As people around the world take to the streets and social media to protest systemic racism, many are looking for more ways to fight inequality over the long term. One of the easiest ways to start? Supporting Black businesses — whether it's changing where you order takeout from to being more conscious about the clothes you wear — takes your activism beyond words and creates lasting change in the communities who are disproportionally affected by the pandemic and racial injustice.
For beauty lovers specifically, there's no better time than now to make the commitment to buying Black— and Malaika Jones Kebede, Nia Jones, and Tai Beauchamp of Brown Girl Jane, a CBD-based beauty and wellness brand, just made it easier than ever. The three co-founders recently announced the "Brown Girl Swap," an initiative that asks everyone to commit to replacing at least five of their go-to products with brands owned by Black women. "We thought, 'How can we shine a light on our sisters who have small businesses?'" Beauchamp tells Refinery29. "We need allies to understand that the way we're going to support the growth of the Black community is by making the wealth gap smaller."
The Brown Girl Jane founders hope that this initiative will also serve as a directory for people to discover new Black-owned businesses through the #BrownGirlSwap hashtag. While it might seem like a small acknowledgment, amplifying brands on a public platform helps drive the conversation around wealth distribution and racial disparities in America (even if it's just within your own friend circle).
This challenge comes at a critical moment for the beauty industry, which is facing a long overdue reckoning. After beauty reporter Darian Harvin began publicly tracking how beauty brands joined the Black Lives Matter movement, Sharon Chuter, founder, CEO, and creative director of Uoma Beauty, launched Pull Up For Change. The challenge calls for brands to share the exact number of Black employees currently working at the corporate and executive levels of their business. Around the same time, Aurora James, founder of sustainable accessories brand Brother Vellies, kicked off the 15 Percent Pledge, which urges mass retailers like Whole Foods, Target, Net-A-Porter, and Sephora to commit to 15% shelf space for Black founders (to more accurately reflect the population demographics in the U.S.)
The founders of Brown Girl Jane are excited to see these calls for change in the industry, and are hopeful that the movement will also reach venture capitol, which currently invests in fewer than 1% of Black female founders. "There's a myriad of issues around the funding that we get," says Beauchamp. "If we amplify our voices collectively, then we'll start to change some of the opportunities that exist to raise funding." Adds Malaika Jones Kebede, "We believe deeply in directing our dollars to diverse companies that truly support our communities beyond marketing images."
"We want to see people put their money where their mouth is by making these purchases."
The founders of Brown Girl Jane aren't just fighting for inclusion in the beauty and wellness industry; they're also creating space for Black women in hemp, where over-criminalization is rampant. "We knew it was our responsibility to help rectify these systemic issues that traumatize too many people of color," co-founder Nia Jones tells us. "We hope that in the future the hemp industry will become more diverse and legislation will ultimately be passed that no longer unfairly targets the Black community and affords everyone the opportunity to benefit from the use of the cannabis plant equally."
No matter the fight, it's on all consumers — "not just Black and brown," as Beauchamp stresses — to create long-term change. "This is an opportunity for the community at large to be a part of making a difference," says Beauchamp. "Our goal with Brown Girl Swap is to have everyone engaged and to be more thoughtful about how they can be a part of the solution."
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