During February each year, we recognize the contributions and legacy of Black Americans in history and today. It is a time not only to celebrate all of the ways Black people have made a mark on our country and our lives but also to think about how we can play our part to advocate for change in a country that does not always advocate for those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). This is a time for us as a sorority community to recognize what we can do better, lift up the voices of our Black members and take the time to celebrate the diversity that makes our organizations and our world better.
So, in our Panhellenic organizations, which have historically been made up of white members, how can we ensure we’re celebrating Black History Month in an appropriate and meaningful way? We can do it through educating ourselves, stepping out of our comfort zones and embracing the tenants of our sisterhood.
Here are a few ways to recognize Black History Month this year:
Host educational programming.
Education on diversity and inclusion should be a staple in your organization. If it is not, this is a good time to start. Even if you already have educational programming centered around these values, this month would be a great time for specific education on how to recognize potential prejudice in your organizations or university, how to make sure all members are being equally represented and respected and how your sisters can work together as an organization to ensure that sorority is a safe space for all members of all backgrounds. If you’re not sure where to find programming, the multicultural center on your campus is a great place to start.
Hold a (virtual) sisterhood event and read books, watch movies or explore art featuring or created by Black artists.
This can be an educational experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re watching a documentary on the Black experience in America, reading a funny book written by a Black author or shopping for artwork created by Black artists, you’re supporting Black creators and expanding your own world view. Not only that, but some of those Black creators could be sorority women themselves, and so you’re supporting members of the larger Fraternity and Sorority Life community as well. If you’re looking for individuals to feature, you can start by visiting local or national museums for inspiration.
Share stories of Black women who’ve had an impact throughout history
Our organizations are all about celebrating the women of all races who have made an impact on the world. Whether you’re reading stories at a chapter event or sharing profiles on social media so others can learn too, take this time to showcase the many Black women—including Black sorority women— who have had an influence on society.
Learn from historically Black and multicultural organizations on your campus.
You may already be collaborating with other Fraternity and Sorority Life organizations on your campus, but this is a good opportunity to further that collaboration, participate in events other organizations may be holding to celebrate the month, and bounce ideas on how important events and discussions on diversity can be carried out throughout Black History Month and beyond.
Volunteer with organizations that advocate for causes impacting the Black community.
There are many organizations that focus on causes that directly impact Black Americans or predominantly Black populations. Research organizations in your area and schedule a volunteer day or create a fundraiser to help these organizations. This is not only a great way to give back, but also an opportunity to learn more about the issues that impact Black Americans and the organizations working to make a difference.
The most important point in implementing any of these ideas into your chapter is that these actions shouldn’t stop once February ends. Celebrating Black History Month is important, but in order to truly be organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion, in order to truly lift up our BIPOC members and be a part of making the world better, we need to continue to educate ourselves, continue to amplify the voices of BIPOC and continue to push ourselves to be better advocates for change.