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Kubrick’s Head of DEI Dana James Edwards explores this year’s Black History Month theme, ‘Resistance’,and the key questions we’ll be asking ourselves and our community at Kubrick throughout this month and beyond.

February is Black History Month in the US and here at Kubrick we are celebrating. Black History Month may mean different things to different people within the Black community, but at its core, it is a time to honor Black history, heritage and culture, and the iconic figures that have contributed so much. It is also an opportunity to reclaim Black history and tell our own stories. It is about Black people as advocates for our communities, but it is also about shining a light on the effects of racism and discrimination and teaching others how to step up as allies who consistently challenge discrimination and negative stereotypes and work to level the playing field and create equity.

The 2023 theme for Black History Month is ‘Black Resistance’, which notes, explores, and celebrates how Black people have resisted ongoing oppression in all its forms throughout history and how we continue to resist today.Fundamentally, resistance is about creating the space to thrive and there are many different ways to resist – from opting to not get up from your seat on the bus, to expression through music and art; from living out loud, to acts of civil disobedience; from challenging the status quo, to actively choosing silence. Resistance is an act of power, a declaration of unwillingness to accept things as they are and an expression of a desire for change.

Doing justice to such a compelling theme across the month is really important to our team at Kubrick and we’d like to share 5 key questions we asked ourselves as we planned our program of activities to honor the month and the theme.

How will the work continue after Black History Month?

February should not be the only month where Black Staff are given a voice and where their lived experiences in and outside the workplace are brought into the spotlight. A jam-packed February to tick the box, followed by a silent rest of the year where Black staff face microaggressions, flat out aggressions and inequities is in direct opposition to the aims of Black History Month. Plans for Black History Month should include team and organizational commitments representing clear plans of action where progress can be measured. These should be kept front of mind throughout the year.

Who is doing the heavy lifting across the month?

While the agenda around Black History Month should be shaped by the Black community in the organization, more people than just Black members of staff should be involved in planning, organizing and facilitating activities. Most importantly, Black staff should not have to take on the burden of planning and executing activities for Black History Month in addition to their workload – working overtime and facing stress and burnout to get everything done. This is contrary to the spirit of the celebration. Leaders must ensure team members have the time and capacity to engage with this work and get people from outside the Black community involved in the work.

What resources are available?

While organizations are not equal in terms of budgets and resources, teams cannot be expected to turn straw into gold year after year to ensure Black History Month is marked and celebrated. Observances like Black History Month can and should be planned and budgeted for in advance. A lot can be done with even a small sum of money, and in February (and always) it is important to ensure that Black people both internal and external to the organization are compensated fairly and recognized for their contributions and not expected to work for free.

Is there space for learning alongside fun?

Plans for Black History Month can be wide-ranging but at a minimum should include a focus on the work to be done alongside the work we have done, acknowledgement of the sadness of some of our story with space for Black joy, and a chance to showcase Black culture in all its forms. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be fried chicken, collard greens, black eyed peas and plantains while listening to soca, rap, reggae or Afro-beats and watching the best of Black cinema. But, it does mean that those things should be served up alongside the side dishes of education, reflection and learning. In addition, activities that specifically bring the theme to life should be prioritized.

Are our activities meaningful, or are we ticking the box?

This may seem like an incendiary question, but it is an important one to ask to keep ourselves accountable and be sure that we are engaging in this and all our wider diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives with heart and meaning. When a program of activities is undertaken with the intent to placate, to fill space or for optical and brand enhancement reasons, without the intent to bring about true change, celebrations are performative. All our actions and activities should be in service of bringing us closer to our goal – building an environment where everyone, no matter who they are can thrive at work.

We hope these questions help shape your celebrations this February. Happy Black History Month from all at the Kubrick Group.

Want to hear more from Dana and add your voice to Kubrick's Black History Month program? Join us on February 16th (5PM GMT/12PM EST) as she hosts a live panel discussion with our consultants and audience to unpack some of the biggest topics surrounding race and intersectionality in the modern workplace. You can register for the event here:

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