You may have heard of the importance of buying from Black-owned businesses in recent years, but did you know that the Buy Black movement has been a tool for uplifting Black communities since emancipation?
The history of Buying Black
Because of four centuries of institutional and systemic racism, there is a huge racial wealth gap in America. One study found that this gap has not improved at all in the past 70 years.
Governments have long failed to close this gap with reparations and so it has been down to Black communities to build and share wealth themselves.
In the time following emancipation, Black entrepreneurs built thriving barbershops, general stores, and funeral homes, according to a New York Times article by Anthonia Akitunde.
Across America, bustling “Black Wall Streets” sprung up, in places such as Tulsa, Okla., Richmond, Va., and Birmingham, Ala. The US’ first female self-made millionaire was a Black woman named Madam C. J Walker, who made her fortune through a cosmetics and hair care business marketed at Black women.
But, “incensed by their success and competition, white Americans laid waste to entire communities” with violence and predatory financial tactics, Akitunde writes.
Way up into the civil rights movement, in one of the final speeches before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized the importance of buying Black as political resistance, stating that “we’ve got to strengthen Black institutions.”
This sentiment is still true to this day
“Every time you spend your money, I would argue you’re voting,” Kristian Henderson, the founder of BLK + GRN, a marketplace in Washington, D.C., selling all-natural products made by black artisans, told Akitunde.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests in 2020, the Buy Black movement saw a resurgence. Yet some corporations used this as an opportunity to signal anti-racist sentiment but not actually commit financially.
In recent years, Black culture has set trends but has not seen profits. The most iconic Black hair care brands, such as Sta Sof Fro and Dark & Lovely, are now in the portfolios of Dutch-owned Unilever and French beauty giant L’Oréal, Maggie Anderson wrote in The Guardian.
Until the government or corporations deliver, it’s back to individual consumers to continue to buy Black. We’ve put together a list of resources you can use to find Black businesses, uplift your own business or career, and nurture your mental health along the way.
- byblack is American Express’ directory of Black-owned businesses.
- Buy From a Black Woman is a directory of Black woman owned businesses.
- BLK + GRN, the all-natural marketplace by all-Black artisans.
- BlackRestaurantWeek helps you discover Black-owned restaurants and culinary businesses in your community.
Some individual suggestions, from members of the Cleo team:
- Lee’s Flower Shop - Washington, DC
- Magnolia Yoga - New Orleans, LA
- Apartment 4 Lifestyle (Vintage and handcrafted home goods) - New Orleans, LA
- Naked Bar Soap Company (Soap and skin care) - Orlando, FL
- Mandela Marketplace (Worker-owned grocery cooperative) - Oakland, CA
- Rep Club, (Woman-owned concept bookshop and creative space) - Los Angeles, CA
- ONE School - a free online portfolio school for Black creatives
- Black Career Women’s Network - a professional career development organization that provides mentorship, networking opportunities, and classes
- I’mBlackInTech - a global membership organization for Black & Latinx founders of emerging startups
- SoGal’s Black founder startup grant - a grant for Black women and non-binary entrepreneurs.
- Black Girl Ventures – provides Black and Brown woman-identifying founders with access to community, capital, and capacity building.
- Bad Bitches Have Bad Days Too - Megan Thee Stallion’s mental health resource site
- Free Black Therapy - a nonprofit dedicated to finding and providing Black therapists
For more places to find free or cheap mental health support, check out our article on the subject.
Enjoy this post? Give it a share or send it along to a friend. You never know, it could make a big difference.
Big love. Cleo 💙