Facebook’s #BuyBlack Friday project goes far beyond the post-Thanksgiving discounts traditionally associated with Black Friday. Two Black employees on the social media giant’s small business marketing team (Rachel Hawk and Remi Ray) came up with #BuyBlackFriday as a way to support mom and pop Black businesses throughout the entire holiday season. Reports estimate that more than 40% of small businesses will permanently close this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. With approximately 2.7 billion active users per month, Facebook seeks to leverage its massive platform to specifically bolster Black small businesses with its latest initiative.
A gift guide featuring offerings from dozens of Black-owned companies has price points from $5 to just under $300. Whether you’re in need of stationary, luxury sunglasses, home accessories, hoodies, or any number of categories, this list has you covered. Comedian and author Phoebe Robinson hosted a live weekly show Oct 30-Nov 27 highlighting the Black business owners and even included appearances and performances from major stars like Gabrielle Union, DJ D-Nice, and Miguel.
BET.com interviewed Hawk and Ray via Zoom about how this initiative came to be and how it could influence future endeavors. Facebook’s Chief Diversity officer Maxine Williams answered questions over email.
BET.com: How did this #BuyBlack Friday project come about?
Remi Ray: During the racial reckoning that took place this summer. I was looking for ways that I could help uplift the Black community and I wanted to do that specifically within my role at Facebook. Rachel and I formed a team (there were nine of us) and we submitted an idea to a hackathon. Hackathons are kind of a Facebook tradition. It’s where a bunch of people from around the company come together to solve a big problem. In this case, the problem was how can Facebook better support diverse communities, including Black communities. The whole point of the program was to help consumers shop with Black businesses.
Maxine Williams: What I love most about #BuyBlack Friday is that the fundamental idea is so authentic and representative of the power of giving employees a voice. Rachael, Remi and the group of employees who came up with this idea knew they couldn’t simply carry on with their day to day job in the wake of our country’s racial justice reckoning. By providing opportunity with dignity, our Black employees were given the space to be supported by their colleagues – and to come up with ideas that are driving meaningful change.
BET.com: What can you tell us about the weekly live show?
Remi Ray: The idea behind that show was to have a fun, entertaining event, and to use that as a vehicle for attracting an audience of people/consumers and to get them interested in shopping with Black businesses. While we were hacking together as a team on the business marketing side, it turned out that a consumer marketing team at Facebook had come up with a similar idea. We teamed up with them to kind of merge their shopping show with the entertainment pieces that we eventually added.
BET.com: Rachel, you’re only 27 years old. As a young Black woman in this space co-leading a massive project, how has this impacted your professional career?
Rachel Hawk: Part of what I have always wanted to do in my career is support diverse communities. Everything came together for it to happen in this moment. I’ve experienced a lot of career growth, even learning from so many people across Facebook and j having the opportunity to work directly with our leaders because they were so interested in this project. The incredible thing about #BuyBlack Friday is that it might have started with our small team, but they were people who were interested across dozens of teams, and basically volunteered at times to work on this because it wasn’t in anyone’s plans the way it caught on like wildfire.
BET.com: For Facebook as a whole, what does a truly diverse and equitable workplace look and feel like?
Maxine Williams: Ultimately success is measured by the satisfaction of the people who use our products. We invest in diversity and inclusion in order to gain the perspectives, skills and insight of a diverse workforce in order to build the best products and serve the people who use them in the best way. A truly diverse, equitable and inclusive Facebook workplace would look more like the global community we serve and would feel like a place of inclusion where everyone is seen, heard and valued.
BET.com: The basic idea of #BuyBlack Friday is something that doesn’t have to stop at the holidays. Is there a plan for it to expand or evolve?
Remi Ray: The five episodes of the live show are done, but the gift guide is still live and that will stay up until the end of the year. We hope people will continue to shop with Black businesses this holiday season. We do hope that next year, we can do something like this again.
BET.com: The hashtag has been shared millions of times across Facebook and Instagram. Do you feel any pressure to come up with the next big idea?
Rachel Hawk: I feel like, yes we did this, I think it’s great, but there’s so much more to do. There are many more businesses we can help and I just think this is the beginning, so it doesn’t feel like pressure, I feel more driven to keep going.
Maxine Williams: At Facebook we strive to apply the lens of diversity and inclusion to all of our processes, from how we create products and policies to how we manage crises like the pandemic. We ask ourselves: how can we leverage the diversity of our teams to create better end products that provide equal value to all people. The research shows that diverse teams help deliver better outcomes and better culture, which is why we will not stop striving for greater diversity among our workforce.