BY DYLAN HAASJUN 18, 2020
The fight for racial equality must be heard. Amplify is our series devoted to raising awareness, spotlighting issues, and taking action.
It’s a term that has been made most prominent by Ibram X. Kendi, an author and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, and there are a lot of different facets to the concept. By and large, it’s about tearing down the racist ideas — and the policies that protect those ideas — that have been actively stymying the growth of Black America throughout the country’s history. In Kendi’s best-selling book, How to Be an Antiracist, he writes, “When racist ideas resound, denials that those ideas are racist typically follow.”
Part of tearing down those impeding policies, specifically in an economic sense, is actually putting your money where your mouth is. That means instead of getting all of your goods through Amazon and other big-name retailers, you should try to spend your money at Black-owned businesses; preferably local ones.
The importance of supporting Black-owned businesses
Tayo and Cynthia Gordy Giwa are the husband-and-wife team behind , a digital publication that is dedicated to spotlighting the many Black-owned businesses within the NYC borough as a form of hyperlocal service journalism. In an email interview with Mashable, the two discussed the importance of shopping at Black-owned businesses, and how it is a powerful form of allyship.
“Supporting Black businesses also means supporting Black communities, as they are usually more than just places that offer goods and services,” Tayo said. “They are community spaces for meeting and connection. They are cultural hubs and platforms for local artists. They provide programs and resources that the community needs. Especially given these multifunctional roles, strengthening Black businesses helps strengthen our communities.”
“This is a time to be intentional about strengthening Black businesses and other institutions, and it’s a simple thing anyone can do.” –
The reality is that Black Americans are not afforded the same opportunities as white people, especially when it comes to economic success and career opportunities. According to a report from Business Insider in February of this year, only four of the current Fortune 500 CEOs are Black. None of those four are Black women, either, who face an even larger set of challenges in the workplace than their white male counterparts. For example, in 2018 it was reported that Black women earned only 61 cents for every dollar earned by white men, amounting to $23,653 less in total earnings over the year. Additionally, women of color are more likely than any other group to experience workplace harassment, according to a 2006 survey from five large U.S companies.
is a young Black fashion designer from California who has been making waves on the internet with her eye-catching designs and unique implementation of 3D printing in her work. When we spoke to her over the phone, Oshun shared that the unique challenge of trying to get a loan while being Black is another way that Black people are gatekept from success.
“I’ve been struggling to get actual money support from banks and things like that. It’s known that we get denied way more than anyone else for business ventures.”
White people are systematically given opportunities to hold more jobs and economic capital in general, as well as the ability to enjoy generational wealth where many Black Americans don’t get to. A 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances from the Federal Reserve showed that Black families have only 10 cents for every dollar held by typical white families, and one 2017 study concluded that (of the sample size that participated) 56% of Black Americans experienced discrimination at least once when applying to a job, and 57% experienced discrimination when it came to being paid equally or being considered for a promotion.
There’s also the ongoing issue of the gentrification of Black neighborhoods, which often includes pushing out Black residents, businesses, and culture. A 2019 study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that from 2000 to 2013, at least 135,000 Black and Hispanic residents were affected by gentrification negatively, including displacement, in big cities and small communities across the country.
“Black-owned businesses often need more support,” Tayo Giwa said. “For example, we’re also living through a global pandemic, which has disproportionately affected small Black-owned businesses.”
According to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “the number of African-American business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April,” — that translates to about 41% of Black-owned businesses in the U.S. going under in the wake of COVID-19.
By diverting your purchasing power to more Black-owned businesses, you’re not only helping to strengthen local Black economies — it can also contribute to shrinking the racial wealth gap, foster more job creation for Black people, and help to hold larger companies accountable in regard to diverse representation. But make no mistake, this only happens if Black-owned businesses are supported on a wider scale, not just by a few people.
“Business owners frequently tell us that our write-ups have made a noticeable difference in their bottom line,” Cynthia of said. “Just last weekend, a restauranteur we recently featured told us he was on the verge of shutting down until a rush of new customers came after our story.”
Another obstacle that many independent Black business owners face is a disproportionate amount of scrutiny compared to other entrepreneurs.
“The lack of respect that people have for Black-owned businesses; it makes you not even want to label yourself as such, because you don’t know how people are going to treat you,” Oshun said.
In Oshun’s experience, “People don’t have the same patience [for Black business owners]. People even see things as ‘overpriced’ because you’re a Black business and that is really frustrating.”
The perceived value of Black-owned businesses among investors is also a hurdle that many struggle to vault. Too many don’t see merit in Black companies or Black ideas, even more so when it comes to products made by Black people for Black people. It’s viewed as a niche market, even though the Black population of America sits at almost 44 million according to the latest .
One 2015 study concluded thatwhite entrepreneurs already benefit from consumer perceptions that their ventures are legitimate — their ability to perform is not really questioned in the same way as Black entrepreneurs. And in 2018, the Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy reported that Black entrepreneurs are more likely to rely on credit cards and personal savings rather than outside investors to get their businesses funded. You can see these exact issues displayed on prime time television when Black-owned haircare brand , or more recently on Twitter when a white landlord after they participated in a Black Lives Matter protest.
In terms of shopping Black-owned being a form of allyship, Cynthia Gordy Giwa offers a resounding “Yes.”
“A lot of our white readers think critically about the impact of their presence as gentrifiers in a changing neighborhood,” she said. “Many have told us that they’ve used our site to not only make conscious decisions about where they spend their money, but also to participate in and engage with the local culture and community. We’re proud to have created a resource that makes it easy for folks to be better neighbors and community members.”
WATCH: Want to donate to help the Black Lives Matter movement? Here’s how.
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How do I find Black-owned businesses to support?
It’s really not all that difficult. Shami Oshun offered a simple and direct method that we can all get behind: “I think that the struggle right now is that a lot of Black people are just tired. So yeah, we’re like ‘Please just use the internet.’”
If you were expecting a more complicated answer, there really isn’t one — just hop on Google. To get you started, we compiled a list with help from Oshun that is outlined below:
- : This website and mobile app helps you find Black-owned businesses from all over the country.
- : This database is dedicated to the many Black-owned bookstores across America.
- : The EatOkra app is great for specifically finding Black-owned restaurants and food services.
- : Useful for finding smaller, independent Black-owned shops to support. Start off by following some hashtags: , , .
More websites, apps, and databases meant for finding Black-owned businesses:
An important note: Make sure that you continue to support these businesses well past a time of organized protests and social media fervor. Don’t just buy one thing, congratulate yourself, and head straight back into the clutches of Jeff Bezos.
Oshun touched on this as well, noting increased support from those who never paid her much mind before.
“It’s been interesting to see the accounts that share my work because, I swear, these are people that didn’t know I existed. And now, all of a sudden they know I exist and they’re calling me one of their favorite Black-owned businesses. And I’m like, ‘What? I’ve never even seen your name before.’”
“Are you going to continue supporting in a few months? Are you going to keep denying us opportunities?” –
In just the past few weeks, Oshun has seen an almost 3,000 follower jump on her Instagram account, and the number keeps growing (the count has assuredly gotten even bigger since the time of writing). She’s noticed that this has been happening to fellow Black creators as well, and hopes that this isn’t just a “moment,” but rather, a shift to a more continued appreciation for Black-owned businesses.
“I’ve been talking to my other Black creative friends — writers, photographers, etcetera — and those people are also experiencing a spike in attention. Even people that ignored them are coming back into the picture and saying ‘Oh hey, now we want to work with you,’ and it’s just like… What are we doing about that? Are you going to continue supporting in a few months? Are you going to keep denying us opportunities?”
Tayo Giwa echoes this sentiment.
“It’s important to support Black-owned businesses year-round, but the increased focus on supporting Black-owned businesses now is a meaningful form of economic protest,” Giwa says.
As a response to the systematic oppression of Black people, he says that “it is an act of collective power to steer our dollars towards local businesses that are vested in our community. This is a time to be intentional about strengthening Black businesses and other institutions, and it’s a simple thing anyone can do.”
While it’s impossible to list them all — remember, that’s what Google is for — here are some Black-owned businesses you can start supporting right away:
Apparel and accessories:
- Shami Oshun
- BLK MKT Vintage
- The BK Circus
- Brother Vellies
- Nude Barre
- Tree Fairfax
- Wales Bonner
- NANDI NAYA
- Onion Cut & Sewn
- Orange Culture
- Sincerely, Tommy
- Coco and Breezy
- Michel Men
- Phenomenal Woman
- Beauty Bakerie
- BeautyStat Cosmetics
- Briogeo Hair Care
- The Honey Pot Company
- Pat McGrath Labs
- Beneath Your Mask
- Black Girl Sunscreen
- Mented Cosmetics
- Pattern Beauty
- CANY x PAINTS
- Kush and Cute
- Hanahana Beauty
- Haus Urban
- Oui the People
- Aba Love Apothecary
- Naturall Club
- Hair Rules
- Luv Scrub
- The Established
- Buttah Skin
- Sunday II Sunday
- The Lit. Bar
- Frugal Bookstore
- Harriet’s Bookshop
- Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery
- Mahogany Books
- Momo’s Book Club
- Sistah Scifi
- Cafe Con Libros
- DTR 360 Books
- Detroit Book City
- The Million Year Picnic
- Beyond Barcodes Bookstore
- Frontline Books
- Black Dot Cultural Center & Bookstore
- For Keeps
- Dare Books
- The Key Bookstore
- Underground Books
- Grassrootz Bookstore
- Fulton Street Books & Coffee
Fitness and health
Food and beverages
- Red Bay Coffee
- Sol Sips
- Brooklyn Tea
- Maison Noir Wines
- The Sip
- Sol Cacao
- The Bergen
- DaleView Biscuits and Beer
- Lakou Cafe
- ZuriLee Pizza Bar
- Bloom & Plume Coffee
- Partake Foods
- Bolé Road Textiles
- xN Studio
- RITUALS + CEREMONY
- Wildfang Home
- Nymavu Apothecary
- Oat Cinnamon
- Bright Black
- Vela Bougie
- Nice Scent Candle Co.
- Harlem Candle Company
- Taylor Infused
- LIT Brooklyn
- Posh Candle Co.
- Robert Lugo Studio
- Black Pepper Paperie Co.
- Natty Garden
- Sheila Bridges Design
- Kintsugi Cando Co.
- Reparations Club
- Bold Xchange
- Entrepreneurs Color Too
- Inclusive Randomness
- Custom Collaborative
- Neighborhood Fiber
Still looking for more ideas? Offers.com (which is owned by Mashable’s parent company, Ziff Davis) has plenty of suggestions for how you can put your dollars toward Black-owned businesses.TOPICS: ACTIVISM, BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES, ETHICAL-SHOPPING, OTHER, RACIAL JUSTICE, SOCIAL GOODAmplify
Anti-racist training is suddenly in demand. Here’s how to make sure it leads to real change.
BY REBECCA RUIZ2020-06-23 09:30:00 UTC
The fight for racial equality must be heard. Amplify is our series devoted to raising awareness, spotlighting issues, and taking action.
Two months into the coronavirus pandemic Matthew Kincaid began to wonder what would become of his small consulting firm, Overcoming Racism, which teaches workplaces and schools across the U.S. how to become anti-racist.
Business for the New Orleans firm, which employs two full-time staffers and Kincaid as the CEO, cratered as companies and schools canceled workshops. Some put off training because it couldn’t be held in person. Kincaid, a passionate speaker known for making a nervous room comfortable, is a big draw. Others, however, cited budget cuts, and Kincaid thought it was telling that anti-racism training was among the first line items slashed.
Kincaid, who’d put aside thousands of dollars as a rainy day fund, continued paying his staff. He applied for a government loan for businesses impacted by the coronavirus, but didn’t initially receive funding, like the vast majority of Black small business owners. So Kincaid settled into the idea of working only with dedicated clients while creating digital educational content that could be shared with the public. Then George Floyd died and the nation poured into the streets.
White people began publicly reckoning with their role in perpetuating racism. Suddenly the unlikeliest of allies proclaimed that Black lives matter. Roger Goodell, who as commissioner of the National Football League spent years punishing former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling on the field, admitted in a video that the league wrongfully ignored players who silently protested police violence against Black people. He ended by declaring, “We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter.”
“I’m nervous because I don’t want this bubble to pop.”
Evidence of an overnight shift in public opinion showed up in Kincaid’s inbox, too. By the beginning of June, Kincaid had received dozens of inquiries about bringing training to various workplaces, including technology firms, national nonprofit organizations, small schools, and even a clothing company.
Kincaid isn’t alone. In early June, the CEO of Awaken, an Oakland firm that offers workshops on diversity, equity, and inclusion [DEI] in the workplace, wrote on Medium that the company had received a “record number” of requests and that other educators and consultancies had seen a similar increase.
In an effort to send inquiries to Black-owned consulting businesses and firms, Awaken created a spreadsheet of more than 300 such groups that provide DEI services. Overcoming Racism is among those listed.
As major companies like Apple and Google commit hundreds of millions of dollars to racial justice initiatives and say they are examining internal practices that disadvantage or marginalize Black employees, Kincaid is hopeful that this moment will lead to transformational change. Yet he’s prepared for the possibility that people and companies currently interested in anti-racism will abandon it once they feel like the box has been checked, or realize the work requires long-term action as well as sacrifice.
“I’m not excited right now,” he says. “You would think most businesses out there, if you have this type of thing, it would be amazing. I’m nervous because I don’t want this bubble to pop.”
Making real change in the workplace
The swift reversal in Overcoming Racism’s fortunes stunned Kincaid. He’d been deep into processing the lived experience of Black Americans during the pandemic: first, dying disproportionately of COVID-19, and then feeling compelled by tragedy to march in the streets for basic human rights. In short, an exhausted Kincaid, who spoke about his grief in a widely shared Instagram video, had to abruptly rebound from despair.
“I’ve been protesting, and this [anti-racism] work has taken a significant emotional toll on me,” says Kincaid. “It’s hard to navigate this emotionally. Now people want immediacy and urgency.”
Valerie Williams, founder and managing partner of the DEI consulting firm Converge, says inquiries for her services increased from a handful per week to around 30 in just a few weeks.
Williams, who is Black, is skeptical about what will happen once the surge subsides. She wonders what exactly people will do to make workplaces equitable now that they’re recognizing their privilege. Williams is particularly concerned about company leaders who publicly acknowledge the problem but resist ceding some of their leadership power to Black employees who can best identify unfair and discriminatory practices, and forge a new path forward.
“The thing I’ve noticed is that white privilege is still showing up in this moment.”
“The thing I’ve noticed is that white privilege is still showing up in this moment,” she says. “You have to co-create and you have to let your Black employees lead you on this, and sit back and listen.”
Both Williams and Kincaid urge their clients to spend years engaged in transforming their workplaces. Without changes that address systemic inequality, white employees may mistake “performative allyship,” like company statements and marketing campaigns, as workplace equality, and DEI efforts may be seen as expendable and short-lived.
Marilyn Booker, who is Black and the former diversity chief for Morgan Stanley, offered a searing reminder of that last week when she sued the bank for racial discrimination and retaliation. Booker says she was fired in December after advocating for a program to support Black financial advisors.
“My story is the same story as those of many Black people on Wall Street,” she told the New York Times. “Our fate has been tied to the goodness of whatever white person is in charge. That is no way to have a career.”
Williams has urged decision makers to go beyond making a donation or statement and start looking at how their organization builds Black wealth, whether it has an inclusive and representative board and leadership team, and whether they’re developing culturally relevant products and services, among other steps.
Williams, who held DEI roles at Airbnb and Stripe, works with early-stage startups and facilitates 60- to 90-minute “courageous conversations” about equity in the workplace. She makes clear to companies that they must pursue a long-term strategy, even if it’s not with her as their consultant. Williams’ conversation is the beginning of a multi-stage effort.
An audit of policies and procedures assesses things like hiring practices, performance management structure, salary, and a company’s code of conduct for signs of bias and racism. If, for example, a company enforces a dress code that reinforces stereotypes of white professionalism (think prohibiting dreadlocks or culturally specific attire), then it is building a racist culture. In subsequent phases, Williams focuses on generating feedback and implementing the DEI strategy.
Williams began her career in DEI helping larger organizations undo years of policies that marginalized or worked against Black and other underrepresented employees. She founded her firm last October to help startups avoid making those critical mistakes in the first place.
Making good on the promise of this moment
Kincaid warns workshop participants that his training isn’t like any other they might have previously attended. White people often believe that if a workplace can assemble enough diverse people in a room and get them to like each other — what Kincaid calls the “kumbaya” approach — that will eliminate racist systems and policies.
Kincaid says that in an effective anti-racist workplace equity is both a verb, or something you can do, as well as a “state of being.” In a truly equitable workplace, Kincaid says you can no longer predict certain outcomes for people, like their salary or career trajectory, based on which marginalized group they belong to. Leadership listens to all staff, particularly women of color whose voices are often heard the least. The company critically analyzes its hiring practices and doesn’t defend its record by arguing that the pipeline has no diverse candidates.
Like Williams, Kincaid starts with a candid dialogue.
“A professional reality of the work I do is I kind of have to tell the truth and stare ugly in the face.”
“A professional reality of the work I do is I kind of have to tell the truth and stare ugly in the face,” he says.
Haley Simonton-Bonilla, school leader at KIPP Dream Prep, a public charter school in Houston, met Kincaid three years ago when searching for staff training that would ultimately foster an environment in which students learned “how to dismantle and navigate oppressive systems.” (Kincaid previously taught at KIPP schools.) The staff is 37 percent Black, 44 percent Hispanic, and 19 percent white. The nearly 900 students are predominantly Hispanic. About 12 percent are Black.
The first stage of Kincaid’s training focused on the teachers’ racial identity and socialization, how those dynamics positively or negatively impact students, and the historical context of racism in the U.S.
“It was a straight-up history lesson,” says Simonton-Bonilla, who is white. “There was lots of tears, emotions, heated conversations.”
That laid the foundation for staff to talk openly about race with each other. Since then, Kincaid has helped the school evaluate how bias can play out in the classroom. He’s also offered feedback as Simonton-Bonilla changed its grading policy to provide both a letter grade, which is required by the state of Texas, and another metric called a “learning landscape.” That’s meant to be an equitable alternative to traditional grading, which often penalizes students of color, by providing parents with key information about their child’s educational achievements and growth throughout the year. Even so, Simonton-Bonilla doesn’t believe they’ve developed a fully just grading system yet.
“It takes years and you’re never there,” Simonton-Bonilla says, noting that progress requires re-imagining a society and educational system founded on social justice, equity, and anti-racism, not oppression.
Kincaid knows this well. It’s why he’s cautious about what comes next.
For Black people watching this groundswell of support for Black Lives Matter, who are daring to envision a safer, equitable future for their children, a betrayal of this moment’s promise would be beyond devastating, says Kincaid.
He wants white people eager to transform society, starting with their workplaces, to understand change won’t come easy, or without sacrifices.
“If you’re white and you’re joining the battle, do it for you, do it for your children so they don’t have to carry the heavy burden of being a suppressor,” he says. “This fight is a fight for your soul. This fight is a fight for your country.”
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