Addressing Wrongs and Recognizing Excellence in Black History

By Morgan Strawn

Black History Month as we know it was first conceived in 1969 when Black educators and students proposed the idea at Kent State University. The following year, the event was celebrated at the school in a slightly more elongated form than we know it today, from January 2 to February 28.

Quickly, the celebration began being marked by educational institutions and cultural centers across the country, and in 1976, President Gerald Ford himself recognized the event during the Bicentennial of the United States.

Forty-six years later, we continue to mark this vital celebration, which includes honoring efforts to achieve greater equality and recognition for African Americans. We see evidence of this ongoing movement in the work of marketers who have won the ANA's Multicultural Excellence Awards. Some of the winning work recognized excellence in the Black community; in other cases, marketers strove to correct historical and more recent wrongs.

Here's a recap of the some of the 2021 winners with links to full case studies.

Honoring Black Women as the Muse of the Beauty Industry

Ulta Beauty created a film that highlighted the contributions that Black women have made, and continue to make, in the beauty industry. To ensure Black people had agency over their own stories, the brand relied on the creative collaboration of an all-Black cast and crew.

Recognizing Black Future Makers

Instead of looking to the historical past during Black History Month in 2021, AT&T celebrated those members of the Black community who were working to build a better future, honoring them with portraits created by innovative visual artist Temi Coker. Honorees included frontline workers and everyday heroes such as veterans, doctors, and activists.

Lifting Up Black Businesses Through the Power of Creative

In this effort, Instagram strove to assist Black-owned small business owners and Black creatives, two groups that the pandemic hit hard. The company hired and paired 15 Black creative professionals with 15 Black-owned small businesses, tasking each creative to develop Instagram-first assets that addressed the specific needs of his or her small business partner.

Promoting Voter Registration in the Black Community

The city of Chicago strove to promote voting within its Black community by creating voter registration booths that featured artwork inspired by the protests that George Floyd's murder sparked. Chicago thereby took up the fight against the cultural forces that had historically promoted political apathy in the city's Black communities.

Empowering Black Women

Pine-Sol undertook an effort to lend guidance and funding to support Black female entrepreneurs. This undertaking included the launching of the Build Your Legacy Program in partnership with Essence, a leading media and cultural outlet for Black women. The program offered direct access to business experts, a robust resource center, and grant programs.

Supporting Black-Owned Businesses

After taking notice of the heavy toll that the pandemic was taking on Black-owned businesses, Chicago agency O'Keefe Reinhard & Paul launched an effort to support them with enhanced visibility by creating a dynamic, searchable online directory that made them easy to find.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Morgan Strawn is a senior manager of editorial and content development at ANA.