Black Americans are a well sought after and emulated people. Others want to talk, walk and act just like us, and Black Twitter’s influence alone has prompted well known brands to spend thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns to cash in our 1.2 trillion dollar spending power. Some could see this as progress, but there’s a reason it took these brands so long to view Black people as worthy consumers. It’s not genuine, and that’s why Harlem based artist, Brittany Symone thinks it’s never been more necessary to support local black owned businesses.
“Shopping with a small business is more meaningful because the owner tends to be more in tune with the consumer. It’s more personal and loving. They try to make products from the heart,” she says.
Symone is a multidisciplinary artist that creates coloring books, paintings, and other works in a style that she calls Afrome; a mix of afrocentric images with an anime inspired rwist. She often has trouble landing vending opportunities that cater to her demographic, but that only fuels her desire to inspire more young people of color to start their own businesses.
“When the youth see elders being entrepreneurs and succeeding in whatever they do, that’s how you break toxic generational cycles and create more businesses and jobs. People can imagine a better future for themselves and create real change in the community.”
Representation is only one key aspect of what makes black businesses so coveted. Some use their craft to spread awareness around issues that affect them and their communities. Brooklyn native, Karen Garcia created the provocative “Make New York Grimey Again” brand to express her frustration about gentrification in New York City.
“My family faced the consequences of gentrification head on. Most of us if not all were priced out of our homes and struggled to find housing. Those experiences made me passionate about combating the effects of gentrification. It’s not about Starbucks, it’s not about the 20 million bars and coffee shops. It’s the constant displacement of poor, working-class New Yorkers who’ve been here for generations, immigrant families struggling with housing, while an “affordable housing” project appears on every block and remain practically empty.”
The name itself came out of a joke Garcia made out of 45’s dreadful slogan. She designs shirts, hats, headbands and other merchandise herself, then uses two companies in her community to handle embroidery and screen printing. Garcia believes supporting local small businesses is vital to achieving self sufficiency in marginalized communities like hers.
“I see Black owned community cooperatives as a way to combat racism from non-Black business owners who profile and profit off of us without ever attempting to help us. We shouldn’t have to feel outcasted while shopping in neighborhoods that we are the majority in.”
It’s easy to let big corporations pander to certain communities for financial gain, but there’s nothing like doing business with someone who’s just as invested in you as they are in the success of their product.