this cultural group so unique, so rich, and so worthy of celebrating. Along the way, you will gain knowledge about why it’s our point of view that marketers need to show that they “get” Black people, that they empathize and care about the Black Experience, not just during the month of February or only when a pandemic creates a captive audience. We encourage longevity in your commitment to support the Black culture. Here are some ways that support can show up in your marketing efforts:
- Much of “getting it right” starts within your own organization. Commit to hiring more diversely and providing the channels and tools to give your Black consumers a voice. Start by giving a discerning eye to those who are already part of your organization to determine if you should be elevating, or promoting, those who are already in your ranks; this is what is meant by giving them a “seat at the table.”
- Spotlight and celebrate the deep-rooted history, richness and contributions of the Black culture, as these attributes are the main drivers of Black pride;
- Encourage and show an appreciation for the dedication Black people have to their families by recognizing their efforts to be positive role models, thus inspiring and nurturing leadership potential in Black youth;
- Acknowledge, show gratitude, and share the contributions made, and service given, by Black men and women to our great country.
C+R and its CultureBeat team celebrate the resiliency and joy of the Black culture. We hope you’ll enjoy and learn something valuable in the content that we’re sharing during this Black History Month.