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Chicago Launching ‘Shop Black Friday’ to Support 500-plus Businesses

Rosemary Feitelberg
·3 min read

The city of Chicago, the local chapter of the Urban League and O’Keefe, Reinhard & Paul have joined forces to create “Black Shop Friday.”

The new initiative aims to encourage Chicagoans to “shop Black” at more than 500 local Black-owned businesses on the day after Thanksgiving, which is typically one of the strongest days of the year for retailers. It is also widely known as Black Friday and the new effort’s tag line is, “Put the Black in Black Friday.“ The Chicago-centric campaign aims to have city residents and others “spend green, shop Black,” as they shop online and order food to-go, during the holiday season.

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In order to give consumers an advance plan for their shopping on Nov. 27, a new BlackShopFriday site will go live on Nov. 24. That will be an online guide for the 500-plus Black-owned businesses, allowing shoppers to search for products by category and by neighborhood. It will be continually updated with new resources. Agriculture, a men’s fashion business, is among the participants.

Chicago Urban League president and chief executive officer Karen Freeman-Wilson said, “We know that Black-owned businesses have less access to capital and other resources needed to be successful. Black Shop Friday is an important campaign to raise awareness of these challenges, while also providing a mechanism for people who want to be intentional about supporting Black businesses.”

In the 2019 “State of Black Chicago Report,” the Chicago Urban League highlighted U.S. Census data that indicated that Black-owned businesses in Illinois that have smaller sales receipts and fewer employees than other businesses, which is a factor in the racial wealth gap that affects different communities. The Black Shop Friday event is geared to reduce that gap and bolster different neighborhoods.

The Black Shop Friday launch is part of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot‘s initiative “By Chicago, for Chicago,” a commitment to dedicate a percentage of all hours worked toward nonprofit, social and cultural organizations and agencies. Lightfoot said in a statement, “This inspiring partnership allows Chicagoans to discover the hundreds of Black-owned businesses in our city, driving the investment dollars that are needed now more than ever, and giving everyone a chance to make this new shopping holiday a huge success.”

Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League relies on community, corporate and civic ties to help people find jobs, secure affordable housing, improve educational opportunities and strengthen businesses. It is one of the oldest and largest affiliates of the National Urban League.

There are other efforts to support Black-owned retailers and companies at the start of the holiday season, including Black Business Friday. Organized by entrepreneur and advocate Cynthia Daniels, this virtual shopping experience will showcase 200 Black-owned businesses in the U.S. on Black Friday. Shoppers will find fashion, beauty, accessories, home products and other items at this one-day event. In an interview with WWD last month, Daniels spoke of the importance of supporting independent Black-owned businesses, during the pandemic. Shoppers will receive a link to the one-day only shopping platform, after RSVPing on Eventbrite.

Unrelated, Facebook has amped up its commitment to Black-owned businesses by launching the “Buy Black Friday” initiative with a gift guide for goods made by small Black-owned businesses.