Reflection on Black History Month: acting before communicating

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Since 2007, February has officially become, through a law passed by the National Assembly, Black History Month (BHM) in Québec. This Month falls within a movement, initiated in the United States, that aims to highlight black heritage from the four corners of America. This event seeks to commemorate in a more accurate and objective manner the history of black people. Today, it is celebrated in the largest urban centers in North America, Africa, France, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

It is also celebrated here, in Québec. In the last few weeks, more and more organizations, private, public, associative or charities, have highlighted this major event. Some organizations have possibly tried to communicate on this event in “autopilot” mode, as a public relations reflex. Others wanted to sensitize their employees through internal communication and many were uncertain whether to express themselves or not.

Today, at the end of BHM, we wanted to take a moment to suggest that you reflect on your actions, gestures and communications, whether it is for BHM or march 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2021, which is at our doors or other important moments in our calendar.

Reflect and act

Agreed, but reflect on what, you may ask yourself ? First of all, we need to make sure that we are communicating for the right reasons. Are we communicating for profound reasons or simply to follow a trend ? If it is to “jump on the bandwagon”, the communication will probably miss its mark and appear clumsy. This is not the moment to improvise pre-written lines. It is instead, the moment for a real and sincere commitment.

First, inform yourself on black history, on the situation here in Québec. This history is too often overlooked. Unlike elsewhere, we do not delve into this subject with enough depth here. Take the time to come back to the latter with humility, take the time to delve into questions your organisation have not elaborated on in the past.

This acknowledgement will enable you to anchor your message locally. Are you based in Québec ? Research the history, events and realities of the Old Capital. Same thing in Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières or Jonquière. You will see, this research has a nice surprise in store for you.

Then, especially, if it is your first public release, accompany your reflection with a call to action. Are there any measures that you might be able to take for a better recognition of black people and diversity in a larger sense within your organisation ? We have seen it countless times, calls to action to sensitize the employees. We must, however, lookout for calls to action that do not fit in the organizational vision that goes beyond a month or a particular day.

Have you ever in the past, lacked sensitivity to History, lived experiences and realities ? Can we no longer say anything, nor communicate to our employees to sensitize them or highlight an important event if we have not taken any actions or if we have committed errors in the past ? Not at all. However, it is important to recognize our limits. There is no shame in doing it. It is by recognizing them that we can surpass them.

No one is without fault! We force ourselves to recognize our limits through our work. When we need to further our perspectives on the realities of different people or different groups, we will make sure to invite these diverse points of views to the table.

Have a good reflection!

June 29, 2021

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