Black History Month: Is Your Company’s Statement Performative Activism?

By Selena Romero

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Black History Month is not the time to make broken promises to people of colour.”

Agapi Gessesse, Executive Director of the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals, wants companies to know that February, Black History Month, cannot just be a checklist of making statements in support of Black employees without committing to taking action.

The CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals is a Toronto-based charity that specializes in addressing the social and economic barriers for Black youth ages 14 and over, to help them enter and succeed in the workplace. The charity focuses on improving the careers, education, and empowerment (CEE) of Black youth.

“We understand that our community doesn’t necessarily have a people gap, but we have a skill gap,” says Gessesse. “So, how can we equip our community to be able to be skilled so that they can take advantage of the jobs that are coming up?”

CEE has programs that focus on five main labour market gaps: Tech, Trades, Film, Social Services, and Hospitality. The organization helps identify opportunities and the professional development steps needed to succeed in future careers.

“The mission of our organization is for us to create an economy where Black youth become financially prosperous, live high-quality lives, and can contribute to the advancement of Canada,” says Gessesse.

Now, as February begins, and Black History Month is on everybody’s mind, Gessesse hopes that all companies are committed to creating real change, like the CEE, not just making empty promises.

Here, she shares what companies should be thinking about during Black History Month and beyond:

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Black History Month is an important time for reflection, learning, and celebration. As the world bears the weight of an almost year-long pandemic and the fatigue of keeping up with everyday news, we need to ensure that the support for the Black community prevails and is stronger than ever. Use this time to demand more from yourself, your workplace, and the companies you support, and keep that momentum going year-round.

“Are you going to be here when the Black Lives Matter conversation is no longer in the news headlines? Are your donations and your commitment going to be just as strong as they were on day one?” asks Gessesse. “That’s going to be the true testament to what real allyship is going to look like for our community.”

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