According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 15% of Americans are Black. That’s nearly 50 million people. So here’s a radical idea: let’s aim for at least a proportional representation of Black-owned businesses in the stores we shop at every day. Can we all agree on the utter sensibility of this plan?
Aurora James, fashion designer and founder of the label Brother Vellies, has created the 15% Pledge, a mission that calls on major retailers—Whole Foods, Target, and Sephora among them—to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. There’s a petition on the 15% Pledge website that you can sign in support of the mission; “This is your opportunity to collectively put $14.5B back into Black communities,” 15percentpledge.org reminds us.
Both the organization’s website and Instagram account provide illuminating statistics to help us reshape our thinking around major retailers and how they choose which suppliers to contract with. Example: Only 1% of Black business owners receive a bank loan in their first year.
“Whole Foods if you were to sign on to this pledge, it could immediately drive much needed support to Black farmers,” James wrote in a May 29 Instagram post detailing her mission. “Banks will be forced to take them seriously because they will be walking in with major purchase orders from Whole Foods. Investors for the very first time will start actively seeking them out. Small businesses can turn into bigger ones. Real investment will start happening in Black businesses which will subsequently be paid forward into our Black communities.”
Many people have already pointed out that we can use this galvanizing national moment to reassess our relationship to services like Amazon. The same is true of everywhere else we spend our money, too: Where are the products coming from, and where are the profits going?