Aurora James Has A Plan to Support Black-Owned Businesses In The Long Run

As ongoing police brutality protests continue around the world, fashion and beauty companies are finally lending a helping hand - whether its through donations to anti-racism organizations or promoting Black creators through their platforms or spreading awareness about educational resources available online and offline. 

Nonetheless, what can one do to ensure these efforts aren’t quickly forgotten, in order to support Black-owned businesses in the long run?

On Saturday, Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, took it to Instagram to share her idea: "OK, here is one thing you can do for us...," a handwritten graphic read. The caption called on Whole Foods, Target, Medmen, Walmart, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Net-a-Porter, Barnes and Noble and Home Depot to "commit to buying 15% of your products from Black-owned businesses."

"So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds," James continued in her post. "This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space." She named it the 15 Percent Pledge. 

Striving to generate one million signatures, James is asking major retailers – which have the power to help black-owned businesses not just survive but thrive – to #buyblack. 

She envisions the 15 Percent Pledge as an initiative that’s not just good for Black businesses but beneficial for the corporations willing to stand with it. In point of fact, as a 2018 retail study by global communications marketing firm Edelman demonstrated, nearly two-thirds of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue. And as demonstrated lately, consumers are now more than ever demanding more than tepid statements from the brands they once shopped from. 

Some retailers like Rent the Runway, are taking notice and making commitments. On Tuesday, the company said it would join the 15 Percent Pledge and work towards ensuring that at least 15% of the talent the company features and hires is Black. The company also declared it would earmark $1,000,000 to support Black-owned brands through wholesale, platform and co-manufacturing initiatives.

However, at the moment, James’ focus is to grow 15 Percent Pledge's network. Whoever may want to sign the petition online can do that on 15 Percent Pledge’s website or US-based individuals can also text "PLEDGE" to 917-540-8148; once they do, they'll receive updates from the 15 Percent Pledge about the companies that have signed on, Black-owned businesses and future events. Supporters can also follow its Instagram page.


Photo: Kyle Knodell

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