By Deontaye Osazuwa
On the 27th June 2020, the first ever Black Pound Day arrived. Twitter was quickly flooded by its hashtags and tweets encouraging the people of the UK to spend money on Black-owned businesses. The idea was created in the summer of 2020, which saw the death of George Floyd triggering a wave of protests worldwide along with calls for dismantle systematic racism and for Black lives to truly start matter in society. Out of the anger, passion and hope, Black Pound Day was born. Created by DJ Swiss – a member of the UK garage and hip-hop group, So Solid Crew – the day takes place every first Saturday of the month and is a part of a larger plan to encourage long-term economic growth in the Black community.
While the Black Lives Matter movement started in the US and was primarily concerned with police brutality, there is no doubt that Black Lives Matter is now worldwide and focuses on other aspects of society where there is lingering racial inequality, such as health care, education, and economics. In the UK where class plays a huge part on life experiences and chances for social mobility, economic inequality based in race is sometimes overlooked. However, racial discrimination in the past and currently has led to wide wealth gap which disadvantages Black business owners.
It is indisputable that many small and medium sized businesses succeed because the owner already has a healthy economic foundation, whether that’s home-ownership or savings. For Black people, they are already at a statistical disadvantage when it comes to this foundation. For example, research from the Runnymede Trust shows the significant differences in wealth and assets between households of different ethnicity . The figures also show that that for every £1 a white British family has, Black Caribbean households have about 20p. Additionally, it was reported that 63% of households across the country owned their property in 2016-2018 , but towards the other end of the scale were Black Africans, where only 20% owned a property. Black households were the least likely to receive personal pensions or income from other investments, and the most likely to receive benefits on top of the state pension.
Securing a bank loan may come with its own issues for Black entrepreneurs, research showing people of Black African origin are four times more likely than so-called “white firms” to be denied loans outright. A 2013 report for government by Warwick Business School showed that that Black-owned businesses were more likely to be rejected for an overdraft and charged higher interest rates than their white-owned counterparts. With these statistics, it is easy to see why out of the 35% of Black Africans that say they want to start a business, only 6% actually do, according to the Black Training and Enterprise Group.
When looking to solutions for these daunting systematic problems, we cannot wait for another merciless killing in the USA to trigger conversations around race and inequality. The solution, which is essentially the building of wealth within Black communities, will not happen overnight. That is where Black Pound Day comes in. Every first Saturday of the month, Black British businesses are able to gain a plethora of new customers by using the Black Pound Day hashtag on twitter to advertise their products and services. In a world where wealth is the key to unlock social mobility and influence, having a day dedicated to empowering the Black Community can only be a positive when helping to build towards a better, more equal future. As Swiss stated on his personal Instagram account, ‘It is a movement, not a moment.’ This is not just words and hollow tweets either. Based on receipts submitted to the campaign’s website as evidence from consumers, the first Black Pound Day generated an extra £61,640 .
By increasing the visibility and accessibility of Black businesses, the campaign is tackling one of the biggest systematic obstacles facing Black people; the ‘White Default’. While some who are against the campaign may argue that it defeats the purpose of a capitalist meritocracy, it is important to remember that due to racism Black and other ethnic minorities are almost always considered the ‘other’. Black owned products or service that specifically cater to a Black consumer still will not be seen on the same playing field as products that cater to a white consumer. They are in their own ethnic bubble.
It is this ostracization which has led to the creation of the ‘Black Hair Store’ in urban cities. It is essentially beauty supply stores that have products that cater to afro-textured hair. But even in these stores, there are products that also accommodate straighter hair also. In a store like Boots or Superdrug however, you will be lucky to find three different product lines for coily hair. Of course, there is a larger conversation to be had about supply and demand, but it illustrates clearly that the current retail norm benefits the ‘White Default’, with products created by and for white people.
Black Pound Day offers an alternative to that, instead creating its own marketplace and directory of Black businesses. This not only helps businesses challenge the ‘White Default’ through visibility, but also allows the chance for consumers to think more consciously about the products they are buying and perhaps choose differently after realizing that the products they have bought recently are from white-owned businesses. It is important to point out that this campaign does not believe in boycotting non-Black businesses. The campaign instead wishes the consumer to consider Black-owned businesses as well as white-owned businesses when deciding to spend money. An equality in the subconscious.
Most significantly, Black Pound Day is a positive way to seek change. It’s troubling that the only time the conversations over inequality become loud and meaningful is when it is attached to Black trauma. Whether that be police brutality or explicitly racist scenarios that are shared across social media. It is not possible to simultaneously heal from that violence while also advocate loudly for justice without burning out. There needs to be a less traumatically charged space for change to be affected. Swiss once stated in an interview with The Voice newspaper, “with the recent unfortunate events I could foresee my community plunging into another cycle of historical trauma. I wanted to somehow repurpose that energy into a positive outcome. Black Pound Day was the result of that motivation.”
Investing in a community that has historically been disallowed to create wealth may be the perfect, positive way to start using that energy and finally implement true change.