Black History Month 2023

Black History Month collage of the Adinkra handcuff symbol, Epa in dark purple, behind Bisa Butler's quilt portrait of Harriet Tubman.

A Message from the Strategist

“A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked, and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.” — John Lewis

It is with esteemed pleasure that I present EDI’s 2023 Black History Month Campaign!

This year’s theme, Black Resistance - Equality Through Justice reveres the historical past of Black people and their unyielding determination for equality in the pursuit of justice – in the Nation we have helped to build.

Kiana Atkins

Kiana Atkins
Principal Strategist
Black Employment Portfolio

Adinkra Symbols

Adinkra Symbol, Epa.

Adinkra symbols are the creation of Gyaman King Nana Kwadwo Agyemang Adinkra. Adinkra symbols are used in textiles, logos, and pottery. While the symbols serve as aesthetic elements, they also broadly represent objects that hold emotive ideas about ancient wisdom, life, and the environment. There are also a variety of symbols with varied meanings that are frequently associated with proverbs.

Above is one of Adinkra’s symbols, Epa, which signifies law and justice.

A Message from our Leadership

Dear Colleagues,

Each February, the nation celebrates Black History Month. This year’s theme: Black Resistance - Equality through Justice, reminds us that although indelibly shaped by slavery, the Reconstruction Era, Jim Crow, and legalized segregation and discrimination, Black history comprises so much more. It is an immutable part of American history that should be embraced, recognized, and commemorated for its role in shaping this great nation. However, recent tragedies such as the incident involving Tyre Nichols persist.

The Black History Month 2023 campaign acknowledges the past and the present in service to a brighter future. Recently, NIH senior leaders held a listening session to hear about issues affecting Black or African American colleagues in the workplace. Participants noted perceptions of unlawful employment discrimination, a lack of psychological safety, limited opportunities for career advancement, and an absence of standard or systematic processes for more inclusive hiring.

Through collaboration with the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), the Office of Human Resources, the Office of the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, and NIH senior leaders, NIH remains dedicated to creating a workplace free from discrimination and promoting a psychologically safe environment for the Black or African American community, as well as all members of the NIH community. As was reinforced at the recent fireside chat regarding racial and ethnic equity, the NIH UNITE initiative is helping accelerate our efforts.

Today’s socio-economic climate and persistent health inequities are stark reminders that despite our progress in the world, there is still much work to do to dismantle systemic injustices that disproportionately affect Black or African American people. We invite you to join us as we endeavor to create positive change at NIH.

Please visit EDI’s website, follow the office on LinkedIn and Twitter, and watch EDI’s YouTube channel to keep informed of the exciting things that are happening this month.

Dr. Tabak

Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Senior Official, Performing the Duties of the NIH Director
National Institutes of Health

Kevin D. Williams, Esq.

Kevin D. Williams, Esquire
Director, Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
National Institutes of Health

Photo of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Washington Monument

EDI encourages you to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Explore the NMAAHC initiative on Black resistance.


The Psychological Impact of Code-Switching

Wednesday, February 8, 2023 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EDT

Hosted by Kiana Atkins, Principal Strategist for the Black Portfolio
Patricia Sauceda Kramer, Principal Strategist for the Hispanic/Latino/a/x Portfolio

Watch Event Online

Join us for a Fireside Chat Featuring: Dr. Jean Lud Cadet and Mr. Kevin Williams, Esq. as they discuss the Psychological Impact of Code-Switching.

The Black Resistance, Achieving Equality Through Justice

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EDT

Hosted by Kiana Atkins, Principal Strategist for the Black Portfolio
Patricia Sauceda Kramer, Principal Strategist for the Hispanic/Latino/a/x Portfolio

Watch Event Online

Please join the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as we hear from panelists: Dr. Juanita Chinn, Dr. Mia Rochelle, and Dr. Valerie Maholmes, as they discuss Black Resistance in all forms, what this means to them, its history and how the Black Resistance has paved the way to “Equality through Justice.”

Featured Blogs

Supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the Workplace: In this four-part blog series, we share information and resources to help BIPOC and allies understand various workplace phenomena and explore recommendations to help mitigate these issues and explain what leaders can do to support BIPOC.

Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.
— Thurgood Marshall, 1978 University of Virginia commencement speech

About the Hero Image

The 2023 Black History Month Hero Image pays homage to Bisa Butler’s quilted portrait of Harriet Tubman titled, “I Go to Prepare A Place For You,” that is currently featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)’s new exhibit, “Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.”

Despite its vivid use of color and shade, Butler explains “there is zero paint on this artwork.” The portrait is a 93” x 90” inch textile made of cotton, silk, wool, and velvet quilted and appliquéd.

According to the NMAAHC, “the quilt depicts Tubman, in multiple bright-colored fabrics, seated against a dark floral background. Tubman gazes directly at the viewer, her proper right arm on the back of the chair and her proper left hand in her lap. Her face and hands are shown in contrasting shades of blue and purple with rich reds, symbolizing Tubman’s coolness, calmness, and strength as well as her power and force. Her hair is made of a deep velvet cloth, soft and opulent to mimic the soft texture of some African American hair.” Additionally, “at bottom center of this section is an orange lion, an embodiment of Tubman herself.” Surrounding the center section is Tubman’s skirt patterned with gold and orange ferns and palm fronds against a green background. The colors symbolize Tubman’s African heritage, with the thick foliage at the bottom of the skirt gradually opening to a clearing at the top to signify a journey from turmoil to freedom. Along the hem of the skirt is an orange wave design representing pain and turmoil. The small seeds growing upwards to become vibrant flowers commemorates strong women. The pleats or stripes on the skirt are evocative of the fields of crops where Tubman labored. Black and white kente fabric compose “the chair upon which Tubman is seated, suggesting a royal throne, and paying homage to the artist’s Ghanaian heritage...”

To further pay reverence to the 2023 Black History Month theme, “Black Resistance-Equality Through Justice,” as well as Bisa’s original artwork, the Hero Image primarily uses the NMAAC’s purple brand color, and features the Ghanian symbol “Epa” (Equality, Law, and Justice) to speak to both the campaign theme and Tubman’s ancestry.