Celebrating and Reflecting on Black History Month with Coffee & Conversations 

Photo of panelists and listeners from Black History Month Coffee & Conversation

In the heart of Black History Month, the DEI Action Committee at Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) hosted its inaugural all-staff event, Coffee & Conversations, on February 22nd. This gathering reflected the ongoing commitment of our organization to foster inclusive environments that not only recognize but celebrate the rich tapestry of Black culture, history, and achievements, during Black History Month and every day. 

From its inception in 1926 as Negro History Week to its expansion into Black History Month in 1976, this annual observance has served as a dedicated time to reflect on the profound contributions and the indomitable spirit of Black individuals throughout history. It’s a period for learning, for honoring the past, and for shaping the future.  

Our lunch-hour event was part of our ongoing celebration of Black History Month this year — which includes our new documentary “Know Your Place” — tailored to amplify Black voices and experiences within our organization. 

“There’s nothing wrong with curiosity, but there’s plenty wrong with assuming.” 

Coffee & Conversations was structured to facilitate dialogue — a 45-minute panel discussion followed by an open forum for questions and reflections. The panel, composed of HFUW staff members, was a deliberate effort to foreground the intersectionality of identity and organizational culture. Panelists engaged with questions designed to draw out their experiences, insights, and the nuanced ways in which their identities intersect with their work and the broader organizational mission. 

This approach was emblematic of the event’s core purpose: to create a space for intentional and authentic conversations. In doing so, it provided a platform for voices that, despite significant progress, often remain marginalized in professional settings. The dialogue was not just about sharing experiences but about fostering a deeper understanding among all staff members of the complexities and richness of Black identities, from Africa to America and beyond. 

“Don’t be afraid to get in the glass bowl with everyone else. Don’t be on the outside tapping the glass.” 

The significance of Coffee & Conversations extends beyond the hour-long event. It represents a continued step toward integrating the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the very fabric of HFUW’s culture. Such initiatives are crucial for building empathy, breaking down barriers, and promoting a more inclusive and equitable workplace. 

The event underscored the importance of continued education and engagement with Black history and culture — not just during February but throughout the year. It highlighted the ongoing journey towards a society where diversity is not just recognized but celebrated as a source of strength and innovation. 

“We can’t talk about helping people outside these walls if we treat people inside these walls poorly.” 

As we reflect on the success of Coffee & Conversations, it’s clear that this event is just the beginning. The discussions that took place have laid the groundwork for ongoing dialogue and action, serving as a reminder of the power of collective effort in advancing DEI initiatives and the critical role these conversations can play in building a more inclusive and understanding community. 

“Sometimes, you have to put yourself in a situation that may seem uncomfortable, but that’s where you may end up succeeding.” 

In celebrating Black History Month through events like Coffee & Conversations, milestone creative efforts like our documentary film “Know Your Place,” and the upcoming unveiling of an in-office DEI library, HFUW is proud to be reckoning clearly with the past while actively contributing to a future where everyone’s history and contributions are acknowledged and celebrated.