Honouring Black Achievement Throughout the Year
February is Black History Month, and in both Canada and the U.S. this is a time for reflection and celebration. We recognize Black excellence, as well as the experience and contributions of the Black community, both historically and today. Most importantly, this recognition is not limited to a single month, but is instead something we practice every day by championing zero barriers to inclusion in everything we do.
As a bank with a rich history of promoting equity, we are proud to support an inclusive society as a pillar of our Purpose, to Boldly Grow the Good – in business and life. We express that commitment in part through supporting organizations that further progress in a wide range of areas that matter to the Black community in the U.S. and Canada—and as we launch Black History Month, we focus in this post on how we are making a difference in a few of these.
Education and Employment: The Road to Opportunity
BMO believes that education opens the gates to inclusion. In Chicago, we promote education through the Bud Billiken Scholarship Program, which is spearheaded by The Chicago Defender, a leading voice in Black journalism since its inception in 1905. We are a longstanding supporter of the program, which encourages young people in their aspirations by helping them progress on their pathway to higher education.
BMO also embraces the mission of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The role of HBCUs in fighting racial oppression is one of the most inspiring chapters of African-American history, and we are proud to help them further their mission through two initiatives. We sponsor the Chicago Football Classic Scholarship Fund, which supports the educational goals of disadvantaged youth and ensures that deserving scholars can realize their dreams of higher education at HBCUs. And we have partnered with Morehouse College in Atlanta, one of the most storied HBCUs, to provide scholarship support for students pursuing careers in financial services, as well as career development workshops, and a business leadership class lecture series.
We also support UNCF, the largest organization in America dedicated to minority education. UNCF’s mission is to increase the annual number of African-American college graduates by focusing on activities that ensure more students are ready for higher education, enroll in college and graduate. It awards more than $100 million scholarships every year, and BMO is an ongoing contributor to UNCF’s success.
Recognizing that careers go hand in hand with education, we acted as Platinum Sponsor of the Black Career Conference (BCC) in January of this year. The largest conference of its kind in Canada, BCC brings together Black students, graduates and entrepreneurs to meet and network with industry leaders and one another, and in doing so open up new career opportunities.
Giving Voice to Creativity
BMO recognizes that it is as important to nourish the soul as much as the mind, and to that end we support the kinds of creative endeavours that uplift us all. We donate to the Black Ensemble Theater (BET), a leader and innovator in the African-American arts communities in Chicago. BET uses theatre and educational outreach programs to bring communities together and embrace dialogue, understanding and acceptance.
We are also the season sponsor of Black Creativity at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The Black Creativity program at the Museum celebrates African-American achievement in science, technology, engineering, art and medicine, and every year its educational programs and exhibits reach over 10,000 students and their families in underserved Chicago neighbourhoods. Additional support for the creative development of young people comes from our ongoing relationship with the Bronzeville Children’s Museum in Chicago, the only African-American children’s museum in the United States.
Fighting for Justice in All its Forms
BMO is committed to equal justice for all, and we give concrete expression to that commitment through support for a variety of organizations. As part of the BlackNorth Initiative, we are the lead sponsor of this year’s Black Law Students’ Association National Conference, an annual event that brings Black law students together from across Canada for professional development, networking and exploration of career opportunities.
In the U.S., we support the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has a long history of litigation and advocacy for structural change that will fulfill the promise of equality for all; and the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable.
Justice is, of course, attained not only in the courts, but in the many other venues that affect our economic and social well-being, such as housing, employment and economic development. That is the focus of the Chicago Urban League, as well as its sister organizations in Milwaukee, Madison, Indianapolis and Northwest Indiana—all of which we support on an ongoing basis. Seward Redesign in Minnesota has a similar mandate, and we support it in providing such services as housing and commercial real estate development, infrastructure advocacy and business development in disadvantaged areas, including East Lake Street, the epicentre of the civic unrest that followed the death of George Floyd.
We are also proud to help reduce barriers in health care in the Chicago area through the Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity, whose focus is increasing life expectancy in underserved neighbourhoods and eliminating the social causes of unequal health outcomes.
We are also helping reduce barriers to inclusive economic growth through our support for P33. Focused on the tech sector, P33 is expanding opportunity for low-income, first-generation college students and students of color to pursue digital careers, as well as providing technology entrepreneurs of color in Chicago with access to seed funding, customers, and a community of peers.
Technology is also the focus of the Black Professionals in Tech Network BFUTR Global Summit, which we sponsored in October 2021.BFUTR is the largest virtual gathering of Black tech professionals in the world, and BMO was delighted to sponsor an event that promotes diversity in technology, as well as connect Black technology professionals with career opportunities at the bank.
In supporting the goals of the many organizations forging a more inclusive society, we are giving concrete form to our Purpose. These groups are leading the way to greater opportunity and economic vibrancy in underserved communities, and they are shaping a society that embraces inclusion for all. BMO is proud to celebrate their achievements in moving us all forward together.