Lesson Seven - Be open to being challenged and held accountable during Black History Month
Fear of doing it wrong should not hold an organisation back from demonstrating support during Black History Month. Far better than staying silent, use this time to get feedback on past comms, and create the right space to be challenged and learn from your audience and employees.
WHAT BLACK HISTORY MAKERS SAY:
“Do businesses want people who are just going to pat them on the back, or do they actually want to be challenged and then make progress?” - Tanya Compas
“The big no-go is when a brand doesn’t stand on social issues, and then suddenly starts posting pictures of Rosa Parks. Involvement in Black History Month has to come from a willingness to confront truths, be they negative or positive.” - Greg Bunbury
“We can’t cancel people for wanting to do good things. But be prepared to be accountable. Find your own receipts before someone else finds them for you.” - Chanté Joseph
“What have you done since you posted that black square? If you haven’t done anything, acknowledge it and show what you’re going to do next. Demonstrate what you’re going to action and implement across your business, outside of social media.” - Khalia Ismain
WHEN IT’S DONE RIGHT:
Royal Museums Greenwich
Throughout this month, Royal Museums Greenwich has hosted a series of events across their historic buildings. The events schedule focuses on celebrating Black histories, re-telling whitewashed histories and Black futures.
The organisation admitted that it has previously fallen short on Black History Month and that it is committed to moving forward. More of that please.
“We recognise in the past we have failed in this mission and would like to use Black History Month 2020 to signal our plan to do better. Each October we celebrate Black History Month, but we believe we should be promoting these histories every day of the year.”
WHEN IT MISSES THE MARK:
The British Army
In 2019, The British Army faced a heavily charged Twitter backlash after Tweeting that Black History Month would expand to include Asian history, by pointing to their partnership with the Indian Army. Of course, they were accused of diluting the significance of Black history and were quick to remove the tweet and apologise. See below…
In fairness to the British Army, this year they did appear to move on from this previous blunder, sharing the experiences of Black soldiers in a more considered way. However, beyond a couple of videos attached to their website, the organisation shows no sign of expanding the British Army BAME Network or even acknowledging past mistakes. After the 2019 Twitter outcry, we would like to see more focus on the individualities under ‘BAME’ within their internal networks. Change, after all, must start from within.
WHAT WE SAY
While we understand that progress takes time, it feels like - considering everything that has happened this year - The British Army could have done more to show solidarity with and understanding of Black communities in the UK. If, like Royal Museums Greenwich they had made a point of past failures and made a commitment to progression, it would instil more of a sense of hope. Without that acknowledgement, it feels too much like sweeping under the rug.
- Chris Pearce, Design & Marketing Consultant