Here's the Biggest Way You Can Show Up for the Black Community Beyond Black History Month
On my journey to be an ally to the Black community, here's the one major goal I'm focused on.
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As we officially enter Black History Month, we've started being inundated with companies recognizing the occasion on social media. We've been invited to workshops and programming. We might show up, engage for the moment and move on to the next meeting. And all along we forget that Black History Month is not the only month to show up for our Black colleagues and the Black community. It's an important reminder that our allyship should be a year-long commitment and not limited to February.
So here's one of the biggest ways you can show up for the Black community beyond Black History Month: Write checks. Use your influence and the power of your corporate and personal wallet to show your support. On my journey to be an ally to the Black community, here are the three things I am focused on.
Paying Black colleagues fairly and equitably
"There's no time like the present to start closing the racial pay gap," activist and speaker Lisa Hurley told me. "We need leaders to stop giving us non-promotable tasks in our workplaces and stretch assignments that don't lead to promotions or an increase in pay."
According to a PayScale study, Black men earn 87 cents for every dollar white men earn on average. "Even as Black or African American men climb the corporate ladder, they still make less than equally qualified white men," says Jackson Gruver, a data analyst at PayScale. "They are the only racial/ethnic group that does not achieve pay parity with white men at some level." And according to data from Lean In, Black women in the U.S. are paid 36% less than white men and 12% less than white women on average.
As a leader, don't wait for human resources to review your team's pay. Ensure your Black team members are paid fairly and equitably, particularly as new external hires join your team or internal moves and promotions happen. Check your bias when it comes to assigning those "non-promotable" tasks Hurley mentioned — ones that bring no monetary recognition.
As a peer, be open to sharing your compensation with your Black colleagues to ensure they are being paid fairly and equitably. Offer to help them come up with their case for a pay raise, or if you have influence and leverage in your organization, advocate on their behalf.
Related: 6 Ways to Offer Allyship to Black Entrepreneurs
Supporting Black-owned businesses
Use the power of your corporate and personal wallet to support Black-owned businesses in your office and your home. Be thoughtful and intentional about purchasing products and services from Black-owned businesses. Let colleagues and friends know who you are buying from and why.
Fill your work kitchen with cookies from Partake Foods, founded by Denise Woodard, and coffee from BLK & BOLD, co-founded by best friends Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson. If you are doing a wine tasting with clients, buy from McBride Sisters Wine Company, which was founded by Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John, and get inspired by Elle Simon Scott and her new book Boards: Stylish Spreads for Casual Gatherings.
If you're looking for gifts for colleagues, buy luxury candles from The 125 Collection, founded by Valerie Wray, or the Growing in Gratitude Journal from Alexandra Elle. Gift the book I'm Not Yelling: A Black Woman's Guide to Navigating the Workplace by Elizabeth Leiba, an important resource for Black women, women of color and allies seeking to understand an experience that's not their own. Search for and purchase incredible stock photography on pocstock, which was founded by Steve Jones. And finally, if you are looking for help in your company's equity journey, consider hiring Abenaa Hayes' Elysee Consulting.
Related: How Brands Can Go From Performative Allyship to Actual Allies
Paying Black speakers fairly and equitably
"Ask us to speak, and not just for Black History Month," author and speaker Elizabeth Leiba told me. "We don't disappear for the rest of the year. Neither do our bills or our wealth of experience we have outside of our Blackness."
Ensure that you are focusing on diverse representation and including Black speakers with intention in internal conferences, team offsites, customer-facing events and more. Ensure that you pay Black speakers on time and in full. They should be honored for their expertise by paying them fairly and equitably, not in exchange for audience exposure, Starbucks gift cards or a company's social media post. Compare their rates to what you're paying other speakers, and ensure it's fair and equitable.
Black History Month is an important moment to start or continue your journey as an ally, but it's just the beginning. As Hurley told me, "Remember, 'ally' is a verb."
Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs of Color Can Determine an Ally's Authenticity