As protests continue across the country following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more, the nation is grappling with its long history of systemic racism. And as various industries make public promises to "do better," one Black creative has created a simple way to pledge better support to the Black community.
Aurora James, designer and creative director of Brother Vellies, took to Instagram this week to ask big-box stores to invest 15% of their shelf space in-store and online to Black-owned brands. The request, she points out, is a direct reflection of America at large.
Black-Owned Businesses are the heart and soul of our communities and they are closing right before our eyes at a rapid pace. They are the most vulnerable and have received the least amount of economic support. All while businesses like @wholefoods @target @walmart thrive. Economic Equality means enacting real change. Taking the @15percentpledge is ONE thing retailers can do to help • . I am calling on businesses of all sorts and consumers to look at this economic pledge in 3 parts: . 1) Auditing and taking stock of where you are at. Look at your existing shelves, hangers, boardrooms and receipts. How many Black-Owned businesses are you buying? How many Black Women are in your C-Suite? Do that work. . 2) Take ownership of where you’re at - ideally publicly. Maybe only 2% of your staff is black, 1% of your content, whatever it is just own it. Accept it. Take accountability. . 3) Commit to growth. What is your strategy to get to a minimum of 15% and how do you plan to be held accountable? . I am not saying this is easy. I’m saying this is necessary. #15percentpledge . Graphic by @monachalabi @15percentpledge
A post shared by Aurora James 🦢 (@aurorajames) on Jun 2, 2020 at 4:20pm PDT
"We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space," James wrote in her caption.
James tagged a series of larger retailers in her original post, but since the post has gone viral, fans have been doing their own research to calculate and call out other stores who have failed to stock Black brands. The movement has since grown enough that James created a separate Instagram account for the 15 Percent Pledge that highlights the disparity in business loans, wages, and the long-term effects of the pandemic on Black-owned businesses.
It’s the first step. It’s a big one, but anyone can take it. And it’s something you can do right away. Is your company promoting black businesses? What about black leadership? Does your advertising show black faces? Do your shelves offer customers the option to buy from black-owned businesses? When you hire illustrators, photographers and designers, do you include black talent? Within every business model there’s opportunity to apply the #15percentpledge in a variety of ways and the first step is to take stock of where you are now. Even if your current representation is 1%, that realization is meaningful and will give you the power to start to make change. Take the first step today and tag a business you love that needs to do the same. . . . #supportblackbusiness #buyblack #blacklivesmatter
A post shared by 15 Percent Pledge (@15percentpledge) on Jun 4, 2020 at 11:19am PDT
Those who support the pledge can contact retailers asking for better representation in their stock, sign the petition, and take the pledge themselves. You don't need to be a big business to make Black-owned businesses a part of your regular spending habits, either: Use your own personal platform to spread awareness of these issues and encourage the places you shop to do the same. Find out more about the 15 Percent Pledge here.
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