Over the past week, people across the United States and the world at large have been forcefully protesting the killing of George Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis who died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck.
These week-long demonstrations against police brutality, social injustice, and systemic racism have taken over the major cities and has become a very important trending conversation across social media platforms. These conversations cover social injustice, racial equity and lack of representation and support for black-owned businesses especially lack of access to capital and minute representation at big-box retailers.
This has led to the flood of statements from corporate organizations and brands pledging solidarity with the black community. However, Aurora James, founder of the sustainable fashion brand Brother Vellies, has started a rather powerful grassroots movement called The 15% Pledge, asking large retailers, including Target, Sephora, Amazon’s Whole Foods and Shopbop, to take the pledge. The 15% pledge calls on these retailers to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.
“So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power,” James said in a May 29 Instagram post.
“So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us.”
The first step of the pledge asks companies to complete an audit to determine how much shelf space they currently give black-owned businesses.
“What we are asking is not that tough and we are here to help these retailers attain that 15% with clear and attainable goals,” James said.
After that, she wants companies to “accept where they are at, own it and figure out how they got there.” Then, they need to commit to achieving a minimum of 15% and set a deadline to hold themselves accountable.
The 15% Pledge will encourage retailers to seek out and invest in worthy companies that have otherwise been ignored, James said.
Other brands have also shown support to the black community and black-owned businesses especially at this time, in the wake of the economic crisis caused by coronavirus, which disproportionately impacted black workers and business owners.
Fashion brand Rent the Runway have already stepped up to take the pledge. The company released a statement via their Instagram page, pledging that it will make sure at least 15% of the fashion talent it features includes a black designer.
“We want our actions as a business to be substantive and systematic, so we are doing the slow work to build a clear and sustained long-term strategy to fight systemic racism and make Rent the Runway, and the wider fashion industry, more diverse and anti-racist”.
Other companies have also responded to the unrest, vowing to step up on the issue.
Fitness startup Peloton announced that it would donate $500,000 to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP’s legal defense fund as a way to support black communities.
On Friday, Nike reversed its iconic “Just Do It” slogan in an online video, saying: “For once, Don’t Do It.”
“Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America,” the message read. “Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent.”
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the company’s board on Friday and urged his seat to be filled with a black candidate.
Intel CEO Bob Swan also addressed his employees, writing that “Black lives matter. Period.” His company is also pledging $1 million to be donated to community organizations focused on social injustice.
Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, pledged $10 million to organizations promoting justice and equity, including Black Lives Matter and the NAACP.