This guide provides an extensive set of suggestions for building partnerships with Black community and campus groups for Douglass Day. Douglass Day is a great time to reach out in new directions. Who doesn’t like an invitation to a birthday party? 

Start with the list below. We understand that your outreach might vary, depending on your circumstances, but we can all agree that holding Black history events with a room full of white people would be less than ideal. We thank you for your extra efforts in fulfilling the promise of an international day for participating in the work & spirit of Black history.

This guide was prepared by (in alphabetical order) Denise Burgher, Jim Casey, Julia Grummitt and Elena M’Bouroukounda.

Start local

If you are at a college or university, start by looking for groups that may already exist on your campus. See below for a list of such groups.

Our suggestion: don’t just invite these groups to join your event. Great events come from active and engaged partnerships. When you approach any of the groups below, ask if they might want to co-host or even co-sponsor the event on Douglass Day. What could be in it for them? Why might their members get out of Douglass Day? Can co-organizing an event for Douglass Day open new opportunities during Black History Month for public service & community engagement? Try looking for:

Campus clubs and organizations
Black Students Associations, African American fraternities/sororities, National Society of Black Engineers, McNair Program, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, and Upward Bound.
Academic programs
African American Studies, Black American Studies, Africana Studies, and American studies departments. Departments of History, English, Religious Studies, along with any clubs, units, or programs related to public history, archives, and literature/creative writing.
Important: If your event won’t be open to the public, please make sure that any and all African American, Africana, and Black groups on your campus are invited.

Expand out

At a predominantly white institution? We can help!

Why not expand your outreach beyond campus? Douglass Day has lots to offer about African American culture and history — plus more about literature, archives, and public history! Think creatively about groups in your area. Who might like to engage with Black authors? Who might like to read inspiring words written by Black activists? 

Cold calls can be tough. Try building bridges!

Contacts for many of these groups may already exist in your institution. Consider starting with diversity, equity, and inclusion offices. Ask for their advice. Does your campus have a committee planning events for Black History Month? Who is already engaged in the painstaking work of building relationships with community groups and liaisons? If someone takes an interest, invite them to join your planning team! Try looking for:

African American historic groups
NAACP, Urban League, Black genealogical societies, historic homes, and museums. For 2019, we are featuring the papers of Anna Julia Cooper, a founding figure for AKA, the oldest African American sorority. Do you know any AKA alumni who can connect you with their local Graduate Chapter?
Public groups
community centers, churches, libraries, senior centers, elementary schools, high schools, on-campus organizations, local social justice organizations, women’s and family shelters, historic societies, and other places where community members might gather.

Don’t forget: building relationships takes a bit of time & effort.

Once you have a list of prospective partners, contact them by email. Send a short note that describes your event and asks for a phone conversation. You may need to follow your note with a phone call to the directors, coordinators, or staff. Invite them to attend your event too. Always follow emails or invitation letters with a phone call. A personal touch goes a long way!

Hint: If someone is generous enough to give you some time, ask for their help in spreading the word with their circles. Ask if they have any suggestions.

Think about all the contacts any people in your organization might have with local schools, churches, community centers etc. Empower those people to send the invitation/press releases or flyers and to make the phone calls about Douglass Day.

Douglass Day is just the first step.

How might working together on Douglass Day create new and substantive opportunities for meaningful exchanges? Douglass Day is an exciting opportunity to bring the broader community into intellectual conversation. How can our schools better serve our communities?