Black business, artistry, ingenuity, and excellence have propelled America forward since before America even existed. So why, in the middle of a pandemic and what is turning out to be one of the country’s worst ever economic downturns, should the Black community and communities of color experience the greatest loss? It is well-documented that economic inequality was approaching new levels prior to the Great Lockdown, as it was before the 2008 Financial Crisis and other similar crises throughout modern economic history. Within this paradigm, those with the most to lose — Black and Brown communities with only a fraction of the generational wealth of whites — incur the most risk from economic downturn, while those who arguably contribute most to precarious financial situations (banks and predatory lenders) get off scot free. Replacing such entanglement with financial empowerment is the focus of Black Business Month.
You can find a previous roundup of Black businesses on our website here.
Financial crises like 2008 and our current depression exacerbate economic inequality across the board, but a double-jeopardy system of economic disenfranchisement and racist vilification means that the deleterious effects are realized tenfold upon Black communities and communities of color, who are often branded simply too “lazy” or “unprofessional” to escape a labyrinth purposefully designed to be inescapable.
Home ownership rates offer one illustration of this entanglement: “when baby boomers hit a median age of 35 in 1990, they owned nearly one-third of American real estate by value. In 2019, the millennial generation, at a median age of 31, owned just 4 percent.” This decline occurs alongside declining Black home ownership: 63.9 percent of Americans owned a home in 2017, with white home ownership rates going up slightly from the previous year to 72.9 percent. When Black home ownership rates fell to 43 that same year, the new racial gap in home ownership was the biggest in 50 years. Black homeowners are denied mortgages twice as often as white homeowners.
From a business-specific perspective, Black- and minority-owned small businesses in the United States face a similar uphill battle in securing loans. Black Americans historically have frayed or nonexistent relationships with banking institutions that primarily serve white customers. This disconnect is a legacy of racist policies like redlining, in which financial leaders literally took out a map and drew borders around neighborhoods they would agree not to lend to.
Even though minority-owned businesses grew by 79% between 2007 and 2017, offering hope for a more hyper-local and scaled-down economy, banks remain unwilling to help them during the pandemic. The NFIB, the largest small business association in the country, estimates that 64 percent of all small businesses received PPP loans from the Cares Act — while only a staggering 8 percent of Black-owned small businesses received the full amount of aid they requested.
Yet mainstream America gladly consumes Black music (according to Nielsen, hip-hop and R&B are officially the most popular genres nationally as of 2017), sports that are championed by Black athletes (who are sometimes told to “shut up and dribble”), and generally enjoy the comfort of financial system of debtors and creditors that was largely pioneered by the sale of slave-backed bonds. If you want to learn more about the history of exploitative racial capitalism in America, we highly recommend listening to the second episode of the New York Times’ 1619 Podcast, “The Economy That Slavery Built.”
Basically, the value Black people’s labor — starting with cotton production by enslaved people — has constantly been repackaged into financial assets and traded, creating value that never flows back into the communities whence it came. This is exactly how minority-owned small businesses can boom and bolster our economy without enjoying their own wealth or staying power.
At Passion Passport, we believe it is incredibly important to share Black businesses across social media and increase the visibility of Black excellence and entrepreneurship. Institutional change cannot happen without individual change — but institutional change is what it will take to reverse many of the racist trends and discrepancies outlined above. “It’s not just going to be people on social media donating $5, $10, or ordering takeout from the restaurants,” says Jacob Robbins, assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “We need something from the city. We need something from the state.”
“As we’ve gone through this time, we are here today to remind the world that Black businesses – there will be no justice and no peace without access to fair banking practices. There will be no justice and no peace without contract opportunities – we don’t want just token opportunities. There will be no justice and no peace without access to union jobs,” said Melinda Kelly of the Chatham Business Association.
Every week from this Black Business Month on, Passion Passport will share more information on how to access and support Black businesses in your community and beyond, whether they offer coffee delivered to your doorstep or the next great book you’ll read.
Lists and Aggregators
The best place to start off is with sites and projects that are providing a platform for Black business owners, and our favorite of late is The Nile List. Their tagline, “We Know Someone Black Who Makes that!” tells you all you need to know — they have an awesome search function that matches you with vendors and business owners selling anything you might need. Any Black business owner can sign up to list their business on the site, complete with all the details on their products and how to get in touch with them. Whether you want to find a business to support in your community or want to spread love by sending your money all over the country, The Nile List lets you do that. You should also sign up for their newsletter to get discounts, to read features on their favorite businesses, and read some (non-spammy) Black dopeness, from their blog, “Dope Black Things.”
I found out about The Nile List through a viral Instagram post from We Build Black, a community of Black technologists with a number of amazing initiatives based on engaging and enfranchising the community, bringing Black tech workers together to share knowledge and network, and cultivating technological literacy amongst the population in the court system. You can sign up to the newsletter to hear about new blog posts and projects, apply to volunteer, or donate to affirm Black power in the tech business. If you work on behalf of a corporation or an entity with the resources to provide sponsorship, even better.
A group coordinating California’s Black Business Month has launched a blog called “31 Ways in 31 Days,” highlighting a new way every day to support Black businesses. “Use our daily guidance to change the paradigm in your community and reach out to that industry sector,” they charge. “We’ve been here before. Outmatched and outnumbered. But the Black freedom struggle has been powered by Black owned businesses and workers who insisted on value for their labor.” Championing the movement to support Black-owned restaurants and food businesses during the pandemic, they also put together a list of directories for cities across the country that will be included in the bulleted list below.
- San Francisco Bay Area Black Restaurants
- We Buy Black
- Nashville Black Restaurants
- Atlanta Black Business Directory
- Los Angeles: 200 Black-Owned Food Businesses
- Black-owned Houston Restaurants
- EatOkra – directory app for Black-owned food businesses
- Directory of African-American grocery stores and farmer’s markets
- Black-owned wine and spirits, delivered from around the world
- Black-owned restaurants in New Jersey
- Black-owned restaurants in NYC
- Black-owned eateries across the 5 NY Boroughs
- Restaurants, clothes, and beauty shops in Chicago
- Black-owned vegan food in Orlando, FL
- Black-owned restaurants in Memphis, TN
- Black-owned restaurants in Austin, TX
- Black-owned restaurants in Mobile, AL
- Restaurants, coffee, bakeries in Portland, OR
- Black-owned businesses in Seattle, WA
Selected Instagram Accounts
- Black-Owned Brooklyn
- We Build Black
- The Nile List
- Buy from BIPOC
- Mylifeasdesire – photographer
- Kgomotso_neto – photographer
- Ivanstamba – photographer
- Qthecaptain – photographer
- Semaj Thomas – photographer selling prints
- Kennedi Carter – photographer
- ForAfricans – African visual collective, curated for Africans by Africans
- Black Owned Everything
- Shauna Wade – travel/lifestyle/street photographer
- Brian McIntosh – travel photographer and blogger
- Zenzele Ojore – Super8 film artist
- Kwame Onwuachi – James Beard award-winning chef
Other Assorted Businesses/Links
- Harriet’s Bookshop is a Black woman-owned Philadelphia store celebrating women authors, artists, and activists.
- A directory of Black-owned businesses (including African businesses) put together by Beyonce and partners from Black Owned Everything.
- Semicolon Bookstore is the only bookshop in Chicago owned by a Black woman.
- Not So Urban Coffee Roasters is a small batch micro roaster in Charleston, South Carolina, ethically and sustainably sourcing coffee from Africa, Central/South America, and Asia. They deliver worldwide via the USPS.
- Red Bay Coffee Roasters was started in the SF Bay Area in 2014 by artist and food entrepreneur Keba Konte, with the idea that high-quality coffee production could be a vehicle for sustainability, diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, and entrepreneurship.
- Aya Paper Co. is a Black woman-owned stationery company selling paper products made of 100% recycled materials, so you can stay in touch with the ones you love or old traveling companions in a meaningful, guilt-free way. They sell cards for all holidays and occasions, too!
- Adjourn Tea House is a Black woman-owned teahouse that offers all-natural, hand-blended full leaf teas that are packed-to-order with expertise and care.
- BLK+GRN is your one-stop shop for Black artisan products that are all-natural and non-toxic.
- Oma The Label is an NYC fashion and accessory house “at the corner of sexy and sweet,” shipping worldwide.
- SustainAble Homegoods curates a collection of ethical and fair-trade homewares from local and global artisans.
- NoirBnB lists accommodations that prioritize and protect Black people’s freedom when traveling.
- A national directory of Black-owned independent bookstores.
- A comprehensive mutual fund for rebuilding and re-establishing Black businesses.
- Official Black Wall Street, directory for Black-owned businesses
- A list of Black-owned makeup, skincare, hair and fashion brands
Do you have a favorite Black-owned business we didn’t list here? Tell us about it on Twitter!