A month filled with traumatic videos of police violence, racist terrorism and relentless “Karens” is enough to lower any spirits of racial justice. However, with each loss comes a win as more people are contributing major money to Black causes and Black-owned businesses.
According to Politico, people donated $392 million to campaigns via ActBlue in June, which shattered the previous monthly record from just before the 2018 election by 50 percent. ActBlue is the favored digital fundraising platform for the Democratic Party along with left-leaning organizations.
A surge of the ActBlue donations, over $115 million, came during the first four days of June, which was the height of the protests over the death of George Floyd and other victims of police violence. The money has been going towards bail funds for protestors, think tanks advocating police reform, as well as Democratic political candidates.
Many of these donations have been funneled into Black-led groups, including the Black Lives Matter network and Color of Change. The total amounts donated won’t be made available until later this month at the earliest. However, IRS documents filed by ActBlue last month show the early results of the surge that began in May. The IRS disclosure shows that Color of Change, for example, raised over $1.3 million via ActBlue in May. This is a big difference from garnering just a few hundred thousand dollars from the service in the previous four months of 2020.
Steve Phillips, a Democratic donor and founder of Democracy in Color, said the amount of money being donated to Black-led groups is “revolutionary.”
“There’s been a lot of gatekeepers – white gatekeepers – of big dollars that have been bypassed by all this small-dollar giving,” Phillips said. “It’s remarkable to watch mainstream philanthropy really become irrelevant in this moment.”
Black businesses are also thriving amid protests.
According to Associated Press, Google searches for “Black owned businesses near me” reached an all-time high in the U.S last month. The review site Yelp has also made it easier for customers to find Black-owned establishments while Uber Eats says it’ll waive delivery fees for purchases from Black-owned restaurants through the end of the year.
“It’s great seeing people realize that where they shop can be another form of activism, that it’s a way to put your money where your mouth is,” explained Randy Williams, founder of Talley & Twine, a Black-owned watch company in Portsmouth, Virginia. “You’re helping Black businesses become self-sustaining, and that helps the whole ecosystem.”
Williams said sales at Talley & Twine these past couple of months are up more than 300% from the same period last year, partially because more folks are shopping online during the pandemic. The company has also been mentioned on a couple social media lists of Black-owned businesses that have gone viral amid protests.
In Boston’s historically Black Roxbury neighborhood, Slade’s Bar and Grill saw a surge in gift card purchases and take-out orders.
“We’re definitely seeing white customers and customers from outside the neighborhood that we would probably have never seen before,” said Shawn Hunter, the managing partner of the soul food restaurant.
The boom in business hasn’t come without struggle however. Some companies are struggling to keep up with the surge in orders. For example, in Boston, the owners of the Black-owned Frugal Bookstore say customers are already seeking to cancel orders and complaining of delays. Most of the books that are selling out are around race relations. The store — which raised more than $40,000 via an earlier social media campaign to help weather the economic downturn — said in a message to customers that 75% of the more than 20,000 purchases it’s received are for the same 10 books.
Noah Hicks, the owner for the Boston bike shop Spokehouse, said he hopes the interest in Black businesses isn’t a fad. He said that he hopes it leads to more concrete solutions to challenges Black entrepreneurs face such as access to capital.
“People being intentional about their economic purchases is refreshing,” he said. ”But we also want them to help tear down the systems that make it hard for us, not just spend their dollars with us.”