5 ways to celebrate Black Future Month… ….beyond platitudes, hashtags, and shoutouts

1. Support black professionals, especially black women, they need more access to opportunities and brighter spotlight on their talents. Corporate mentoring programs are oversubscribed which is a good thing for retention metrics, but real impact for groups that truly need the “lift” becomes diluted and ineffective at meeting them where they are. Black professionals need sponsorship, someone with power and influence who’s willing to go to bat..

“According to the Center for Talent Innovation, despite accounting for 12% of the U.S. population, Black people hold only 3.2% of leadership roles at large U.S. companies, and there are currently only four Black Fortune 500 CEOs.”

2. Pop out that old-trusty rolodex and open up your network to a black founder who could use an introduction to your velvet-roped-off connections. VCs rely on referrals from their network to build deal flow. Most Black founders don’t know an angel, VC, or have family members with the disposable (discretionary) income to write a check for a Friends and Family round.

“The share of U.S. venture capital going to Black-founded companies stood at just over 3% of the $147.6 billion of 2020’s overall deal volume, the data shows. In the past six years, that percentage has not budged above 5%, even though about 10% of U.S. companies are Black-owned, according to U.S. Census data.” – Reuters

3. Pull up a chair and have a real heart to heart with your Black employees, block off a few hours every week (lunch hour, before the work day, or just make time). Keep your door and heart wide open. Listen. Speak with boldness and honesty even if it feels uncomfortable at times, that’s sort of how empathy works…still, empathy is not enough. Corporate leaders can only close the say/do gap by saying less and doing more, nuff said.

“The ramifications of racial inequity (lost productivity, turnover and absenteeism) over the past five years may have cost the U.S. up to $172 billion.” – Time

4. Read black history books so when you say Black lives matter or raise your hand as an ally, it’s not performative or virtual signaling, you genuinely mean it.

Here are a few good and enlightening reads…there are many others.

“Caste” and “The Warmth of other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
“The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein

5. Support Black-owned small businesses and black entrepreneurs, when you support Black businesses you help lift the next generation out of obscurity.

“Overall, 20 percent of small businesses generally fail within the first year. About 50 percent make it to the 5-year mark, and 62 percent survive to be a decade old.

For African-Americans, the statistics can be even grimmer. Eight out of 10 Black-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months.” – The Network Journal