Before and after Jim Crow, Black Americans have fought for America to provide its black citizens with equitable access to healthcare and economic opportunity, and to have their humanity acknowledged and welcomed into America’s social fabric. This Black History Month, we celebrate black lives, black contributions, and black aspirations. We stand as active allies in support of the black community’s determination and resolve to continue advancing, to reclaim their time and to achieve their rightful place and full rights, despite the struggles that still continue.

After the unimaginable suffering, considerable loss, and widening inequities experienced in 2020, we decided we needed to do more than what we have expressed above and in our prior years’ blog pieces. We asked a team member at OurOffice to write about the Black History Month from their own perspective and lived experience of a female black American, so we could all learn and be inspired into active support of the black community at this pivotal moment in history.

By Teerah Goodrum

My favorite Howard University professor, Dr. Carr, helped me visualize the history of black people. He taught us that black history began much before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade stole human beings from Africa and dispersed them throughout the world, not as servants but as property, to deny black people of their humanity. He told his students to put black history into context as a clock with twenty-four hours. So, thinking in this clock context, black history begins at 12am and ends at 11:59pm. He then told us to understand that slavery as we know it, would have begun at 11:58pm in the context of all black history. That black history should encompass the black diaspora, all of us from African descent, no matter our location in the world.

This wasn’t an attempt to diminish the atrocities and inequity of slavery, Jim Crow, the Tuskegee Experiment, or the Crime Bill. Instead, he provided hope that even through the most traumatizing portions of American history, black people have shown strength and resilience throughout our existence. As Dr. Carr would acknowledge, the good news is no matter the circumstances we faced, we made advancements. He wanted us to know that black people have an amazing history spanning over thousands of years and to not limit our knowledge of our past to such a short space in our overall history.

Black people were scholars, poets, and queens before they were ever enslaved. Black people were historians, astronomers, and mathematicians, before being colonized. Black people were spiritual leaders, healers, and kings before they were unjustly mass-incarcerated, and aggressively antagonized by the police. Black people are contributors to society. In fact, during any period of oppression or discrimination in America, African Americans have succeeded in making positive contributions to society

I would say 2020 launched African Americans into the idea of “reclaiming their time”, as The Honorable Maxine Waters would say.

Naming Elijah McCoy, Lewis Howard Latimer, Madam C.J. Walker, Patricia Bath, Sarah E. Goode, Alexander Miles, Thomas L. Jennings, Judy W. Reed, and Thurgood Marshall, heavy hitters during the toughest times of discrimination in America, is still inadequate in capturing the ability of black Americans to successfully persevere.

We have seen a civil rights movement like Black Lives Matter serve as a call to action during a period of growing detachment and disconnect in acknowledging the humanity of black men, women, and children who are killed by the police.

African Americans are reclaiming their time in government as HBCU graduates, like Vice President Kamala Harris, come to power. Black people are reclaiming their time when they hit the streets in protest of police brutality. They are reclaiming their time to correct the disproportionate impact COVID has had on the health of their community.

So let us remember that while we have made progress in the psyches of most Americans in acknowledging systemic issues much remains to be done. In the professional and business world, we must insist that organizations live up to their own diversity values and goals.

African Americans, during the time of COVID, are disproportionately impacted by unemployment, a fact consistent with all other economic downturns in American history. This Black History Month, we must reclaim our time to ensure true diversity, equity, and inclusion are implementable goals. Not only do we need implementable goals, those goals require measurable outcomes that support black hiring, black promotions, and black professional development within business.

In this month of February of the year 2021, all business leaders must stand as active inclusion allies, in support of the black community’s determination and resolve to continue advancing to reclaim their time and to achieve their rightful place and full rights.

To learn more about this article or other workplace culture and DEI-related topics, please click the button below. Learn More