Building community for Black History Month and beyond
Zendesk celebrated Black History Month under the theme of Black History Is My History. Here’s how employees embraced their authentic selves and formed deeper connections with their Black peers and allies.
Last updated March 6, 2023
Many of the events over the past year were historic, especially for Black Americans. From Ketanji Brown Jackson becoming the first Black woman to serve as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to the killers of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd being convicted, to Maya Angelou becoming the first Black woman on the U.S. quarter, there have been several recent triumphs for the Black community.
Black History Month is a time to commemorate such hard-fought achievements and honor the impactful contributions made by Black people—from civil rights leaders and politicians to scientists and artists—who have helped shape the nation and the world for the better. It’s also a time to recognize the struggles of Black people throughout history.
While we applaud the progress that’s been made, there’s still much work to do. Racial violence, systemic discrimination, police brutality, and social injustice persist for people of color. And many still live in fear and experience challenges daily. So as we celebrated another Black History Month at Zendesk, it was important to reflect on the triumphant moments for the Black community while also acknowledging the need to push for more change and equity year-round.
“I think it’s important to always celebrate Black History Month as a way to ensure that people of color are seen,” says Enterprise Account Executive David Horton, who helped organize the Black History Month events at Zendesk. “Schools all over the country have changed, altered, or removed elements of Black history from the curriculum. So, now is the time that we must celebrate our black and brown brothers and sisters and remember where we came from so we can see where we want to go. Things like Black History Month are what remind us that we still have work to do to reach true equality in the world.”
“It’s important to always celebrate Black History Month as a way to ensure that people of color are seen.”
David Horton, Zendesk Enterprise Account Executive and Black History Month event organizer
How Zendesk celebrated Black History Month
This year, Zendesk honored Black History Month with the theme of Black History Is My History, hosting events and discussions focused on the ideas of embracing and living as one’s authentic self, making connections, and building community.
We kicked off the internal celebrations with a lively cook-a-long hosted by Mosaic, our employee community for people of color and allies. Solu Nwanze, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness at Zendesk, guided employees through her famous recipe for jollof rice, a classic West African dish made with rice, tomatoes, onions, spices, vegetables, and meat. According to Nwanze, jollof rice is a celebratory dish that’s traditionally cooked and eaten community style, uniting friends, family, and neighbors.
“I thrive in creative and dynamic spaces where I can learn and teach—this is how I connect with others,” says Nwanze. “Hosting the cook-a-long gave me all of that! And I got to share a special dish of mine with rich history, with my friends and colleagues. We cooked together virtually, and I shared the meal afterward with my friends who live nearby.”
Mosaic also hosted a Black History Month panel discussion around this year’s theme, with the goal of helping allies understand how they can build stronger connections and community with their Black peers. Zendesk leaders shared how Black history has helped develop their self-image and impacted the way they show up in the world—whether that’s with family, at work, or in everyday situations. They also discussed racism, what it means to be Black, and the importance of learning Black history.
“We live in the information age—there are so many books, TV shows, movies, articles, and resources to learn more about Black history,” says panelist Whitney Watts, Global Lead for Mosaic and Director of Global Campaign Marketing at Zendesk. “It requires self-awareness, acknowledgment, and wanting to learn more. Education is powerful.”
In addition to hosting internal events, we worked with our partners to create external celebrations in honor of Black History Month. We sponsored Power to Fly’s February Diversity Reboot Summit, which highlighted the voices and achievements of Black leaders who are moving the needle toward true equity and inclusion. In Black In Tech: What I’ve Learned Along The Way, a panel of Zendesk employees described the strategies and techniques they used to navigate their careers in tech, sharing the challenges and successes they’ve experienced on their respective journeys.
Each event intended to increase understanding and connection. Horton says, “I hope people leave these events feeling more connected to each other and understanding that we are all so different but the same as well. I want the events to bring togetherness into reality.”
We can all be a catalyst for change
Though we alone can’t undo generations of systemic and racial inequality, we believe we can be an ongoing catalyst for change and always find ways to do and be better—everyone can.
“Black history is American history, which is a part of our collective world history,” says Watts. “We all should take the time to educate ourselves and have a better awareness of the past. We should all strive to be a part of the solution and not repeat past mistakes. We all share this planet together, so this should be everyone’s responsibility.”