Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.
In 1926, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland sponsored a national Negro History week with their organization- the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It’s now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
They chose the second week in February to recognize the contributions of African Americans in the United States history, which coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and Frederick Douglass (celebrated February 14th).
By the 1960s, in part due to the civil rights movement, the week evolved into Black History Month.
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month 2022 Theme
Black History Month was created to focus on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. It honors all Black people from all periods of the United States history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.
Achievements of Black Americans are honored and celebrated throughout the month.
This month’s theme Black Health and Wellness acknowledge the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.
The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals, and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.
Diversity initiatives have been amped up recently in corporations and at retail. Over 25 retailers have taken the 15 percent pledge which asks retailers to devote 15% of their shelf space to black-owned brands as black people make up 15% of the population.
Black History Month & Licensing
Brands are building up awareness and conversations during Black History Month, according to PR & Marketing firm Ketchum.
Brands are becoming more vocal about Black History Month during February and highlighting artists of color. Jewel Branding & Licensing is celebrating Black artists and influencers including Kendra Dandy’s art on a collection of masks and t-shirts for Athleta.
Vans announced a limited-edition footwear collaboration featuring four Black artists.
Unfortunately, this inclusion is not as readily found throughout the licensing industry. A big reason is, there aren’t many black-centered brands to license.
In 2018, Tufts University’s Children’s Television (CTV) Project found that Black characters only accounted for 5.6% of the over 1,500 characters in kids’ television and film.
And since then, it appears that the number has gone down. Disney’s Doc McStuffins, which featured an African American girl dreaming of being a doctor and practices by fixing toys and dolls, ended its run in 2020.
There are few animated series that features a Black lead character. And the few black characters that are on shows tend to be sidekicks or ancillary characters that rarely end up in a licensing program. And none of the top licensing brands in 2020 featured a Black lead.
Some changes are afoot.
Sesame Workshop recently added two Black Muppets to their show, Elijah and Wesley Walker. These characters help discuss systemic inequality and racism as a part of the 2019 study they conducted in partnership with the University of Chicago.
The study found that many parents rarely or never discuss race or ethnicity with their kids.
Time will tell if these characters will be added to a licensing program.
This year, Disney will be airing the animated TV series Tiana based on the character from The Princess and the Frog on Disney+. Tiana has been a Disney Princess since 2010, but this will be the first time she will star in an animated series.
Mattel was recently announced as the master toy partner for the Tiana series. In addition, Walt Disney World and Disneyland recently announced they are changing their Splash Mountain rides to The Princess and the Frog-themed areas. The timing for the change is still being determined.
Currently, licensing programs featuring black characters or artists is still nowhere near 15%. This Black History Month, let’s explore how we can help bridge that gap for the future, together.
Dependable Solutions’ Commitment to Racial Equality
At Dependable Solutions, Inc, – we are always looking to listen, learn, and strengthen our work to create environments that reflect our values and define our company—values like authenticity, dignity, and mutual respect.
We want everyone to experience these values consistently.
We believe human rights are inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to both work and education.
DSI is a team of individuals that contribute many cultures, religions, and experiences. Our strength comes from each one of us.
As a company and as individuals- we make a difference.
We are committed to looking critically at the structures and practices inside our company, how we use our voice as a leader in the brand and consumer product licensing industry, and the role we play in progressing toward our company-wide commitment.
Statement from DSI:
We endeavor to provide a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for everyone with whom we interact.
We expect that our team members take the time to respectfully listen to others and understand perspectives that differ from their own. By holding true to these values, we draw people together and facilitate healing.
Now is the time for us to look inward, our work and societal environments to take real, meaningful actions, to ensure our values are truly reflected in every individual’s experience, at our company, and with our clients.
To our Black and African American colleagues and people of color in our company—we stand with you, and we commit to making progress with you.
We will hold on to our values, which will be entirely felt by anybody who interacts with our organization- we will act today, tomorrow, and in a safer future.