Black History Month is a celebration of the legacy, achievements, and influence of the Black community, often filled with events centered around sentiments of perseverance, strength, and an overall reflection of the trials the Black community has faced and continues to face.
But after the requisite 28 days of social media posts, Black history “fun facts,” and temporarily-piqued interest in what it truly means to be Black in America is over, workplaces go back to business as usual while the Black community is left with empty promises and ever-heavy burdens.
The common saying of "flying the plane while building it" not only relates to product development but also company culture. And as a company that has seen rapid growth in a short amount of time — going from 40 to over 120 employees in a year — we, too, struggled with not only what, but also how we wanted to celebrate Black History Month as a company in a way that felt authentic to us, particularly our Black teammates.
We knew one thing for certain: the planning and execution of our events wouldn't just fall on the shoulders our Black Loommates, but serve as an opportunity for everyone at Loom to collectively provide input and execute on ideas.
How we celebrated Black History Month
After a fruitful discussion during one of our company-wide, biweekly DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) meetings, we ultimately chose activities we believed would help educate ourselves as an organization, uplift Black creators and businesses, and advocate for change both internally and externally.
We're sharing what we did below to not only hopefully inspire others to take action in their own communities, but also to hold ourselves accountable going forward.
1. Book of the quarter
Last month, a group of Loommates decided to start a company-wide book club and were in the process of choosing their inaugural read. During the aforementioned DEI meeting, we realized it was a perfect time to select Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, who was born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, in honor of Black History Month. The book, which won the American Book Award in 2017, details the journey of two half-sisters who were born in different villages in 18th-century Ghana.
We also saw this as an opportunity to support a Black-owned business. We gave every Loommate interested in participating in this quarter's book club a copy of Homegoing through Reparations Club, a Black-owned bookstore. We're all making our way through the book at our own pace and are looking forward to the discussion at the end of the quarter.
2. Movie screening
When celebrating Black history, it's critical to reflect on the past in order to understand and address the multitude of systemic issues that still exist in our society.
As a synchronous, team-wide activity, we watched “American Skin," a 2019 film about the repercussions of police brutality — a problem that's far too common in the U.S. Though some might say this was a controversial choice, it ultimately inspired a raw, engaging discussion around the systemic barriers the Black community faces, and allowed Loommates to reflect on ways to use their own privilege to change the narrative in a productive yet intentional way.
Additionally, Loom continues, as it has been since March 2020, to donate 1% of our MRR to the ACLU to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.
3. ChuckDelights cookout
Apart from leaning on external resources and conversations, we wanted to give our own Loommates a chance to share what was meaningful to them with the whole company.
Shared meals have always been the cornerstone and foundation of the Black family. Our very own Charles Dennis (aka @ChuckDelights on Instagram), an Account Executive at Loom, hosted a virtual cooking class that took Loom by storm.
Charles walked us through his macaroni and cheese recipe and inspired Loommates to come up with their own innovative takes on the classic dish.
Providing the space for employees to share their talents outside of the workplace allows us to relate on a human level and creates a sense of community (after all, we all have interests and talents outside of our jobs!). Thank you, Charles, for sharing your cooking skills with us, and for paving the way for other Loommates to share their passions with the team.
4. Supporting Black-owned businesses
This one is simple: support Black-owned businesses. Loom has been a remote-first company since day one, which means teammates are spread out across the world. At a time when small businesses have suffered major setbacks while large retailers continue to thrive, we wanted to ensure we were allowing our dollars to flow into the communities that need it most.
We decided to give each Loommate up to $25 to purchase from and support a Black-owned business, ideally in their own community.
Although Black History Month is almost over, we can all continue to support Black-owned businesses. Below are a few lists that can help you support businesses in need no matter where you are:
We Buy Black (which has international shipping options!)
We're just getting started
We hope by taking these small steps, we have not only enabled our internal team to reflect and celebrate Black history and culture, but continue to strive toward equality within the workplace.
In the coming months, we will begin to share our own Diversity report and we hope by doing so, we remain steadfast and accountable in creating a workplace where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.
How did you celebrate Black History Month? Let us know on Twitter.
Illustration by Monique Wray.