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As we near the end of Black History Month, it's important to keep in mind that Black lives and Black excellence should be at the forefront all year long. Corporate America has largely failed Black people, but that can change.

Here's what your organization can do in the coming year so that you can honestly and authentically celebrate Black History Month next year. And here’s how to get Black History Month right.

If you're not creating a safe place for Black people to advance and excel now, you shouldn't be sharing fake, performative words and platitudes during February. The good news is you can focus on these tangible workplace actions before 2022!

As we move into Women’s History Month, no better time to root the sexism from your writing!

You wouldn’t believe how many cover letters I received that started out with “Dear Gentlemen.” And those immediately landed in the slush pile.

I’ve been advocating for nonsexist language in writing ever since I was in the fifth grade, and I edited my handwriting assignment to include “and women.”

Working with engineers for most of my career, I’ve come across a ton of “manholes” and “man-hours,” and I unfailingly edited them to be inclusive (“utility holes” and “staff hours”). Rarely was I challenged.

In this article I lay out eight ways to watch for sexism in your writing and correct it!

I’m continuing to have a blast with my podcast! In the past few months I hosted four “Writers on Resilience,” in addition to the usual amazing guests.

  • Mx. Harris Eddie Hill, LBGTQIA+ advocate and educator, my first British and trans, nonbinary guest. As host of the Transection Podcast, Harris is dedicated to making every story as familiar to us as our own. They are an incredible resource for learning how to support transgender and nonbinary loved ones. Read about Harris here.

  • Lauren DeVera, positive psychology practitioner, yoga + mindfulness teacher, movement artist, host of the Thrive and Thread podcast, and life coach. Growing up as the daughter of Filipino immigrants, Lauren always felt like "the other" as a child. She's used that feeling to fuel her passion for creating spaces where people can dance, meditate, and feel a strong sense of belonging. Read about Lauren here.

  • Madison Ways, a high school junior whose dad died three years ago. Sadly, Madison did not get much support from her friends. She's been trying to rebuild her life, getting involved in social justice issues and going viral on TikTok. She also came out as a lesbian. Meet Madison here.

  • Court Wakefield, who found themselves in a quandary in their moment of crisis, not finding a space on a form that fits their nonbinary gender. Host of the For Folx Sake: Cultivating Inclusive Communities podcast, Court survived growing up queer in the Bible belt. After meeting and marrying their wife Hollis, they underwent three rounds of IVF and a high-risk pregnancy followed by 97 days in the NICU with their daughter. Meet Court here.

  • Carol Gavhane, who experienced heart-breaking secondary infertility and pregnancy loss, in addition to losing her sister. Carol took that grief and grit and turned it into a resilient story. After seven pregnancies and two children as a result, she and her husband founded Asha Blooms, a purposeful jewelry-making company with handcrafted jewelry that contain loving messages. More about Carol here.

  • AmiCietta Clarke, Esq., who escaped from the Liberian Civil War as a child and overcame a debilitating autoimmune disease. AmiCietta is a motivational speaker, writer, certified holistic health and empowerment coach, wellness educator, and attorney…plus mom to three-year-old twin girls! AmiCietta founded Clean Body Living, a holistic health coaching practice. More about AmiCietta (and Liberia) here.

Writers on Resilience

  • Cathy Marie Buchanan, a tenacious writer who creates colorful historical novels about resilient women. As the first in my series of Writers on Resilience, Cathy Marie Buchanan has written three award-winning historical fiction books featuring gritty, resilient women characters in different historical periods and places: The Day the Falls Stood Still in 2009, The Painted Girls in 2012, and Daughter of Black Lake, in October 2020. Read more about Cathy here.

  • Sujata Massey, who writes delectable feminist mystery and historical fiction set in Japan and India. I first fell in love with Sujata Massey's Rei Shimura detective series, about a Japanese-American English teacher/antiques dealer and amateur sleuth. Now she writes historical fiction set in India, including mysteries based on a real-life character, India’s first woman lawyer. Read more about Sujata here.

  • Julie Lythcott-Haims, who chronicled her journey from self-loathing to love as a Black American in Real American: A Memoir. Launching on the first day of Black History Month 2021, this great conversation with writer, educator, TEDx speaker, and former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean Julie Lythcott Haims covers her growing up in mostly white spaces, how to raise young adults without helicoptering, and her thoughts on race in America today. Find out more about Julie here.

  • Marianne Monson, who writes diverse historical stories of gritty, resilient women. I first discovered Oregon writer Marianne Monson through her book Frontier Grit, which contained stories of diverse women on the American Frontier. I also read her book Women of the Blue and Grey: Civil War Mothers, Medic Soldiers and Spies. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation about badasses in history! Read more about Marianne here.

Back to Grit and Resilience…

  • Cindy Van Arnam, who moved beyond cocaine addiction and self-destruction toward self-mastery. After Cindy's dad died when she was only 16, she continued to put mountain after mountain in front of herself. After years of drug abuse, abusive relationships, and a series of dead-end jobs, Cindy finally took control of her own life...and she's never been happier. Read about Cindy here.

  • Elena Joy Thurston, Mormon mom of four who came out as a lesbian and underwent conversion therapy to "fix" herself. Attracted to the Latter Day Saints as a 16-year-old seeking stability, Elena was married by 20 and had four children by 33. Then she realized something wasn't right. She fell in love with a woman and felt great shame until she healed herself. Read about Elena here.

I enjoyed being a guest on Kayleen Johnson’s podcast, “The Scars We Share,” where she interviews people about their internal and external scars. I was also quoted in a few more articles in the past few months.

Additional Resources for Black History Month

If you’d like some quick, easy actions to educate yourself as an activist, I’ve found these two resources to be exceptionally helpful:

  • Renegades: Born in the USA Podcast with Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama: I just happened upon this by chance, and it's great! Obama and the Boss just hanging out in Bruce's farmhouse, talking about race in America, fatherhood, marriage, and the future of the country. The show will consist of eight episodes, two of which are now on Spotify. And if you haven’t already listened to Michelle Obama’s podcast, go listen right now!!

  • Black History Bootcamp: Join the Movement! Sign up to walk and listen to the viral walking podcast for 21 days! The bootcamp is sponsored by Girltrek.org, whose mission is to “pioneer a health movement for African-American women and girls grounded in civil rights history and principles through walking campaigns, community leadership, and health advocacy.” The newest bootcamp starts on March 1, and you’ll get an email each day to guide you in your walk.

Contact me for more information about how to communicate effectively in the workplace. With over 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world.

Fertile Ground Communications LLC is a certified women-owned business enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise, and emerging small business.

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