Macy’s Celebrates Black Creatives With Icons of Style

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The group of black honorees stand posing fiercely for the camera

-Macy’s celebrates Black creatives with today’s launch of Icons of Style, a collaboration with five Black visionaries to help move the fashion world forward. Featuring exclusive designs across ready-to-wear, men’s, and shoes by Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton, Aminah Abdul Jillil, Allen Onyia and Ouigi Theodore for brands found only at Macy’s, each creative artfully designed a fashion-forward capsule of must-have spring items, inspired by their unique perspective and dynamic style. Icons of Style is available now on macys.com and select store locations nationwide.

Zerina Akers for Bar III is designed with functionality, versatility, and a touch of statement making moments in mind. The capsule consists of mixed media suiting, chain link embellished body suits, strong shoulder knit dresses and a new play on proportion with the classic sweatshirt. True to the Bar lll aesthetic, the capsule is the perfect mix of both feminine and modern components.

Photo: Business Wire

“This collection is probably the most special because it is my first design collaboration. Through my styling work I have designed many things but never something under my own name. This is very special,” said Zerina Akers.

Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts

Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts is inspired by her personal style and love for fashion. The collection features bold, vibrant prints that take form in feminine suiting, printed blouses, and her love of the kimono; a symbol of her Black and Japanese heritage. Known for creating iconic looks for some of the music industry’s biggest stars, Misa’s extraordinary vision pairs well with I.N.C.’s focus on representing the most current trends.

“My designs vibrate on a high frequency. They bring happiness and excitement to the people who see them and want to wear them,” said Misa Hylton.

Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International Concepts

Extending her love for creative self-expression and bold fashion moments, Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International Concepts brings forth the power of the statement heel. Using her performing arts background as inspiration, Aminah mixes unexpected shapes and dramatic details to spark confidence in every step. Using gold hearts and chunky chains as signature details, the collection features a breadth of styles that are timeless, versatile, and collectible.

“This collaboration is exciting to me because it means for me, personally that dreams come true. That hard work pays off. That being different and not like everyone else is ok,” said Aminah Abdul Jillil.

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International Concepts

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International Concepts pays homage to Macy’s traditions as a leading department store incorporating iconic details with a modern, trend-forward look. The men’s collection is a nod to his own personal style while focused on accessible design. Allen effortlessly uses his exceptional eye to combine dynamic use of colors, patterns, and silhouettes into instantly covetable items all geared towards statement making style.

“This is a collection that celebrates this amazing opportunity Macy’s has provided me, and I wanted to put that celebration and feeling back into the collection and pay homage,” said Allen Onyia.

Read the full article at businesswire.

 

Actor Hill Harper launches The Black Wall Street platform aimed at empowering investors of color

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Hill Harper wearing a blue coat jacket and smiling at the camera while he attends the Netflix Golden Globe Weekend Cocktail Party at Cecconi’s Restaurant

By Frank Holland, CNBC

Nearly a century after Black Wall Street — a center of Black business in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was destroyed in a racial attack — “The Good Doctor” actor Hill Harper is launching a fintech app of the same name to empower investors of color.

The Black Wall Street app goes live on June 1 and will offer a digital wallet for peer-to-peer payment and the ability to trade cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.

“What the Black Wall Street was in Tulsa and the Greenwood district is just very empowering,” Harper told CNBC about the once thriving Black business district.

“There were three pillars that created the wealth that was created in the Black Wall Street [in Tulsa],” he said, with the first two being institutional ownership and institutional trust by the community. “Pillar number three was the movement of money or capital within the ecosystem where dollars changed hands 60 to 100 times within a year before it left that Black community.”

Harper, who plays Dr. Marcus Andrews on the ABC medical show, said that dollars now leave the Black community within about seven hours. “I truly believe that unless we start owning our own fintech platforms, our own digital wallets, the dollar will leave within six to seven seconds.” said Harper, who also played Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CBS’ “CSI: NY.”

The goal of The Black Wall Street app is to give Black and Latinx investors a gateway into the digital transformation of investing and provide financial education to customers on cryptocurrency.

Harper, a Harvard Law School graduate, said he began working with Black web developers last year before the Covid pandemic to build the app, which aims to capitalize on mobile device trends in communities of color.

According to a 2019 report from Pew Research Center, 23% of Black Americans and 25% of Latinx Americans are “smart phone only” internet users compared with 12% of white Americans. The Pew study also showed Black Americans use a smartphone for mobile banking more than any other group.

Harper said he’s hoping to attract “unbanked” consumers and more sophisticated investors looking for a Black-owned site for cryptocurrency purchasing. “It’s not just about transferring money to folks, it’s about transferring information, ideas, and building community, and we see that that is the real value and the real differentiator.”

Najah Roberts, a cryptocurrency expert and owner of Crypto Blockchain Plug — a brick-and-mortar location in Inglewood, California, for cryptocurrency education and purchasing — will serve as the chief visionary officer for the app. As part of the launch, The Black Wall Street is planning a 30-city financial literacy tour that begins on April 30 in Los Angeles, with stops in Tulsa on May 31, a century since the original Black Wall Street was destroyed in a riot by white residents. Roberts will lead the tour and give fractional bitcoin shares to people who sign up.

The Black Wall Street offering enters a growing industry of fintech apps that allow peer-to-peer transfers including Square’s Cash App from PayPal’s Venmo. Visa estimates there is $4 trillion market for apps that replace the use of cash and checks in the United States. Rapper Killer Mike also launched this year the Greenwood app, another digital platform for investors of color.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

In ‘Them,’ a Black Family Is Haunted by Real-Life Monsters

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From left, Deborah Ayorinde, Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Ashley Thomas in “Them,” a new horror series from Amazon. The malevolent force at work here is racism.Credit...

Want to hear a scary story? Here’s one: A family reckoning with a senseless, pervasive horror flees home to what they hope will be a place of safety and prosperity, only to find themselves pursued by that same demented presence.

Evil forces gather — their new home is haunted, too. Bloody visions terrorize them day and night. The dog is poisoned. It’s only a matter of time before the bodies start mounting.

PHOTO: NYTIMES

But in the 10-part Amazon series “Them,” as in any good horror story, there is a twist: The victims are simply a middle-class Black family in the 1950s, seeking a better life in a Los Angeles suburb; the senseless horror is the racism of their white neighbors, who want them out. As the situation devolves, certain terrifying events may be supernatural, or they may be psychological.

And yet, as the series, the first season of which drops on Friday, asks: Does that distinction matter when the danger is ever-present?

“As the sinister elements outside the home ratchet up, that obviously allows for the cracks and fissures within each of them to be infiltrated by something malevolent,” the series’s creator, Little Marvin, said of the Black family at the center of “Them.” “But that malevolent thing, as sure as there is a supernatural component to our story, is deeply rooted in the emotional and psychological lives of these characters.”

It must get hard to believe your own eyes when your senses are being shocked over and over by cruelty, I said.

“Welcome to being Black,” Little Marvin replied.

Welcome, also, to the legacy of codified racism in America, which provided Little Marvin with a conceptual starting point for “Them.” Like the Jordan Peele film “Get Out” or last summer’s HBO hit “Lovecraft Country,” “Them,” which counts Lena Waithe as an executive producer, uses horror-genre conventions as allegorical octane for racist machinery that is all too real. And as “Watchmen” did for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the show is likely to educate many viewers on an ugly relic of American history that is not widely acknowledged: racially restrictive housing covenants.

If real estate legalese doesn’t sound like fodder for an edge-of-your-seat horror story, consider the implications. Just as government redlining helped create and reinforce segregation by determining who was eligible for mortgages, racial covenants did the same by restricting who was allowed to buy a property at all, finances be damned. A deed might explicitly forbid all owners, present and future, from selling the home to anyone of African or Asian descent. Many older deeds still bear such language

“Any house that was built between 1938 and 1948, in a subdivision, I would be surprised for it not to have racial restrictions in them,” said Carol M. Rose, a professor emeritus at Yale Law School who has studied racial covenants extensively. Those restrictions, Rose explained, which first appeared in the late 19th century, exploded in the early 20th century as farmlands were subdivided for large swaths of new housing

Racial covenants were notoriously common around northern cities like Detroit and Chicago — the Midwest didn’t mandate separate drinking fountains, but segregation and violence were just as real. And California was no different. A Supreme Court decision in 1948, Shelley v. Kraemer, made racial covenants no longer enforceable, creating opportunities for nonwhite families in places like Compton, Calif., where “Them” is set.

Deprived of a legal means of keeping their neighborhoods white, some racists resorted to extralegal methods, which is where the horror really begins. Sometimes the method was vandalism. Others, a Molotov cocktail.

“California is part of the story because people think that California is this sort of easy, breezy racial space, and no, it’s terrible,” said Jeannine Bell, a law professor at Indiana University who wrote “Hate Thy Neighbor,” a book about the violence faced by people in integrating neighborhoods. “It’s terrible for precisely the reasons that this series explores. The methods used in the Midwest were also used in California.”

The Emory family of “Them” flees the South as part of the Great Migration, in which, from 1916 to 1970, an estimated 6 million Black people left the region for cities of the North and West. Like them, the Emorys seek economic opportunity; the father, Henry (Ashley Thomas), is a college-educated engineer and World War II veteran, and he has relatives in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. When he lands a job out West, the family hits the road.

Read the full article at NYtimes.com

Target says it will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025

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People stand in line at Target in Kips Bay during the coronavirus pandemic on April 14, 2020 in New York City.

By Melissa Repko, CNBC

Target said it will hire more Black-owned companies, launch a program to identify and support promising minority entrepreneurs and add products from more than 500 Black-owned brands to its shelves or website.

Altogether, the discounter said Wednesday, it will spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025.

“We have a rich history of working with diverse businesses, but there’s more we can do to spark change across the retail industry, support the Black community and ensure Black guests feel welcomed and represented when they shop at Target,” chief growth officer Christina Hennington said in a news release.

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and protests across the country have ratcheted up pressure on corporate leaders to advance racial equity and do more than simply cut a check — or risk losing business. The uneven death toll of the coronavirus pandemic and financial toll of the recession also spotlighted the country’s sharp racial disparities with health care and economic opportunity.

Floyd was killed in Target’s hometown of Minneapolis, now the site of the murder trial for the police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck. One Target store, located near the site of Floyd’s death, had to be completely rebuilt and some of its other stores were damaged during rioting.

Companies have spoken out about diversity and inclusion as consumers pay attention and some direct their dollars toward businesses that align with their values. Generation Z — the group of teens and early 20-somethings who are aging into shopping and establishing relationships with brands — care more about social justice compared with former generations, according to an annual survey of teens by Piper Sandler released Wednesday. Teens surveyed by the firm ranked racial equity as their most important political and social issue, followed by the environment and Black Lives Matter.

Over the past year, major retailers like Nike, Walmart and Ulta Beauty have rolled out their own pledges, such as devoting more shelf space to Black-owned products, evaluating how they hire and promote employees, featuring more Black people in their ads and reducing the number of police or security in stores to prevent racial profiling. A growing number of retailers, including Macy’s, Sephora and Gap, have signed on to the 15 Percent Pledge, which aims to make Black-owned products on store shelves proportional to the country’s Black population.

Among Target’s changes, the retailer said it will more actively seek out advertising firms, suppliers, construction companies and other kinds of businesses that are Black-owned. It said it will create a program called Forward Founders for early-stage start-ups led by Black entrepreneurs to help them develop, test and scale products to sell at mass retailers like Target. It will be modeled off of Target Accelerators, a program for start-ups that the retailer uses to foster up-and-coming brands and ultimately, to sell fresh and exclusive products that attract customers and help it differentiate from competitors.

In some categories, such as beauty, Target said it already has 50 Black-owned and Black-founded brands — but would like to add more for other kinds of merchandise.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Just 3% of L.A. landmarks are linked to Black history. One project aims to change that

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St. Elmo Village, an artists’ enclave occupying a compound of 10 Craftsman bungalows, was founded in 1969 by artists Roderick and Rozzell Sykes as a place where children and adults could explore their creativity. The site is one of L.A.'s few designated landmarks linked to Black heritage.

MAKEDA EASTER, Los Angeles Times

Getty and the city of Los Angeles are expected to announce Tuesday the launch of the African American Historic Places Project, a three-year initiative to identify and preserve landmarks that represent Black heritage across L.A.

Led by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Office of Historic Resources within L.A.’s Department of City Planning, the project will address a disparity in local landmark designations: Only about 3% are connected to African American heritage. The goal of the project is to more accurately reflect the history of the city.

The Office of Historic Resources knows that its landmark designation programs do not yet reflect “the diversity and richness of the African American experience in Los Angeles,” said Ken Bernstein, principal city planner and manager of the office. “There’s much work to be done to rectify that disparity and ensure that the heritage of African Americans in Los Angeles is fully woven into our historic designation, and recognition of historic places in Los Angeles.”

The project is a continuation of a nearly 20-year partnership between the Getty Conservation Institute and the city on local heritage projects.

In 2005, a city-matched grant of $2.5 million from the GCI launched a program to identify and map places of social importance, including historic districts, bridges, parks and streetscapes.

Data from surveys conducted between 2010 and 2017 led to the creation of HistoricPlacesLA, a digital portal designed to inventory, map and contextualize the city’s cultural heritage sites. In 2018, the Office of Historic Resources developed a model to guide preservation work in Black communities, using themes including civil rights, religion and spirituality and visual arts.

Click here to read the full article on Los Angeles Times.

THE WEEKND DONATES $1 MIL FOR 2 MILLION MEALS … To Help Ethiopians

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A headshot of the weeknd from a concert of his with the WFP logo next to him

By TMZ

The Weeknd is getting involved with the military conflict in Ethiopia — donating a million dollars, which will provide food for people who need it there.

The singer, who is of Ethiopian descent himself, partnered with World Food Program USA — a UN World Food Programme affiliate — to send over a million bucks toward relief efforts in the North African country … which has been mired with bloodshed and chaos for months. Specifically, Abel’s money will provide the equivalent of 2 million meals for citizens there who have been caught in the middle of the feuding factions … many of whom are running out of resources, like food.

TW says, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.” He goes on to encourage others who can to donate as well.

If you haven’t heard, Ethiopia has been embroiled in a bitter battle with its own people since November — when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an attack on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front — the ruling party in the northern part of the region.

Click here to read the full article on TMZ!

Hennessy Announces $1MM Acceleration Fund to Champion Next Generation of Black Entrepreneurs

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Narrated by legendary recording artist, philanthropist and venture capitalist Nas, new “Dear Destiny” focuses on Black excellence, referencing the vision, ambition, creation and evolution of Black Wall Street from Tulsa 1921 into the year 2021.

SOURCE Hennessy

NEW YORKMarch 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Hennessy, the world’s best-selling cognac, today unveils the “Never Stop Never Settle Society,” a comprehensive growth accelerator co-created with the Marcus Graham Project (MGP) to ensure a more equitable landscape for Black entrepreneurship. To introduce the initiative, new “Dear Destiny” creative produced by UNINTERRUPTED and featuring hip-hop legend Nas debuted on March 27th during the 52nd NAACP Image Awards on BET, placing the spotlight on the legacy of Black Wall Street.

“The ‘Never Stop Never Settle Society’ builds on Hennessy’s long-standing commitment to Black communities and ongoing mission to champion cultural diversity by pushing the limits of potential for Black entrepreneurs,” says Jasmin Allen, Senior Vice President, Hennessy US. “We aim to expand on that legacy in the most impactful and meaningful ways by providing access to capital and resources to those demonstrating the ability to reshape Black communities through social impact.”

PHOTO : PRNewswire

With respect to past models of community-built success including Tulsa’s Greenwood District, the “Never Stop Never Settle Society” was instituted to provide Black entrepreneurs with high-impact funding, resources, and infrastructure to further their journeys and ultimately transform communities.

Hennessy will accept applications starting Tuesday, April 6th, awarding a number of member benefits to qualified applicants:

  • Lump sum funds in the amount of $50K will be administered to selected ventures with potential to reshape the world through social impact
  • Access to The Gathering Spot Connect, a Black-owned digital hub offering networking, education, and business development resources
  • Growth opportunities at the program’s physical footprint and state-of-the-art office at Moët Hennessy’s headquarters in New York City. Debuting late 2021, the space will offer scheduled access to a content studio, along with a compelling slate of educational programming and leadership engagement for business mentorship

Moët Hennessy USA executives and partners including the Marcus Graham Project will co-create program elements, evaluate proposals, and select the curated group of Black entrepreneurs whose visions will be accelerated. Leadership will also further aid member journeys, helping to evolve early business ventures over time.

“Some of the most powerful leaders and creators in the Black community are entrepreneurs creating jobs, rich legacies, and taking ownership of new paths. Access to capital resources to allow for authentic growth has traditionally been a barrier,” says Lincoln Stephens, Co-Founder and CEO of the Marcus Graham Project (MGP). “For over a century now, Hennessy’s participation in the Black community has transcended typical corporate action, and I’m excited to be part of this next chapter that substantively uplifts entrepreneurship as a means towards closing the wealth disparity.”

As one of the first corporate sponsors of the NAACP, Hennessy unveiled the program during the 52nd NAACP Image Awards, bringing its history with the organization full circle. Legendary recording artist, philanthropist, and venture capitalist Nas presented the first-ever “Never Stop, Never Settle” Award, a celebration of Black entrepreneurship, to former WNBA player-turned-owner and executive, Renee Montgomery. The evening also kicked off a cross-platform rollout for “Dear Destiny,” Hennessy’s new creative featuring the Grammy Award Winning artist and created and produced by UNINTERRUPTED, referencing the vision, ambition, creation, and evolution of Black Wall Street from Tulsa 1921 into the year 2021.

“A narrative about family, legacy, entrepreneurship and empowerment, Dear Destiny is a message to my daughter Destiny, and in many ways, the entire Black community. Inspired by Tulsa’s hub of cultural activity and community-built success, it pays homage to the Black creativity and wealth that thrived during this time in history,” says voiceover artist and Hennessy Ambassador, Nas. “Nearing the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, I believe the powerful spirit of Black Wall Street is still strong and can be revived with programs like Hennessy’s “Never Stop Never Settle Society.”

Applications for Hennessy’s “Never Stop Never Settle Society” will open on Tuesday, April 6th. For additional information on eligibility and membership benefits, please visit NeverStopNeverSettle.org.

ABOUT HENNESSY
The leader in Cognac, the Maison Hennessy has shined around the world with its exceptional blends for more than 250 years. Built on founder Richard Hennessy’s spirit of conquest, the brand is present in more than 160 countries. Based in the heart of the Charente region, Hennessy is also a steadfast pillar of the regional economy, the standard-bearer for a sector rich in expertise. The House’s success and longevity are rooted in the excellence of its cognacs, each of which is born of a unique process of transmission from generation to generation. The first wine and spirits house to be certified ISO 14001, Hennessy unites its capacity for innovation and the support of all of its partners to protect this exceptional area. As the crown jewel of the LVMH Group, Hennessy is a major contributor to French international trade, with 99% of production sold in export, and a worldwide ambassador for the French art de vivre.

Hennessy is imported and distributed in the U.S. by Moët Hennessy USA. Hennessy distills, ages and blends spanning a full range: Hennessy V.S, V.S.O.P Privilège, Hennessy Black, X.O, Privé, Paradis, Paradis Imperial and Richard Hennessy. Imported Cognac Hennessy® 40% Alc./Vol. (80º), ©2021 Imported by Moët Hennessy USA, Inc., New York, NY.

ABOUT MARCUS GRAHAM PROJECT (MGP)
Founded nearly 15 years ago, the Marcus Graham Project (MGP) is a national organization focused on developing the next generation of diverse leaders in the advertising, media, and marketing industries through training, mentorship, and professional development opportunities to ensure the industry is more inclusive to better reflect the diverse world we live in.

ABOUT UNINTERRUPTED, PART OF THE SPRINGHILL COMPANY
The SpringHill Company is a global consumer and entertainment brand created to empower greatness in every individual. The SpringHill Company unites three companies built by LeBron James and Maverick Carter: UNINTERRUPTED, the athlete empowerment media, experiences  and consumer product company, SpringHill Entertainment, the premium scripted and unscripted film and television production company and The Robot Company, the brand and culture consultancy. With a dynamic and diverse team committed to creating the most culturally inspired content, entertainment and products, The SpringHill Company is built to be the defining brand for a new generation.

Supporting an inclusive economy: small businesses, Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, and their intersection

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Business man analyzing investment graph and discussing plan in m

For many of us, connections to small businesses are deeply personal—your local barber shop or family dentist, the spot for the best pizza in town, the small contractor you call to fix your leak.

Businesses like these make up the fabric of our communities—but many don’t realize what a big role they play, collectively, in the U.S. economy.

However, they face unique challenges even in the strongest of times and now, amidst the covid-19 pandemic, many small businesses are struggling to survive.

The situation at hand

JPMorgan Chase Institute research found that prior to the covid-19 pandemic, typical small businesses had only enough cash on hand to keep the lights on for two to three weeks. This was even more pronounced for small businesses in majority-Black and Latinx communities, where the typical business had only one to two weeks of reserves.

Interestingly, researchers found that in the Fall of 2020, many small businesses actually had cash reserves at higher levels than normal. This seems like great news—but when you look under the hood, the situation is more precarious. [3]

There are two factors to explain the elevated reserves: 1) an injection of cash from federal and local policy shored up many of the businesses likely to face a shortfall, and 2) a decision many businesses made to delay or dial back payments on things like upkeep of key assets, limiting wages or employee benefits, or other choices that may not be financially healthy in the months or years ahead.[4]

So, while cash balances are larger than usual, they may not be enough for small businesses to continue to survive in these tumultuous times. Expenses have already begun to outpace revenue. This trend could have a disproportionate impact on Black- and Latinx-owned companies, that tend to experience lower revenues and profit margins compared to white-owned counterparts.[5]

Help in many forms

Many small businesses face similar challenges: lack of access to capital and resources to grow. However, businesses owned by people of color and other underserved groups face these challenges more acutely. For example, according to the JPMorgan Chase Institute, Black, Latinx and women-owned small businesses are underrepresented among firms with substantial external financing. While there are no simple solutions, business, government and nonprofit leaders should work together to support, sustain and grow these critical enterprises.

For example, December’s $900 billion stimulus package included a second infusion of PPP funds, with $12 billion set aside for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).

While the terms might be unfamiliar, you likely already know your local CDFI or MDI. Some local banks or credit unions might fall into this category.

An MDI is a bank whose ownership or leadership is made up of a majority of people of color. CDFIs are community lenders, which primarily finance in low- and moderate-income communities and focus on small businesses, as well as affordable housing and nonprofits. Both MDIs and CDFIs earn these designations from the federal government, due to the vital financial services they provide in communities that are often underserved. CDFIs in particular are designed to meet these needs by offering capital and guidance to help ensure the success of vulnerable businesses. We think that’s a winning combination.

But MDIs and CDFIs need banks to provide additional capital to fund this critical work in communities. Here’s where JPMorgan Chase comes in.

Part of the solution

We believe that business has a role to play in addressing societal issues, along with business and community leaders. JPMorgan Chase is committed to building a more inclusive economy and our support for small business, especially in Black and Latinx communities, is a critical element of this work.

That’s why, in February, the firm announced new initiatives focused on providing MDIs and diverse-led CDFIs with additional access to capital, connections to institutional investors, specialty support for Black-led commercial projects, and mentorship and training opportunities. Initial investments and commitments to minority-owned and Black-led MDIs included Liberty Bank and Trust, M&F Bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank and Broadway Federal Bank. The firm also committed $42.5 million to expand the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund to reach new U.S. cities in 2021, providing loans and technical assistance to minority-owned small businesses in collaboration with LISC and a network of CDFIs. Since its inception in Detroit in 2015, the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund has deployed more than $32 million to Black, Latinx and other underserved entrepreneurs, including Jimmie Williams from Chicago, who received a small business loan to scale his landscaping company. In addition, we continue our direct support for small business, including through PPP.

This work is part of the $30 billion commitment over five years we announced in October 2020 to provide economic opportunity to underserved communities to help close the racial wealth divide. The firm is continuing to put this commitment into practice by combining our business, policy, data and philanthropic expertise.

We are committing $350 million over five years to help grow Black, Latinx, woman-owned and other underserved small businesses. This includes:

Philanthropy, low-cost loans and direct equity investments: Supporting the signature Ascend Program, helping build the capacity of diverse-led nonprofits across the globe to more effectively support entrepreneurs, and investing in early-stage businesses to help companies drive economic opportunity, including in Black and Latinx communities. Last month we made our initial direct equity investment in Bitwise Industries.
Policy: Releasing new data-driven policy solutions such as increasing resources for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Microloan program, which provides loans of up to $50,000 to help small businesses. The firm will support advancing these policy reforms to help address the immediate and long-term challenges small business owners face.
Supplier diversity: Spending an additional $750 million with Black and Latinx suppliers, and co-investing up to $200 million in middle market businesses that are or will be minority owned via a new initiative with Ariel Alternatives.
Wrap-around support: Launching a nationwide Minority Entrepreneurs program to help entrepreneurs in historically underserved areas access 1:1 coaching, technical assistance and capital.

Together, these commitments will help reduce barriers to capital access and support the growth of thousands of additional underserved businesses.

Read the full article on the Washington Post.

Dwayne Johnson reveals new ‘Black Adam’ release date

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Animated photo of Dwayne Johnson as a super hero surrounded by electricity rays.

By Toyin Owoseje, CNN

There have been some roadblocks along the way — but Dwayne Johnson is one step closer to living his dream of being a superhero. The Hollywood actor and former wrestler has announced that his DC Comics movie “Black Adam” will now debut in July 2022.

Johnson, who plays the powerful villain attempting to redeem himself, took to Instagram on Sunday to share video footage from Times Square, showing an animated graphic of the movie plastered across the New York landmark’s digital screens.
As the premiere date appears in flashing neon lights, an ominous voice-over declares: “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.”

“A disruptive and unstoppable global force of a message from the man in black himself. ‘Black Adam’ is coming July 29, 2022,” the caption on the Instagram post reads.

“Black Adam” will mark Johnson’s debut as the DC character, who is the enemy of Shazam — played by Zachary Levi in the DC Extended Universe.

Revealing the project in 2019, Johnson said the role of Black Adam was “unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career.”

“As a kid, Superman was the hero I always wanted to be. But, a few years into my fantasy, I realized that Superman was the hero, I could never be. I was too rebellious. Too rambunctious. Too resistant to convention and authority,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

He added that Black Adam is “blessed by magic with the powers equal to SUPERMAN, but the difference is he doesn’t toe the mark or walk the line. He’s a rebellious, one-of-a-kind superhero, who’ll always do what’s right for the people – but he does it his way.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Milton Jones of Peachtree Providence Partners Named Chair of UNCF Board

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Headshot of Milton H. Jones

Atlanta business and civic leader Milton H. Jones, Jr. has been elected Chair of the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) Board of Directors, becoming the first African American to hold that position.

Jones succeeds William F. Stasior, Sr., retired Chairman and CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton, who served as UNCF’s Chair for 11 years. Former Chairs of the UNCF board include: John D. Rockefeller, III; former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo’s International Food and Beverage Division Michael H. Jordan and former Revlon President and CEO Jack Stahl.

“Since 1944, UNCF has played an integral role in changing the life trajectory for each student it has served, and l look forward to continuing that legacy,” said Milton Jones. “Our member institutions and students remain the focus of our collective efforts. As we progress each year, we will grow our organization by building upon the strong foundation laid at UNCF’s inception and strengthened throughout its history.”

“All of us at UNCF are excited to have Milton become our new Board Chair,” said UNCF President and CEO Michael L. Lomax, who has known and worked with Jones for more than four decades. “Milton brings a wealth of business knowledge and a thoughtful and collaborative leadership approach that will help us thrive and continue to drive UNCF’s and our HBUCs’ impact and growth.”

Angela Webb, founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners said, “We are incredibly proud of Milton as he assumes this role with UNCF. Milton’s life and career are a testament to his devout commitment to helping others and serving the community. We know he will do excellent things and leave a legacy that inspires others to support and revere our country’s HBCUs.”

Walter Davis, founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners said, “Milton has been an indispensable member of our team at Peachtree Providence Partners, so I am certain his time leading with UNCF will prove to be fruitful and inspiring to the young people the organization serves. I look forward to supporting Milton as he advocates for the students and institutions that change the fabric of our nation.”

In this role, Jones will work to grow the UNCF endowment, benefiting the 37 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) belonging to the UNCF network of member institutions.

Prior to his election as Board Chair, Jones served as Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Finance Committee. He has been a member of the UNCF Board since 2005.

Jones is a founding member of Peachtree Providence Partners Holding Company, LLC. In this role, he advises and collaborates with CEOs in key sectors that include financial services, healthcare, technology, government, and higher education. For more than 32 years while at Bank of America, he held a series of senior executive positions with global responsibilities including roles reporting directly to the Chairman and CEO.

Jones is vice chairman of the Meharry Medical College Board of Trustees; treasurer and a board member of 100 Black Men of America; co-chair of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors and serves on the advisory boards of the Metro Atlanta YMCA, Boy Scouts and the Commerce Club. He is a member of the Downtown Atlanta Rotary Club and is a member and past chairman of The Atlanta Business League and of 100 Black Men of Atlanta.

Source: Peachtree Providence Partners

Photo Credit: PRNewswire

‘We Don’t Have The Luxury To Fall Apart’: Black Businesses Get Creative To Survive

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Keitra Bates stands outside of the original location of Marddy's in Atlanta. It's a shared kitchen where home cooks can prepare their goods, and collectively market them.

By Debbie Elliott

Entrepreneur Keitra Bates stands in a gleaming glass-front retail shop in a new development on the south side of Atlanta.

“We’re looking at almost 2,000-sq-ft. of raw space,” she says, pointing out the floor-to-ceiling windows that face onto Atlanta’s popular Beltline, railways converted to trails and parks encircling the city.

Photo Lynsey Weatherspoon for NPR

This will soon be the second location for a business she started called Marddy’s — short for Market Buddies, a shared kitchen where home cooks can prepare their goods, and collectively market them.

Her dream began at a far less glamorous spot in a long-neglected neighborhood west of downtown.

“When I was first standing outside with no keys on Fair Street and a boarded-up door, I would not have guessed this,” Bates says.

“This place is proof that you can save yourself,” she says.

Like many Black-owned businesses, the pandemic had the Atlanta food entrepreneur wondering if her fledgling shared commercial kitchen would survive. Looking back a year later, she says it meant getting creative and doubling-down on her mission of connecting with other Black entrepreneurs in order to thrive, and grow her business.

Creating affordable environment for Black businesses

She acknowledges it’s a big step opening this second location at the new Pittsburgh Yards development.

“There’s no hiding,” she says. “Everything that we say that we are, people can kind of peek in and see, like, are they really making those pies? Yeah, we’re really making the pies.”

Black-owned small businesses have long faced difficult odds whether it’s access to financial capital, or discrimination in contracting. Now, the pandemic has hit them the hardest, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that Black businesses closed at more than twice the rate of white-owned businesses in early 2020.

Pittsburgh Yards is specifically designed to address the obstacles facing Black entrepreneurs. The public-private project converted an old transportation hub into shared working space.

The idea is to create an affordable environment for African American businesses to nurture one another, says Erika Smith with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, (which also sponsors NPR). Smith says Atlanta’s Beltline is an economic generator, but has also fueled gentrification.

“We are realizing in communities where the Beltline is developed, it’s increased the cost of rents for residents and commercial businesses,” Smith says. “So part of the strategy is how can we leverage a physical space like Pittsburgh Yards to also satisfy that business displacement issue.”

“They have a right to survive”

That’s Keitra Bates story. She ran a pizzeria in west Atlanta until revitalization attracted a new landlord who raised her rent. She couldn’t afford to stay open. And she saw other Black-owned businesses priced out as well, closing what had been venues where local home cooks could sell their breads, sauces and pies. She calls them hidden entrepreneurs in danger of being ghosted, along with the traditional flavors of the neighborhood.

Bates is one of the Americans NPR has been following as part of our Kitchen Table Conversations, which started four years ago.

“These people have created a business with their talent and they have a right to survive,” Bates told NPR in 2019 after she got Marddy’s up and running. “Just because there’s new money coming in doesn’t mean that their business should get snuffed out.”

Bates, who is 47, has worked to grow a catering business, aggregating the products her vendors make. About a dozen now use Marddy’s shared kitchen, making products including spices, flavored nuts, and vegan cheese sauce.

Read the full article at NPR.

This New Agency Is Harnessing Data To Improve Black Women’s Access To Wellness

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Jasmine Marie sits at her lap top smiling at her screen. She is sitting at a desk , aside her computer is a plant and behind her is her bed.

By Anna Haines

“Black women aren’t a monolith, representation isn’t enough,” Jasmine Marie, the CEO and founder of Black Girls Breathing, tells Forbes. “We need the data to craft solutions that meet their unique needs.”

Since the company’s inception in 2018, Black Girls Breathing (bgb) has been going beyond their breathwork circles, strategically collecting feedback from their community. Now their new research and creative agency, House of bgb, will be devoted to the research they’ve collected to fill the gap in data on Black women.

PHOTO : SOLOMAN JONES VIA BLACK GIRLS BREATHING

Black women are disproportionately affected by health issues stemming from chronic stress, yet continue to face disparities in accessing wellness services, like breathwork, which can cost upwards of $300 a session. Even for those with insurance coverage, consistent mental health services remain largely inaccessible, says Marie. COVID-19 has not only heightened the financial barriers facing Black women, but made their need for accessible health care even more urgent.

In response to the pandemic, Black Girls Breathing has offered sliding-scale, virtual breathwork classes, and fundraised to provide over one hundred Black women with free breathwork access for one year. But Marie worries these initiatives are not enough—68% of the bgb community has reported that the bgb breathwork circles are the only consistent mental health practice they have. By strategically collaborating with companies that have Black women’s best interests in mind, House of bgb plans to make Black women’s access to mental health services sustainable.

“We’re keeping it all in the family, building this community and making companies rise to the occasion, not just leeching on our culture but working with us in the right way,” says Marie. She wants to set a new bar for representation, insisting House of bgb will only work with companies who demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving health outcomes for Black women. Whether it’s custom research or developing a brand campaign, clients who want to reach this target audience have an incentive to work with House of bgb’s Black-led team because they’ll be “sowing right back to the community,” says Marie. “Black creatives will have jobs to work on and Black women will be able to continue to access breathwork in a free and accessible manner.”

Given that Black women control a major portion of the African-American community’s spending power—estimated to reach $1.5 trillion this year—house of bgb’s ability to collect real-time data on the needs of Black women gives them a competitive edge. They’ve surveyed the bgb community on a wide range of topics, such as job loss, insurance coverage, occupation, stress levels at home and work, and of course, how breathwork has helped participants specifically. Their first white paper summary, “Impact Of COVID-19 And The State Of Black Women’s Mental Health,” released last month, combines these findings with public research to draw new insights on Black women’s unique needs.

House of bgb is just the latest example of Marie’s creative approach to entrepreneurship. “I love the fact that I don’t have a typical mental health background because that’s where innovation begins,” Marie tells Forbes. The bgb founder was working in global brand development when she discovered the healing benefits of breathwork through a pastor at her church in Harlem. “In 2018, I woke up and it was clear in my spirit that I needed to get trained in it,” she says.

Read the full article at Forbes.

Shaquille O’Neal becomes founding partner, investor in new ad agency focused on diversity

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Shaquille O'Neil looking off to his right with his hand pointed forward speaking and wearing a suit and tie

The Wall Street Journal

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal has become known since retiring from the game for his prolific work as a celebrity pitchman, working in front of the camera to help brands including Papa John’s and Frosted Flakes win customers.

In his latest venture, he’ll be working with marketers behind the scenes.

Image: Courtesy of Twitter

Mr. O’Neal is becoming a founding partner and investor in Majority, a new ad agency focused on serving up talent of diverse backgrounds. The agency arrives as Madison Avenue grapples with a history of inequity amid the nation’s renewed call for social justice, large agencies increasingly take measures to diversify their ranks, and some marketers press agencies to increase the diversity of the teams that work on their accounts.

“Most agencies still struggle to meet a 25% diversity target,” Mr. O’Neal said in a telephone interview. “We want to flip that diversity ratio to turn the minority into the majority.”

The agency plans to hire a diverse pool of talent defined by “black and brown people, women and LGBTQ,” said Omid Farhang, co-founder and chief executive of Majority.

“The goal for our company is to show how creative output changes when you flip that ratio,” Mr. Farhang said. “It’s as much about social equity as a shrewd business decision. Diversity is a competitive advantage. Diversity leads to different kinds of ideas that create different types of cultural discussions.”

The American Association of Advertising Agencies, or 4As, issued a report in September showing that Black and African-American employees make up just 5.8% of the agency business, and of that portion 68% held administrative or entry-level roles. The study, which looked at 165 agencies representing more than 40,000 employees, also found that 8.7% of the sample identified as Hispanic or Latino.

Mr. O’Neal won’t handle day-to-day agency tasks but will support the shop by joining meetings, networking and reaching out to brands and celebrity contacts as needed, he said.

“I’m just motivated to do this in a way to create new opportunities,” said Mr. O’Neal. “A lot of people talk about it. I’m tired of talking about it. I want to do something about it. I just want to make progress.”

Mr. O’Neal has worked with brands for decades, through both endorsement and investment deals. He owns many Papa John’s Pizza and Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises.

He is also looking to purchase Reebok with Authentic Brands Group, where he is a partner, from Adidas AG to revive the brand, he said. In December, Adidas said it is exploring a sale of the U.S. fitness brand.

And last fall he helped form a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, to make acquisitions in the media and technology industries.

Read the original article at Fox Business.

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