Shifting the Black hair care industry back into Black hands
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Yelp searches for Black-owned business have spiked since the police killing of George Floyd, but for Maggie Anderson, author of “Our Black Year,” and founder of the Empowerment Experiment Foundation, buying Black is much more than a trend. It’s been her way of life for over a decade.
On Jan. 1, 2009, Anderson and her husband, John, embarked on a yearlong journey to spend their money at only Black-owned businesses. The couple wanted to do something drastic, Anderson explained, “out of love for our community,” although she “had no idea how hard it would be.” For example, there was “only one Black-owned grocery store in all of Illinois, and that grocery store closed five months before we finished our year.” But Anderson stuck with the project to “expose how few Black businesses there still are, to refute negative stereotypes about Black-owned businesses and to show the economic injustice that still persists in America.”
And now, years later, Anderson has launched the Black-owned hair care challenge, encouraging consumers to spend their money at Black-owned beauty-supply stores and purchase Black-owned beauty products. The focus on Black hair care is a starting point for Anderson, because it’s a culturally specific industry with products that are for Black people, yet few Black people own the supply stores or the companies that make the products. A study conducted about six years ago by the Beauty Supply Institute found Black ownership in the supply store industry to be just 3%. But, Anderson said, it wasn’t always this way.
“Black hair care firms sustained the civil rights movement. Black women created huge companies selling products to Black consumers.” And Anderson wants to bring that dynamic back. “It would be wonderful,” she said “If in America, just like other groups own their culturally relevant products and industries, that the Black community can own the biggest Black hair care brands. That the Black community can own Black beauty supply stores.”
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