Black History Month is underway during the month of February and many companies within the hospitality industry are recognizing and honoring the achievements of African Americans and their contributions throughout U.S. history. Black History Month took root in 1915, 50 years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. when the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland created the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) that later sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926. The date of observance was set for the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.
During the subsequent decades, mayors from around the country began recognizing “Black History Week” until the week-long celebration evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses due to the civil rights movement that took shape in the 1960s. In 1976, then-President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and called upon the American people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” February was officially designated as Black History Month in 1986 after Congress passed Public Law 99-244.
Today, many companies and brands in the hospitality industry are celebrating Black History Month with special events and offerings to celebrate and honor the legacy of African Americans. Moreover, certain organizations, such as Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) have made it their mission to guarantee that the tenants of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) are embraced throughout the hospitality industry to confront ethnic disparities and promote strategies to retain diversity within the workforce.
Tourism Diversity Matters Celebrates Icons of Black Leadership
In an effort to recognize, support and mentor the next generation of Black leaders in the hospitality industry and effect positive change, TDM is celebrating Black History Month by recognizing Black tourism and hospitality icons who have made a lasting impact, paving the way for decades to achieve equity and inclusion.
“Here are a few whom we all stand on their shoulders, first my forever mentor, Valarie Ferguson, Sol and Gloria Herbert, Robert L. Johnson, Sheila Johnson, Ernest P. Boger, CHA, FMP, CHE, Gerry Fernandez, Andy Ingraham, Roy Jay, Howard F. Mills, Ana Aponte Curtis, Cheryl Richards, Albert Tucker, Carol Wallace, Ahmeenah Young, Curtis Dean, Ernest Wooden Jr, and Hank Thomas,” wrote Greg DeShields in a statement published on the TDM website.
TDM provides an Apprenticeship Program for inspiring Black professionals pursuing a career in the tourism and hospitality industries, providing hands-on experience, which includes three tracks: a Destination Track, a Sports Track, and a Meetings & Events Track.
America’s Black Holocaust Museum
The volunteers and members of Milwaukee-based America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) strive to educate its visitors with an on-site museum, and an online gallery featuring over 3,300 virtual exhibits, both of which guide guests through the events of the Black Holocaust in chronological order. Following the conclusion of Super Bowl 57 last Sunday, ABHM highlighted the contributions of Black football players throughout the history of the Super Bowl, noting that the teams of the latest matchup were both led by Black quarterbacks, Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs—a Super Bowl first. Prior to Sunday’s game, a Black quarterback led a team to victory during the Super Bowl only three times, with Mahomes leading his team to victory in 2020.
ABHM presents a tremendous opportunity for planners seeking to provide their attendees with an enlightening and educational experience. In 2022, ABHM opened in its new location in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville Neighborhood after shuttering its former location in 2008 due to the financial crisis that struck the U.S. economy. The new space features a reception hall and outdoor patio with a maximum capacity of 260 people.
National Civil Rights Museum Launches Webinar Series
The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, launched its 2023 webinar series this month to commemorate Black History Month, highlighting the efforts made by leaders and everyday citizens who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement. The webinar series is intended to invite a wider audience to learn more about the movement, which recently hit a 60-year anniversary, as well as the 55th anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Strike, and the March on Washington.
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The series kicks off on Nov. 15 with the MLK55 and 1968 Sanitation Strike webinar with a discussion on the events led by Dr. Noelle Trent, director of interpretation, collections and education, and Ryan Jones, associate curator.
On Feb. 16, guests can register for World War II, Double V & The March on Washington highlighting the March on Washington during the Second World War and the leadership of civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph in 1941. Randolph and other civil rights leaders pushed for the U.S. to confront the injustices experienced domestically at the outset of the war in Europe. The March on Washington in 1963 embraced the same strategy that was adopted decades earlier.
The Whole World Was Watching: Remembering 1963 in The Civil Rights Movement will take place on Feb. 22 and will feature a presentation on multiple events during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963, including the nonviolent desegregation of Birmingham during the Project C Campaign carried out by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, the killing of NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963, the March on Washington and JFK’s commitment to passing a Civil Rights Bill into law. The webinar will be presented by Ryan Jones.
The webinar for young audiences (K-12), Honoring 1963: A Pivotal Year of Protests with Dory Lerner will take place on Feb. 21 and will explore Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the Children’s Crusades and the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church that led to the tragic death of four little girls.
Marriott Celebrates Black History Month with Complimentary Events
On Feb. 24, Marriott International will celebrate Black History Month with a series of free events including a storyteller from the Black-owned Grassrootz Bookstore & Juice Bar performing at Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. In addition, ASU magna-cum laude and local artist ArtJudyyy will be in attendance presenting a live art demonstration.
Caesars Entertainment Highlights Employees of Color
To celebrate Black History Month, Caesars Entertainment is highlighting recently promoted employees of color throughout the company’s social media channels to showcase the profiles of these employees. “Black History Month is an important opportunity for us to celebrate the significant contributions of Black people throughout history, including those within our company who are blazing the trail in the gaming-hospitality industry. At Caesars Entertainment, Black History Month is an opportunity to deepen our commitment to educate, engage and empower,” said Heather Rapp, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility for Caesars Entertainment.
An internal campaign led by Caesars Entertainment’s Black Employee Resource Group Leaders program features quotes from participants who are currently participating in the program. Caesars has also committed to making donations to organizations that empower the Black community and has a set a diversity goal for the company to have 50% people of color in leadership positions by 2025.