Consumers urged to shop at Black-owned businesses on Black Friday

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Civic leaders in Chicago are urging people to shop at Black-owned businesses on Black Friday, part of a broader campaign to boost communities of color. 

The city partnered with the Chicago Urban League and local advertising agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul to create “Black Shop Friday,” an effort to reframe the annual shopping extravaganza to focus on racial equality. The campaign features a website that lists more than 500 Black-owned businesses people can patronize on Black Friday, which is on November 27. 

An influx of customers will hopefully bring “the investment dollars that are needed now more than ever,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement this week. 

The ad agency’s creative director, Aubrey Walker, said Black Shop Friday is about “asking people to add one Black-owned business to their shopping cart and buy something really dope that supports the Black business community.” 

A national push to support Black businesses began soon after George Floyd protests erupted in Minnesota. Small-business owners and activists took to social media with the #BuyBlack hashtag to spotlight different companies. From there, groups in Detroit, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York and other major cities created online directories showing where shoppers can support Black-owned businesses. 

The work is paying off, some entrepreneurs have said. “It’s great seeing people realize that where they shop can be another form of activism and that it’s a way to put your money where your mouth is,” said Randy Williams, founder of Talley & Twine, a watch company in Portsmouth, Virginia. “You’re helping Black businesses become self-sustaining, and that helps the whole ecosystem.”

The coronavirus pandemic has damaged retailers large and small, across all ethnic lines, but studies show that Black-owned businesses were hit particularly hard. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that small-business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22% between February and April, but Black ownership dropped 41% — the greatest decline among all racial groups. 

Jeff Tweedy staying busy during pandemic 04:27

Thousands of Black businesses have already closed for good and more could be shutting later this year. Part of struggle for Black businesses stems from their difficulty securing bank loans during the first wave of the pandemic. Many Black-owned businesses also reported being left out of the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal lending initiative geared to smaller employers.

“We know that Black-owned businesses have less access to capital and other resources needed to be successful,” Urban League CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson said in a statement. “Black Shop Friday is an important campaign to raise awareness of these challenges while also providing a mechanism for people who want to be intentional about supporting black businesses.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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