How we’re celebrating Black History Month in 2021
- Posted on February 1, 2021
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Black History Month encompasses so much. As the name suggests, it pays tribute Black and African American history. It looks to the past, but it also turns an eye to the future. It is somber and it is celebratory. We all experience it individually, but also communally. There is no one way to commemorate it.
Members of INSPIRE, Avanade’s Black Employee Network, started thinking about how we wanted to commemorate Black History Month back in September or October. Our group got together regularly, and we wanted it to be collaborative. We brought in perspectives from people across the regions, and the general feeling was that people wanted it to be upbeat and celebratory. This year has been so heavy, with so much trauma and pain, that we wanted to make Black History Month a celebration. We knew we would have to take a different approach because of COVID-19, so we asked ourselves what we could do within those restraints that would evoke feelings of joy.
What we decided to do was host four different virtual events, one on each Friday of Black History Month. It’s important to note that we’re also partnering with Avanade’s North America Talent Acquisition team to showcase the experiences of five Black employees on Feb. 25. The event will offer insight to prospective applicants from Black and African American communities looking for a new opportunity in both the U.S. and Canada.
The first event of the month is a discussion about Blacks in technology, paying tribute to past accomplishments, spotlighting current leaders, and looking to the future. To start, we’ll talk for a few minutes about the contributions Black and African American people have made to the tech industry. Then we’ll talk with some current leaders – Darian Johnson from Accenture, Microsoft CTO Gina Loften, and Avanade’s own Tony Jones – will be joining to discuss struggles they’ve faced to get to where they are. Finally, we’ve invited Alysha Campbell from Tech Spark and Colin McClean from Black Boys Code – two groups that work to get more Black and African American students into STEM to talk about how they’re preparing the next generation. The past, present and future are all interconnected here, with every group being able to take lessons away from another.
During the second week, we will host a collaboration with BOLD @ Accenture, our counterparts at Accenture Canada, for a Lunch and Learn with Black Technology Professionals. This includes African American and Black Canadian leaders at Accenture, Avanade and the Black Professionals in Tech Network as panelists, where they will discuss how leaders fuel their Black talent to grow personally and professionally.
For the third week, it’s all about collaboration. We’re hosting a roundtable discussion with professors from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and that will be about two-way communication. From HBCUs to Avanade, there’s a lot of untapped talent. How do we bring these schools into the fold and get their students excited about applying to our internship programs and early roles? And from Avanade to HBCUs, how can we better prepare the students and bridge skillset gaps? How can we set them up for success coming into consultant roles, where their client or project might change every few months?
And on the final Friday, we’re going to hold a Poetry/Trivia contest around Black history. We’ll challenge the audience with trivia questions, and we’ll recite works by famous Black poets for audience members to try to guess the authors. By coming together in this more fun, light-hearted way, the goal is to let your hair down and relax at the end of the week. And there’s an element of history to that too, because poetry is so intertwined in African American culture.
Between Black History Month 2020 and Black History Month 2021, a lot happened. COVID, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, as well as the stress of the election put so much on the shoulders of the Black community. We want to acknowledge that pain. But we also want to feel our joy. This year, we’re going to do both.