Each year, the nation takes the month of February to reflect on the endless contributions and achievements of African Americans. PNC also celebrates Black History Month, but its support for Black communities and institutions extends far beyond the month.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion is not new to PNC,” says Richard Bynum, chief corporate responsibility officer. “It has long been at the heart of how we run our business and has guided our efforts around economic empowerment.”
PNC’s relationships with national and neighborhood institutions captures one way the bank supports the preservation of Black history, while also providing invaluable education and hope for brighter futures.
A few PNC-supported community treasures shared their stories of how they are working to keep Black history and culture accessible to all.
Chicago, DuSable Museum of African American History
PNC and the DuSable Museum of African American History, the oldest independent African American history museum in the nation, have continued a relationship that spotlights the richness of Black history and culture.
DuSable recently celebrated its 60th year by kicking off a yearlong program, “Every Month is Black History Month," with the hopes of encouraging unlimited curiosity and learning that goes beyond February.
DuSable Museum President and CEO Perri Irmer believes education can help with the lack of empathy that is sometimes still displayed with regard for the historical impact on Black lives.
“In order to learn from the past, you have to open your eyes to all of the facts,” says Irmer. “Because Black history curriculum has been so minimized and written by others as opposed to those who have experienced it, we’re suffering the consequences of that lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding now. We haven’t had a complete education.”
To provide that education, the DuSable Museum has offered virtual tours, webcasts, remote learning opportunities and socially-distanced performances to ensure important stories are still being told.
PNC has helped enrich thought-provoking, socially-relevant experiences through more than $500,000 in philanthropic contributions to the museum as well as through advocacy.
PNC also has helped DuSable visitors of all ages experience “The March” a virtual remake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington.
“African American history and American history are inseparable, Irmer says. “You can’t unweave the cloth. You can’t tell one story without the other.”
Cleveland, Karamu House
For almost 106 years, Karamu House has supported the local community by activating its mission to produce professional theater, provide arts education and present community programs for all people while honoring the African American experience.
America’s oldest-producing Black theater, which was originally founded as a settlement house, is a community institution serving as a common ground for people of different racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
PNC has continued to show support over the years by sponsoring a theatre series and supporting its arts education program.
Tony F. Sias, president and CEO of Karamu House, also believes the African American experience is often misunderstood or left out of history entirely.
He says the PNC relationship gives Karamu the ability to serve more individuals in the community and to reach larger audiences for greater impact.
“When we understand who has been left out of the conversation and the consequences of their exclusion, we can draw a straight line toward solutions to include them moving forward. Thus, the preservation of true history advances racial equity for all,” Sias says.
Greater Washington, National Museum of African American History and Culture
In 2019, PNC donated $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a Smithsonian Institution museum that explores American history through the lens of the African American experience. The donation is designed to cover operational costs over five years, but for PNC, the partnership is much more meaningful.
“Given the relatively short life of the museum, its presence and reach is setting a new standard for meeting the deep demand to reconcile American history with the realities that have faced the American people," Bynum, who also serves on the corporate council for the museum.
NMAAHC’s Talking about Race initiative, a portal dedicated to providing tools and guidance to inspire conversations about race, gives parents, educators and others a foundation to learn, reflect and move forward.
The museum also has been documenting the marches and rallies that shaped the country’s discourse around racial justice, leading courageous conversations through virtual summits and placing the recent historic election year in the greater historical context of the struggle for voting rights and political representation.
Creating a better future through education
Bynum believes the museums and community institutions that PNC supports provide a lens to evaluate issues that will shape or inform the future – a future that has long been a focus for PNC employees, the communities it serves and shareholders.
“Whatever your background, whatever your ethnicity, this is an American story about people who have persevered through trials and hardships and whose story has become, in many cases, the culture of America," says Bynum.
Black History & Heritage
Learn how PNC celebrates historical Black achievements and culture.