Beyond Black History Month: 3 Tips for Making Cultural Observances a Year-Round Conversation

This blog was originally posted by Bulldog Reporter on March 7, 2024.

 

Over the past month, we have shared the achievements and impacts of Black people in social media channels, blogs, podcasts and other communication channels. Now Black History Month is over, and we are preparing to celebrate women’s impact on our communities throughout March. Then, at the end of March, we will conclude that conversation and start talking about the next cultural observance for a day, week, or month.

Our communication plans and editorial calendars are full of cultural milestones and observances that we want to acknowledge every year. But, we move from communicating about one observance to another. These cultural observations were introduced to bring the attention, understanding and respect needed to the many identity communities that make up our larger community in the United States. Now, we use them as a checklist to show that we are inclusive and supportive and fail to create long-term dialogue about these important narratives.

To illustrate our organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and representation, it’s crucial that we communicate and amplify diverse identity communities consistently throughout the entire year, rather than confining discussions to its designated days, weeks or months.

Imagine if we highlighted stories, content, and activities related to each of these observances in your editorial calendar every month, creating a year-round conversation. What would that increased, consistent frequency of such content say to your audiences—internally and externally? Cultural observances such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, LGBTQ + Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and others shed light on different narratives. By limiting these conversations to a specific timeframe, we communicate that diversity and inclusion are only relevant—or valued—at certain times, instead of all the time.

How do we extend the conversation in our organizations? Here are three points to share with C-Suite and organizational leaders on why we should broaden the cultural observance communication strategy year-round:

Foster more inclusive conversations

Cultural observances provide a platform to discuss and celebrate the rich tapestry of identities within our communities. By incorporating these conversations into everyday communication, we can contribute to more inclusive conversations with internal and external audiences. Team members within your organization and audiences you are engaging who represent diverse identity communities will feel more seen and acknowledged throughout the entire year, and external audiences, fostering a sense of place and belonging that transcends the limitations of designated months.

Address intersectionality

Identities overlap and intersect, and our discussions about identity communities’ histories and impacts should, too. We each identify with multiple cultural, social or demographic groups simultaneously, layering and intersecting to form an individual’s authentic self that shapes and informs our perceptions, choices, and behaviors. Recognizing and discussing these intersections is vital for a comprehensive understanding of inclusion and belonging. By discussing cultural observances year-round instead of at specific intervals, we can better address the intersectionality of identities and experiences, fostering a more nuanced and inclusive dialogue that reflects the complexity of individuals’ lives and experiences.

Acknowledge ongoing contributions

Limiting discussions to specific timings in the year downplays the significant contributions made by identity communities every day. We can highlight achievements, milestones, and challenges faced by different identity communities throughout the year, and deepen understanding and visibility of those experiences and impacts. This year-round approach not only avoids tokenization but also allows for more authentic and sustained representation in our messaging and storytelling. Integrating discussions about cultural observances into everyday communication demonstrates an organization’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment continually.

While we can still join those larger conversations at its designated time, let’s use these occasions differently. Christina Frantom, internal communications lead for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. suggests that communicators use cultural observances as opportunities to kick off or launch year-round conversations about that identity community. I love that approach. It’s a way to mark the observance, and also continue—and expand—the dialogue beyond it. By embracing these conversations throughout the year, we can help better represent and communicate organizational values of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and increase representation of identity communities storytelling consistently throughout the year.