Supporting Gen Z During Black History Month

In the UK, October marks the start of Black History Month.  

A cultural and political event, this month highlights the past, current and future contributions of black Britons. This year, Black History Month falls on the 75th anniversary of the arrival of passengers of the Empire Windrush, with celebrations taking place around the country.

Gen Z were the most outspoken demographic during BLM – and it wasn’t just a trend for them

In 2020, millions of people around the world flocked to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Gen Z were pivotal in galvanising this: organising protests, signing petitions, using their online platforms as hubs of activism, and so much more. 

62% of those aged 16-24 stated they’d had difficult educational conversations with their families around the time. 80% shared they’d called on brands to use their platforms to raise awareness around racism. And almost three quarters of Gen Z said brands must make internal changes to continue supporting black employees.

Three years later, the points remain as relevant today

BLM prompted many important discussions – but Gen Z doesn’t want conversations alone. They want strategies, pledges and action plans. Given the events of 2020, it’s more important than ever that we learn about Black history to better understand what needs to be done in the present day.

Black History Month is a great opportunity to do so – and brands and employers must use this month as a chance to amplify Black voices and shed light on important topics. 

Gen Z can smell tokenistic marketing a mile off

Reaching Gen Z often comes down to one key metric: authenticity. During Black History Month, this couldn’t be more relevant – Gen Z will smell tokenistic marketing a mile off.

So, in our recent survey, we asked 1,000 Gen Zers in the UK and the US about how brands can authentically champion Black History Month.

  • 64% (US) and 58% (UK) want brands to participate in an educational campaign 
  • 50% (US) and 46% (UK) want brands to be transparent about their DE&I policies
  • 47% (US) and 39% (UK) want brands to post about Black History Month on social media
  • 63% (US) and 58% (UK) want brands to commit to working with black creators year-round.

(UK and US data, October 2023)

Who is getting it right?

The University of Bristol

Bristol is a city indelibly woven into African history. It’s ports were major players in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, with half a million Africans taken into enslavement on ships departing from the city. In 2020, this reached peak cultural significance when Edward Colston’s statue was pushed into the docks by protestors.

The University of Bristol has organised an abundance of activities and events throughout October (and beyond). Including screenings of Get Out organised by the Black Students Network, an augmented reality tour of Bristol called Decolonising Memory and a ‘Paint and Sip’ event, the agenda aims to celebrate Black voices and culture.

The Fifteen Percent Pledge

The Fifteen Percent Pledge was developed by Aurora James in 2020, calling on retailers and corporations to commit a minimum of 15% of their annual spending to Black-owned businesses.

The pledge is now at its third anniversary, with 29 companies across the US, Canada and UK committing to the pledge: including Vogue, Victoria’s Secret and Nordstrom.

Jack Daniels: Every Legacy Has A Beginning

Whisky company Jack Daniels launched an initiative to highlight black-owned businesses through the power of storytelling. The campaign lives on the brand’s social and digital channels, with a landing page that operates year-round.

Keenan Harris, Director of Multicultural Marketing for Jack Daniels shared “We know that we’re a very very large brand with a very very large voice – and we really want to use that for good when it comes to helping others”. 

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