#BLAXFRIDAY Economic Empowerment for Tucson’s Black Businesses, By Ashley La Russa

Since the late 19th century, the imagery of a person in a suit signified success, importance, and wealth. Tailored threads, shined shoes, and a briefcase of important documents to be transported to a fellow professional working in a high-rise building meant business. The important realization here is that the majority of these images shown through media and advertisement were of White men and the complex nature of how our society promoted this imagery despite the knowledge of historic transgressions against specifically Black and Indigenous individuals. 

Fast forward to 2020, and these systemic racial injustices have continued with the deaths of numerous Black people murdered at the hands of law enforcement. The knowledge of a history that includes redlining, racial profiling, murder, arson, and the devastating tragedy of how American Black Businesses attempted successful ventures in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Somehow here we stand as hopeful Black Business owners that against all odds, seek equity through economic empowerment. This is the force and motivation behind the #BlaxFriday project, a positive step forward toward the recognition of our local Black Businesses.

“The #BlaxFriday project was created to take away emphasis from using “Black” as a discount code via Black Friday. In turn, we created BLAX Friday where people shop at Black-Owned Businesses. Not for a discount on Friday — but just because.” said Khailill Knight-Papaioannou, creator of BLAX and founder of KPMADMAN. For Roux Events, the project has been a yearlong project with support from Khailill Knight-Papaioannou and Michaela Baker, an HR Professional residing in Tucson, AZ.

The social media posts that were shared with the hashtag #blaxfriday were a call to all local Black Businesses to add their contact information and business updates to share with the community for support. In March 2020, Roux Events reached out to Seanloui, Black Renaissance, BLAX, CuratedColour, Creative Collabs, and Pinnacle Marketing Consulting for a discussion on how to turn our social posts into an accessible directory, website, app, and online virtual event spotlighting Black Businesses in Tucson, AZ. 

On May 25, 2020 we all watched as Mr. George Floyd was murdered. Collectively, we witnessed the disregards for human life and the injustice that followed. When our BlaxFriday team members met that week, we were even more inspired to work towards the recognition of Black Lives and Black Businesses in Tucson. The word “ACTION” was mentioned numerous times during our Zoom call. The project moved into overdrive to set and meet our goals within 4 weeks leading up to the Blax Friday Night Live event on June 26th. 

The Blax Friday Night Live goals consisted of creating an accessible list of locally Black Owned Businesses for all community members to reference for support, transforming the list into a resilient website/app, and finally hosting an online event of Black businesses. The online event is on June 26 and will feature a PITCH BLAX competition where a cash prize will be awarded for the best pitch submitted.

The PITCH BLAX competition offers the opportunity for businesses to “pitch” an idea, story, product, and/or service. This may spark interest from attendees to invest in the Black owners’ mission and vision. All of these goals reflect our desire to bring awareness of the financial disadvantages that Black Businesses face when seeking capital investments.  *According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The findings are alarming. The number of African-American business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April. The loss of 440,000 black business owners representing 41 percent of the previous level is disconcerting”. 

Days after Juneteenth, Black Businesses are organizing, celebrating, and building resiliency plans to survive the effects of COVID-19, racial injustice, and economic disparities of financial support. The data and news show the world that we all need to do more in order to preserve the growth of local small businesses. As a community, we can change the ways of the past to propel ourselves into a positive future.

For more information, go to www.blaxfriday.com

References 

*NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES:THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS: EVIDENCE OF EARLY-STAGE LOSSES FROM THE APRIL 2020 CURRENT POPULATION SURVEY © 2020 by Robert W. Fairlie. 

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