In the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery’s deaths, there has been a necessary surge in the Black Lives Matter movement forcing the nation to pause and reflect on the many different institutions that have oppressed Black people in America. My generation, the digital generation, wants to see brands respond to political and social turmoil and look inward at their own practices — not just to demonstrate their dedication to social responsibility, but also to signal their recognition of black-owned businesses & black culture that has heavily influenced many leading designers.
While many industry giants have spoken out about their failings in the past and have donated to different organizations supporting Black-owned businesses there is still much more room for improvement. This week the racial reckoning in women’s media sites has led to the resignations of two prominent female CEOs: Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Audrey Gelman of the Wing.
Being an Ally for Black Owned Businesses
The conversation about discrimination in the workplace is just getting started. I, for one, do not pretend to know how to be the best ally all the time or know exactly what to do to show my support but I do know that today it is not enough to not be racist, you must be anti-racist. In order for individuals and companies to survive these changes in attitude, they must be actively anti-racist as a new generation of shoppers will withhold their consumption from companies that do not adopt more egalitarian values.
What I have learned in the past couple of weeks, is that the most important thing a company can do is act. As someone who cares deeply about shaping a better world, I’ve learned that the best way for me to create change is to invest in Black-owned businesses when I can and continue to share the stories of Black entrepreneurs and creatives that inspire me. I recognize that I have grown up with immense privilege as a white, able-bodied cis-gendered female but for that reason, I will use my voice for good. Thus, I have decided that my personal website will serve not only as a record of my journey working in the Fashion and Lifestyle industries but also as a space that marks the growth of my commitment to the BLM movement and other causes near to my heart.
One way brands can show consumers that they are making a real commitment to the causes they say they promote is by accepting Aurora James’s challenge to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses/brands. James, the founder of sustainable accessories brand Brother Vellies, came up with the idea for her charity as people in the industry continued to ask her how to show their support. She reasons that 15% represents the 15% of the population made up of Black people. While this is just a drop in the bucket, it is a great way to drive the conversation forward about how to invest in Black communities.
The first retailer to rise to the occasion was Sephora. An article published in June by VOGUE explains that “James and Sephora have established a long-term commitment that will bring Black-owned beauty brands into Sephora’s stores and hold the retailer accountable for its pledge. [James adds] ‘Part of why I created the 15% Pledge as an organization after I announced it as an idea was so that we could continue to stick around and actually hold them accountable and work with them in getting over the hiccups and the hangups that could come along the way. I’ve also committed to being a resource to some of these businesses to help them execute in a meaningful way.’” (VOGUE, 2020) In other words, it is so important that Sephora took the pledge because it shows other industry leaders how seriously they should be reflecting on the diversity and inclusion of their own companies.
New Lum Challenge
In support of Aurora James and all other Black entrepreneurs, I would like to challenge New Lum to pledge 15% of its gifting to Black creators. I got this idea from Danielle Bernstein of We Wore What who suggested this alternative for small brands on her page and I think that it would be a great way for New Lum to show its solidarity to the movement. Ultimately, I hope that together we can foster an environment where there is an open dialogue about race, diversity, and inclusion as we build the New Lum brand and set out to shape a better world.