Chicagoans urged to support Black-owned businesses on Black Friday
Ahead of Black Friday, one of the nation’s biggest shopping holidays, the Chicago Urban League is partnering with the City of Chicago and local agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul to encourage consumer spending at Black-owned businesses in the Windy City the day after Thanksgiving.
Dubbed “Black Shop Friday,” the initiative is supporting more than 500 Black-owned businesses in Chicagoland, including Semicolon Bookstore in the Fulton River District, Agriculture Men’s Wear near the Gold Coast, and Roasted Leaf Cigar and Coffee Bar in Oak Park.
“So often, when we talk to [Black] business owners, they talk about the lack of access to capital; the lack of access to a customer base,” says Karen Freeman-Wilson, the president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, who believes that the run-up the 2020 holiday shopping season is an ideal time to inject some much-needed cash into the Black community in Chicago.
The advocacy group, which was founded in 1916 as an affiliate of the National Urban League, has previously fielded calls from Chicagoans inquiring about a directory of local Black-owned stores and restaurants.
Many of the Black Shop Friday-supported businesses are in the food service industry, with the bulk of them taking severe revenue hits due to COVID-19, adds Freeman-Wilson, who served as the mayor of nearby Gary, Ind., prior to her tenure as the head of the CUL. “This type of opportunity is really important to them,” she says.
In its 2019 State of Black Chicago Report, the CUL analyzed U.S. Census data and found that Black-owned businesses in Illinois have fewer employees and smaller-than-average sales receipts, which contributes to an ongoing racial wealth gap that is prevalent in Chicago and elsewhere in the state.
The Black Shop Friday campaign rolls out today on social channels and will be bolstered through the day of frenzied retail shopping, Nov. 27, with earned media from Edelman as well as donated support courtesy the Illinois Lottery and its private manager Camelot.
The Chicago-area businesses participating in the initiative will be compiled in a master list at BlackShopFriday.com, which officially goes live on Nov. 24 but will remain online long after the end of this month as a portal to facilitate the continued patronage of Black stores and restaurants in the city.
“Black Shop Friday came to be, quite frankly, because the agency was pissed off about George Floyd,” says Aubrey Walker, executive creative director at O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul.
The day after Floyd’s murder by an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department—an event that helped catalyze a renewed push for racial justice worldwide—OKRP held an agency-wide call to discuss opportunities to respond, Walker says, and the idea that would become Black Shop Friday stuck.
“We felt there was an opportunity for us … to bring some attention to Black businesses in Chicago. This is our home front,” he says, adding that the long-term goal of the campaign is to maintain healthy support for Black-owned shops.
“I think the goal of Black Shop Friday is not just for Black Friday, it’s every Friday.”