Beyond PR

Jan 29, 2013

Black History Month Captures History in the Making

As part of PR Newswire observance of Black History Month, we contacted multicultural communications experts to asked them if they would like to share their views and insights about the significance of Black History Month. We asked them to share their views on the historical significance and how the annual observance has changed and evolved over the years. Christina Steed, Senior Vice President with the Flowers Communications Group shared her perspective.

Black History Month is observed in February in the U. S. and Canada, and October in the United Kingdom. It began as a marked calendar opportunity to celebrate the achievements, key historical moments, and impact that African Americans and those of the African Diaspora have had on America and the world. And, while for many years, educational institutions have dedicated time and resources to teaching Black history and celebrating Black History Month, over time, these efforts have not fully captured the countless contributions of Black history, and how these are interwoven into the quilt of American history.

Discussions often arise regarding whether Black History Month is still relevant. Some question the need for the entire month, arguing these achievements and contributions should be celebrated, recognized, and talked about throughout the year, not tangentially. While it is true that Black culture is a year-long intangible experience, oftentimes, the discussion of history is not. Thus, moments-in-time like Black History Month provide an opportunity for consumers and marketers to recognize the impact of ancestry and cultural advancement, and the fortitude of ethnic segments on the world.

Black history and culture are very unique and pervasive as seen throughout the fabric of this country, from hot topics to industries including technology, science, mathematics, literature, arts, entertainment, fashion, sports, architecture, design and innovation. We continue to reap the benefits of Black pioneers who navigated uncharted territories to make major contributions to the foundation and infrastructure that exists today. Thus, Black History Month captures more than historical contributions, but also history in the making. The spotlight in February encourages continued dialogue and elevation of Black history and culture. It represents the springboard effect that is felt by some of the world’s most influential, multi-faceted, multi-generational trendsetters.

From our perspective, companies who do it best are ones which include the diverse perspectives of consumers into their overall business strategy – making it a priority to acknowledge, support and celebrate these unique interests. Not only do companies like McDonald’s, AT&T, Wells Fargo, and many others engage with the African-American segment year-round, but they also amplify their efforts during Black History Month.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement. The significance of these (and other) historical events must continue to be passed on – not only to the next generation of African Americans, but to the next generation of Americans.

When brands celebrate Black culture, they educate, bring awareness to, and improve the lives of their total consumer base. Thus, Black History Month remains important not just because of the month, but because of the concept of celebrating Black achievements and doing so in a concentrated, scheduled, purposeful moment in time that can be rallied around.

Local networks of business leaders, clergy, educators, economic empowerment champions, and general consumers who represent the African- American community at-large collectively own what the celebration should be about and what it can evolve into. Highlighting business opportunities, leaders in the Black community, telling stories of triumph or adversity — all framed with a historical perspective — leads to advancing the Black community and speaks to the spirit of America. Brands that earnestly listen and are engaged will be acknowledged as integral parts of this community that deserves both continual and highlighted recognition. In turn, these are the brands that will be deemed deserving of recognition and support during Black History Month and throughout the year.

Author Christina Steed is a Senior Vice President with the Flowers Communications Group based in Chicago, Illinois.

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