One Brooklyn Businesswoman’s Plan to Encourage Representation at Major Retailers

It's called the 15 Percent Pledge. It makes a lot of sense.

One Brooklyn Businesswoman’s Plan to Encourage Representation at Major Retailers
Fifteen Percent Pledge
By Tanner Garrity / June 3, 2020 8:00 am

Aurora James is the creative director and owner of Williamsburg’s Brother Vellies, a clothing shop that sells handcrafted shoes and handbags from South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco. Three days ago, James posted a four-photo slideshow to Instagram, headlined “Ok, here is one thing you can do for us …” and tagged a variety of major retailers, including Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Sephora, MedMen, Barnes and Noble, Net-a-Porter, Saks Fifth Avenue and Home Depot.

In the post, James outlines a proposal called the 15% Percent Pledge. The concept is simple: the Black community represents 15% of America’s population. It stands to reason that the nation’s big-box retailers could fill at least 15% of their shelves with products purchased from Black-owned businesses. James writes: “So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. 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.”

James goes on to explain that as businesswoman, she understands the complexity of her request. She’s counting on receiving phone calls and texts claiming her proposal is “crazy.” But the potential positives it could bring for Black-run small businesses, she writes, in terms of short-term support and long-term investment, would be incalculable. Commenters on the post appear to agree — many of the top thoughts are something to the effect of “This isn’t crazy, it’s brilliant” — and we do, too.

The campaign already its own website, which we’d urge you to visit and support by signing the 15 Percent Pledge’s virtual petition. This moment is especially significant; 21 percent of Black-owned businesses do not expect to survive the pandemic, and a commitment by America’s largest retailers (beyond a token Instagram post) could inject nearly $15 billion into those enterprises, plus the 100,000+ others, which struggle enough in a pre-pandemic world, due to a variety of circumstances like banks not taking them seriously for loans or hindered purchasing power in surrounding communities.

Head here to get involved, and for more links to shop of those Black-owned businesses we speak of, head here.

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