Black History Month 2023: Understanding its Significance

Black History Month 2023

Franchise Professionals can Honor the Contributions of Black Americans by Supporting Black-Owned Businesses, Advocating for Social Justice and More

As a gay Latina woman in franchising, I am constantly reminded of the importance of representation and inclusion in the industry and all aspects of life. This February 2023, we celebrate Black History Month, an opportunity to acknowledge and honor the contributions of Black Americans to our society.

By design, the franchise community is well-positioned to elevate Black entrepreneurs and amplify the voices of Black small business owners. This year, it is more important than ever to understand the true meaning of this month and how we can show up and support Black communities.

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is an annual observance in the United States and the United Kingdom to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people to our world. It was first established as “Negro History Week” by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 and later expanded to a month-long celebration in 1976. February was chosen in honor of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in American history who fought for the rights and freedoms of Black Americans.

The Importance of Black History Month

Black History Month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society. It is a time to reflect on Black people’s struggles and triumphs, learn about their culture, and honor their heritage. The month-long celebration is also an opportunity to recognize the ongoing challenges that Black communities face, including racial discrimination, inequality, and social justice issues.

Data shows that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, and limited access to healthcare and education. According to the National Urban League, Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than white Americans and are twice as likely to be unemployed. These disparities highlight the ongoing struggle for equality and the need for continued advocacy and support for black communities.

Ways to Show Up During Black History Month

Black History Month is an opportunity for everyone to show their support for Black communities and to promote equality and justice for all. Here are some tangible things we can all do to truly show up this month:

  • Elevate Black voices and perspectives: Seek out and amplify black voices and perspectives in all areas of life, including media, politics, and business. This includes supporting Black-owned media outlets, following Black influencers and leaders on social media, and sharing Black-created content.
  • Support Black-owned businesses: Support Black-owned businesses by shopping at their stores, using their services, and promoting their products. Don’t know how to find them? Use https://byblack.us/search to look for Black-owned businesses in your community. 
  • Learn about Black history and culture: Take the time to learn about Black history and culture, including the contributions of black Americans to our society and the challenges they have faced. Read books by black authors, attend cultural events, and engage in discussions about race and equality.
  • Advocate for social justice: Advocate for social justice for Black communities by participating in advocacy efforts and supporting organizations working to promote equality and justice for all.
  • Donate to Black-led organizations: Donate to Black-led organizations and causes that promote equality and justice for Black communities.

What to Avoid During Black History Month

In addition to supporting Black History Month, we should also be mindful of what to avoid during this month. Here are some examples:

  • Don’t monetize or commercialize the celebration: Black History Month should not be used to make money or profit from the celebration of Black culture and history. This includes creating and selling merchandise or products related to Black History Month without giving back to Black communities.
  • Avoid offering your own insights or opinions without first doing your research: This month is about amplifying Black voices and perspectives, not about offering your own opinions and thoughts on Black history and culture. If you want to learn more about these topics, seek out information from credible sources, Black authors, and experts in the field.
  • Don’t make it all about you: Black History Month is not about drawing attention to yourself or making it all about you. Instead, use this month to uplift and support Black communities, to learn about their struggles and triumphs, and to promote equality and justice for all.
  • Don’t reduce the celebration to a single event or tradition: Black History Month is much more than a single event or tradition. It is a time to celebrate and honor the contributions of Black Americans to our society and to acknowledge the ongoing challenges they face.

Respect for Black History Month

In franchising and everywhere, it is important to approach Black History Month with respect and sensitivity and to be mindful of how our actions and words can impact Black communities. By avoiding these common pitfalls, we can truly show up and support Black communities during this important time of year and all year long.

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Patti Rother is a distinguished leader in franchising with over 16 years of experience. Her current role is as president of Stay in Your Lane, a boutique franchise consulting company that focuses on transforming good brands into "CULT" brands. Before this, she held the position of president at Frios Gourmet Pops from 2021 to 2023, where she played a pivotal role in the company's franchise development, marketing and innovation. Patti is known for her innovative approaches, particularly in the areas of franchise development and management. Her expertise covers franchise qualification, marketing, site selection, and franchisee support. Her career began in the food industry, working at Panera Bread and Noodles & Company in various roles, including general manager.

A strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Patti has been actively involved in various initiatives, including contributing to articles and discussions on Hispanic Heritage Month and Pride Month. She's also an active member of the International Franchise Association (IFA), serving on the Women’s Franchise Committee and the Franchising Pride Council, as well as co-chairing the Women’s Franchise Network task force. Patti has been recognized over the years with various awards, such as Franchising.com’s Female Fast Riser and Entrepreneur magazine’s Top Influential Women in Franchising.

Her personal life is equally enriching, being a proud Latina, LGBTQ+ advocate, wife, and mother of two daughters. She resides in Colorado with her family and when not working, she enjoys gardening, a hobby that reflects her multifaceted talents. Patti attributes much of her success to her empathetic nature and her ability to read people well, which she considers her superpower. She believes in treating people kindly and disrupting traditional sales and operations methods in franchising, making her a unique and respected figure in her field.
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