Black Lives Matter (BLM) just launched a database of black businesses to support, with the goal of “[building] long-term economic power for Black communities.”
On Monday, the organization unveiled backingblackbusiness.com, an interactive map and directory of online stores where customers can purchase food, health and beauty supplies, entertainment, and lifestyle goods — all from retailers owned by black people. The site also includes nonprofits, and allows business owners to add themselves to the database.
More than 300 businesses are included so far, but they are primarily located in large cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
“Black-owned business have long been a staple in the Black community providing jobs, economic security and somewhere for us to go and feel seen and safe,” Patrisse Cullors, one of BLM’s founder’s, said in a statement. “In these uncertain times, we need these places more than ever.”
The database was developed in partnership with J. Walter Thompson, an ad agency located in New York City.
“Our hope is to reduce the racial disparity that exists in economic well-being through the promotion of black business ownership,” said Brent Choi, J. Walter, the agency’s chief creative officer.
Since 2014, when the officer shooting of Michael Brown thrust police violence into the national spotlight, conversations about BLM have focused on its efforts to end that violence. But the organization also advocates economic justice — investing resources in black communities to improve the quality of life, including housing, education, and health.
Studies show black businesses are in dire need of investment. A 2016 report from the Corporation For Economic Development and Institute for Policy Studies concluded that it would “take Black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth White families have today.” The 100 richest Americans identified by Forbes currently share more wealth than the entire African American population, and the wealth gap between black and white people is only widening.
BLM is just the latest racial justice organization to promote economic freedom. Throughout the course history, civil rights leaders have concentrated on economic justice for the black population.
Malcolm X specifically advocated for job creation for and by black people.
“We should own, operate, and control the economy of our community,” he famously said. He also criticized African Americans for failing to invest in their own neighborhoods. “When you spend your dollar outside the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer. The community out of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer.”
Martin Luther King wrote about “the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice” and fought for an economic bill of rights, as well as guaranteed jobs and income for all Americans. The Black Panther Party also fought for economic freedom in the form of full employment and investment in education, health, and housing.
The launch of BLM’s economic development project comes at a time when the organization is shifting its focus to reform at the local level.