How to create impactful Black History Month campaigns

19th October 2021

Join us as we discuss the importance of Black history and how brands can create impactful campaigns that go beyond the cultural calendar event with special insight from Emma Kwarteng and Idowu Oyebola.

The month is a chance to reflect on Black history, commemorate figures past and present and learn about the beauty that is Black Culture. However, let’s not forget, we should be doing this all year round, not just during one month in the calendar.

Black culture is a rich tapestry weaved together by multiple countries and continents, languages, cuisines, customs and traditions, music and art and so much soul. ‘People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries.’ Black History Month is a celebration of the achievements, the contributions and the profound impact Black people have on culture and society.

Black History Month 2021: #ProudToBe

Two of our colleagues, Emma Kwarteng, Project and Operations Lead and Idowu Oyebola, Content Executive, share the significance of Black History Month and why it’s important for brands to not only celebrate the month but learn how to create a legacy impact with their campaigns.

Idowu Oyebola and Emma Kwarteng headshots on a #ProudToBeBlack banner
Idowu Oyebola and Emma Kwarteng #ProudToBeBlack

This year’s BHM theme is #ProudToBe…what makes you proud to be Black?

Emma: I am proud to be Black because we are strong, we are talented, we are beautiful.

Idowu: I’m proud to be Black because of the odds being stacked against Black people for so long, even to this day, yet still showing the resilience to continue to battle and live each day.

Why is Black History Month so important?

Emma: Black History Month is important because it gives us a chance to dedicate time to explore Black history. Although it shouldn’t be a once-a-year thing, sometimes important matters such as this are forgotten due to the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Our history defines us and who we are today it is so important to learn the positives and the negatives regarding it. It is key for the children of the future to build upon their learnings from now.

Idowu: Black History Month is important as it shines a light on matters pertaining to the Black community that are overlooked during regular times. Society over time has forgotten to speak about or include many important stories from history surrounding Black history and culture that would be so useful for everyone to know. This would aid in further connecting society and allowing everyone to understand where we’ve come from and where we need to go, together. 

What do you love most about Black culture?

Emma: I love the fact that no matter where we are in the world, we bring our culture with us unapologetically. I was born in Britain however I was raised as Ghanaian, which I love as that is my identity. It’s important to maintain and carry culture forward especially for future generations, that’s why I make an active effort to instil our culture in my son.

Idowu: How open and accepting Black people are of everyone despite this not often being reciprocated.

How to create impactful Black History campaigns

5 ways brands can create exceptional Black History Month campaigns that go beyond the calendar month
5 ways brands can create a legacy impact with Black History activations

Emma: Brands can create impactful BHM campaigns by:

  1. Overtly supporting communities where they need it, for example, contributing to helping young boys avoid getting into gangs or the wrong crowd. This could be something as simple as providing alternative safe spaces or activities.
  2. Going to local schools and colleges to raise awareness about careers within the industry and shining light on exceptional Black talent in the process to inspire.
  3. Actively partnering with smaller community media partners to support their growth throughout the year, and using BHM as more of a time to showcase, rather than begin.
  4. Understanding that the community will increase authenticity within the workplace, particularly within creative and media executions.
  5. Ensuring that talented Black people within corporations are given the opportunity to progress just as much as the next person.

Idowu: Brands can create a legacy impact campaign by doing more than just re-telling the same stories of Black history that we hear over and over again each year. Instead, they can aim to actually go into communities and listen to the stories of what Black history looks like and means to Black people. Taking this and partnering with them in order to affect long-lasting change in the lives and communities of Black people across the country. Highlighting Black businesses and Black business owners, bringing them to the forefront of conversations that ordinarily, they would be overlooked in. Brands have the power to contribute to the future of Black history by shining light on present Black creatives and talent today. Sometimes it’s not about looking back, but looking forward.

How can the industry avoid tokenism when it comes to Black History Month campaigns?

Emma: Brands can avoid tokenism when it comes to Black History Month campaigns by doing the 5 things listed above, with consistency. Since what happened to George Floyd, more and more brands are using Black and Mixed-Race people within their creatives, amongst their campaigns and on their websites. It was quite an insult as it took something as tragic as that for brands to open their eyes about representing the entire UK population in their executions.

Idowu: The main thing I believe that brands can do to avoid tokenism when creating campaigns around this period, especially when using influencers, is using people who have expert knowledge in the areas being spoken about to further enhance the authenticity and genuine sentiment instead out of obligation due to the period of BHM.

What is Black Joy?

We talk a lot of about Black History without talking about Black Joy, so what is it? New York Writer and Founder of the Black Joy Project, Kleaver Cruz, explains that “Black Joy is an act of resistance” and that “when we acknowledge that we exist in an anti-black world that is set up to ensure we do not live, to choose life and to choose to enjoy any aspect of that life is a radical act.”

Two Black females smiling with joy on a sandy beach embracing each other
What does Black Joy mean to you?

Cruz adds: “Amplifying Black Joy is not about dismissing or creating an ‘alternative’ Black narrative that ignores the realities of our collective pain; rather, it is about holding the pain and injustices we experience as Black folks around the world in tension with the joy we experience in pain’s midst. It’s about using that joy as an entry into understanding the oppressive forces we navigate through as a means to imagine and create a world free of them.”

Our very own Emma and Idowu answer the question below.

What does Black Joy mean to you?

Emma: Black Joy for me personally is just being confident and happy within myself despite trying to overcome the obstacles that constantly come up due to the colour of our skin. It’s about actively surrounding myself with what I feel comfortable with and looking after my physical and mental health above all else.

Idowu: Black Joy to me is simply joy. Being able to experience joy without the weight of worrying about my appearance or the perceptions and/or stereotype surrounding it. All of that partnered with championing and sharing Black history with my peers, whether they are Black or not, and drawing everyone closer because of it.

Black talent spotlight

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today – before you leave – do you have any Black creatives or professionals you’d like to bring to people’s attention right now?

Emma: I highly recommend the brand I Am Enough Productions. They make amazing pieces for children emphasising the beauty of us as Black people – absolute genius! We grew up being ashamed of our natural hair and had the idea that the Western look was more attractive.  People are now embracing natural beauty and long may it continue!

Idowu: A Black artist I’d like to recommend is Bellah – an upcoming R’n’B artist with a beautiful sound and meaning behind each song she releases. You won’t be disappointed.

Check out the sounds of Bellah and more in our specially curated playlist Black History Month playlist. It features a variety of tunes with everything from Jazz, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, to Hip Hop, Afrobeats and Bashment. Listen to the playlist in your web browser using the Spotify player below, or follow the link to open your Spotify app.

Black Joy playlist curated by OMG UNITE

Stand up. Stand out.
Stand united.