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Black History Month All Year Long, Please

Illustration by Jamiel Law

As February comes to an end, we in California are hoping to put some of this crazy weather behind us. What we don't want to put behind us is our commitment to celebrating Black History and Black people.

This February, like many of you, we at Nia have been observing Black History Month—the four weeks many of us set aside to recognize and celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Black people. From sponsoring the Angela Davis exhibit at the Oakland Museum (yes, it’s fabulous, highly recommend), to shopping and eating at Black owned businesses, to investing in Black founders, to granting to organizations doing important racial equity work, we are committed to moving the needle toward racial equity.

While celebrating Black artists, activists, politicians and inventors, we are also highly aware that we need to do more than celebrate. Those wanting racial justice need to actually change how we are spending, investing and running companies and organizations.

Racial discrimination still exists at work, in government, in education, housing and almost every sector of the economy. For this reason, we need more than just four weeks each winter to recognize Black History. Black History is our collective American history—every month of the year. We at Nia feel that our actions throughout the year are what matter.

One of the actions we’ve taken is updating our Racial Equity Guide, originally published in 2020, encouraging each of us to review our investment policies and best practices with a racial equity lens. We get the economy we invest into, and to change the status quo, we need to shift our investment criteria. As investors we are responsible for where our dollars go, and what projects they are funding. Do check out this updated guide and share which actions you are taking here.

We are also calling on each organization and company to take on a Racial Equity Audit. What is a racial equity audit? It’s basically a look inside to see how the company or organization is either contributing to or causing harm to Black individuals and the Black community broadly. This process entails taking an honest look at company policies and practices and reviewing company culture to see how they affect Black and brown people and communities.

A first step is for companies and organizations to assess their current organizational structure. Who holds leadership positions? Who has ownership stakes? Who sits at the decision making tables? Does the company have diverse and equal representation?

We call on each organization and company to use a racial equity lens when looking at internal operations. We invite each company to look at how the company incorporate diversity and inclusion policies broadly, and more specifically look at data and practices concerning recruitment efforts, hiring practices, retention rates across race and ethnic backgrounds, as well as promotion data for Black employees.

We also invite looking at core business practices, such as products and services offered. Are they beneficial to Black populations? And if not, what changes might be implemented such that Black communities are considered and centered?

While we understand that the arc of justice is long, we know that each step we take, and each dollar we spend or invest can make a difference in much needed economic and cultural change. Participating in a racial equity audit and shifting investment dollars can be first steps toward actively bending that arc. Join us.


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