In my line of work I interact with entrepreneurs and indie brand creators from around the world, the majority of them are people of color (obviously, this is Afrobella.com!). I’ve heard the complaints from so many corners, about the struggle to get noticed or to stand out as a product producer, or the difficulty to find a wide variety of products made by people of color, for people of color. Blackout Black Friday became a movement, and for many of us it doesn’t end with the Thanksgiving holiday. It can be easy to find independent black clothing or jewelry designers, but what if you want to buy shoes? Or toys for your kids? Or laundry detergent, made by an indie black brand? Now there’s a solution — WeBuyBlack.com – click here to check it out!
The site looks great and is beginning to grow. They’re constantly looking for vendors, so definitely feel free to submit your wares! WeBuyBlack aims to fill a void in the online global diaspora, and was founded by Shareef Abdul-Malik, a 24-year-old husband, father and recent Howard University from SE Washington DC. I asked him a few questions about the inspiration, intention and future of his site.
Afrobella — What inspired you to create WeBuyBlack.com?
Shareef Abdul-Malik — I always wanted to do something impactful for our community, the Black community. I was never sure what exactly but I knew that our people suffered from many issues that had yet to be remedied. From having the highest rates of joblessness, homelessness, poverty, crime, and imprisonment, I knew that there were many areas I could tackle. Then, after reading an article that stated Black Owned businesses were the second largest employer after the government, and that the Black community were aimed to spend upward 1 trillion dollars in the coming years, then I found an obvious start. Although this concept is nothing new, and in fact almost obvious considering the technological and socio-political climate of Black people, we created an online marketplace for Black people to circulate our dollars in our own community. It was shocking to find that a dollar would circulate in the Asian American community for over 30 days, in the Jewish community for 20 days, in the white community for 17 days, but in the Black community for only 6 hours. There’s an obvious correlation between an economically disenfranchised community in America and the unfortunate statistics aforementioned which directly affects the overall growth and health of Black American citizens. I didn’t graduate from Howard University with a degree in business, I graduated with a degree in Sociology and community development. Although I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, my heart has always been with those I knew first hand that were suffering from these systemic and multi-generational issues. Now I found a way to merge the two.
Afrobella — What’s your response to those who may be offended by the concept? Why is this important and necessary to the community?
Shareef Abdul-Malik — Well, I actually never approved of the term “black” to identify our people, as I understand that we are much more than a crayon in a crayola box. But we are working to change the perception of our people and the world. When we said “We Buy Black”, majority of our people responded very positively. It was a bold statement, very direct and because the societal attempts to eradicate Black history it may be a bit controversial. When stated to some Black people, they seemed to hold their comments as if they were wondering “I wonder if this would be acceptable to white people.” The white community thus far hated the term. We received many emails stating that we were ‘racist’ for saying webuyblack; they also stated “if we said webuywhite, would you like that?”. Although we know this may not be the feelings of all white people, this has been the response we received so far. Now, had we said We Buy Italian or We Buy French or We Buy Britain or German, or Irish, then we would not receive the same response. In fact it would appear rather normal. Black people have stated “your only customers will be black people, you’re not going to get the white people,” as if that is our goal. Actually, to many of our surprise, Black owned businesses on the site have received sales in Germany, Italy, and Sweden, all from customers who identified as white. We are working to show our people that the world actually admires everything we produce and they are more than willing to pay for it. Hopefully, webuyblack.com will continue to inspire Black people to continue to be ourselves and enjoy our culture.
Afrobella — What are you looking for more of, in terms of vendors?
Shareef Abdul-Malik — The more Black businesses join webuyblack.com to sell their products then the more we can help control cultural appropriation. This happens to be a big issue in the Black community. From our music, art, dance, hairstyles, etc., people all over the world have managed to profit from it except Black people. As we developed WeBuyBlack.com we studied websites like Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and Shopify. Now, many Etsy vendors are joiningWeBuyBlack.com and are saying that they actually enjoy our experience over theirs. We wanted to create a site that gave our people no reason not to join. We also noticed that Etsy rarely, if ever shows Black people on their home page or any of their main site pages. It must be refreshing to actually see our people immediately (upon) entering the site. So far, we’ve made great strides and we have yet to celebrate one year of operations.
Afrobella — What are your hopes for the future of WeBuyBlack.com, what’s next?
Shareef Abdul-Malik — We built this site so that we can improve the overall negative situation we as Black people face in our day to day lives. We built this platform for our children so that they can avoid joblessness, poverty, homelessness, crime, and imprisonment. We built this platform to help our dollars circulate at a rate equal to or better than any other race of people. We built this platform to allow the world to finally buy from our people directly, to experience our culture directly, and to bridge the gap of that disconnects Black people of America to our family abroad. Since the site’s launch, there have been vendors from the UK, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, etc., all Black owned businesses that want to build an economically sustainable future for their children as well. So our growth will happen naturally. I believe that there will be more people outside of our community buying from the Black owned businesses who have set up shop on webuyblack.com. The world is tired of watching big corporations profit from our creativity and steal our culture only to sell it back to us. I believe that good Americans too will go to our site and shop freely with the Black owned businesses and appreciate our creations, our culture, and our life. I believe that webuyblack.com will unite us all, as it will end that which divides us.
If you’re a vendor looking for a new avenue for your product sales, or a consumer looking for products made by us, for us – click here to visit WeBuyBlack.com! Thanks, Shareef!