An Open Letter from Black Owned Business Owners
Your first assignment is to share this on your social media. Then come back and read it. It will be how we build trust during this exchange of me writing and you reading.
Go ahead. I swear I'll wait.
Like most things I write, knowing where to begin or how to capture the attention of everyone I am trying to reach - so they won't fly right by is hard to determine.
Run on sentences and being long winded is also a thing I do, so I apologize in advance.
I usually just jump in, but if you are new to my writing, please be prepared for both serious, humorous (to me) and everything in between.
We have seen personally at ROCKDEEP an uptick of business with our core business. Footwear and Apparel. This brings joy to all at ROCKDEEP.
Not that we aren't appreciative of those who have kept us afloat purchasing PPE and custom cloth masks, however we knew this would only last so long.
You see, we knew cloth masks would be the go to before it was widely discussed by many. We researched, spoke with those within the health field as well as made a couple of calls to friends at the CDC, FDA and Health and Human Services.
We didn't want to create something that looked like a ski masks - tight against your face with you complaining about having to wear it. There are enough unthoughtful folks not wearing masks at all, so we wanted to make your experience as pleasant as possible. Even giving you a $10- $12.50 price point which includes a filter.
You know. Something that's actually functional and does something.
It's been fruitful enough to keep the lights on and my wife from stressing out TOO TOO much.
But enough about me and ROCKDEEP. This really is about ALL Black Owned Businesses AND those businesses that REALLY support Black people.
Every company is rushing to make all these changes and make PR Statements. Like giving everyone Juneteenth off. While that's all cool, to some it seems forced.
We are collectively thinking. It took a black man losing his life for you to give a day off for something we should have been able to freely celebrate since 1865.
This is really what inspired me to write this.
I asked a question on my personal Facebook page which I knew alot of Black folks were wondering as well.
Why now? Why this time? What made you care this go around? I even let them know it was a no judgement zone, because to my fellow black folks, we have to allow everyone who is non black to answer without feeling as if they are walking on eggshells.
The answers were not really eye opening, because most of us felt any answer given probably wasn't going to be a good one. lol
Answer were given like:
Covid19 had everyone inside.
We saw it over and over.
We always cared, but something about this time made it real.
Those are just a few of the many, but when black folks read this, they are already thinking as I was:
You only cared because you had nothing else to do?
Out of all the posts you've ME post personally about Police Brutality and men were killed THIS was the one you chose to watch over and over?
THIS one made it real? But Why?
(Side Bar real Quick)
Dear Black Folks:
Now I will say again, none of the answers were eye opening, revealing but internally more frustrating, but what I knew and hoped many blacks who were reading the answers did was not let out that frustration in that forum.
Why? Because lets be honest... some white folks are fragile enough as it is, when it comes to this discussion ( I say this respectfully) and us telling them those answers aren't good enough, will never move or progress the open dialogue some are now willing to have.
I often say, if white people were just willing to sit, listen and have the uncomfortable conversation, we actually might be able to get past all the pent up frustration and anger we internally and externally exude.
So we have to keep allowing them to listen, but also speak. Now mind you, you must correct them and educate them, but for the most part, allow the dialogue to happen.
There are those who don't want to get it. You know - The All Lives Matter Folks.
I don't waste my breath and neither should you. It's pointless. It's like a relationship. Focus on those who like you, not those who don't. I know it's hard at times, but it's so less stressful.
There are enough well meaning people that are willing to now listen, we have to really let go what it took to get them to this point.
But Dear White people back to you.
You must understand that our feelings are not unjustified in what I'm about to explain.
When you DO admit the reasons what it took you to care especially now, we wonder, how long will THIS last?
Are we a fad or social appropriation that's just here at the moment while its hip and cool to support Black people?
Will this be over, when you get jobs, or life goes back to a "new normal"?
This is an ongoing thought of ours.
I will accept ALL the white guilt purchases personally, but I want more than white guilt purchases, I and all other Black owned businesses want and need sustained long term forever and ever purchases.
Now Dear Black Folks - I can't leave us out
This goes for you too. You/We/Us are known to have spurts of "woke" moments. Now don't go and get offended, because I mean this neither collectively, or individually but ya'll know what I'm talking about.
We are a Black Owned Footwear and Apparel company. We aren't the only one, but Im pretty sure when it comes to amount of styles, the largest in the world in our category.
There should be ROCKDEEP logo's not only on each Black Adult in the world, but your children.
Negash should be on your backs and feet as well. Formal wear spots like Miguel Wilson should be your first choice when outfitting yourselves.
There are just soooo many choices in all industries to choose from when it comes to Black Owned Businesses.
If you knew what I knew about your favorite footwear brand, you wouldn't be so quick to be so brand loyal. I'll get to the reasons why a bit later.
We must teach our kids about helping grow Black businesses. It starts at birth.
If we teach them about just consumption and not saving, this is how they will grow..only consuming worried about keeping up with the Joneses as my parent's would say.
The time is NOW. Not next week. Not next month. It's time to play by the same rules the 1% have. Tax breaks. Tax loops. Financial literacy. Generational Wealth.
I know it's a buzz word we all hear these days, but like a good idea you don't follow through on it's not worth much if you see that someone else did.
Seek out a financial planner willing to pull back the curtain. Not just tell you all the basics of how YOU make your money grow, but a good one will tell you how they make their money off your money.
Yes, we have been conditioned not to trust each other when it comes to our money. Unfortunately we are justified in this feeling. Just realized the history behind it, and who got us conditioned this way.
The reason ROCKDEEP was created, was not just to sell sneakers. It was so folks could get high quality products at an affordable price. The money you'd save you could put towards something else.
Like Real Estate, Investments of the right kind. Pooling your money with others to create something bigger and start allowing your money to work for you. Not the other way around.
What I do is for my seeds. No longer myself once they came into the world. This is what I need OUR people to do. This isn't to exclude white folks, but I am pulling back all types of curtains, so thanks for reading and not making it about yourself.
So back to our white colleagues.
We need you. We ALL need you. Not just protesting, not just feeling bad for us, but we need you financially. Seek out the black owned businesses on Instagram and Facebook. We are here. We are plentiful.
This is the only way companies like Nike, Under Armor, Starbucks and the like will realize, they must do more than just make statements and give folks off for Juneteenth.
I understand some mean well, but pledging millions without telling folks how to access those millions does nothing for us. AT ALL.
Information and communication is the key as everyone agrees. Well follow up those PR statements with information on how Black and Minority Businesses can access those massive amounts of grant and see money.
Also realize, everything can't be invested in tech. We are a diverse people. We can cover ALL industries.
Now I don't usually discuss other companies within my same industry by name, because to me it's like counting another man's money. Something you just don't do.
However, pretend like I just said but, because I'm going to pull back a few curtains, but don't worry, this all comes together.
If you knew that Nike really didn't want to keep Kaepernick on their roster, you'd feel some sort of way. Nike didn't keep him on out of the kindness of their heart. They know that Black Folks made them who they are today.
Nike has pulled back accounts from mom and pop stores all around the country, so they can keep all the money. Only about 40 companies have tier 1 accounts.
Tier 1 being those Signature sneakers, like Jordan's Pennys etc.
They were talked into keeping Kaep on because black folks spend money. White folks wear shoes, but honestly we know collectively the Trump folks buy one pair of Monarchs, New Balance or now those kicks Howie Long wears when he's flying first class.
Nike is now telling you they will do better. Why now? You've had great's come through there and left because they didn't have any other choice, or they knew they could do better doing what they loved elsewhere.
I could go on and on, but do some research.
Under Armor. They are right up the way from where we are located. Yes, they have had great designers and management come and go there as well.
Yet, they bring folks in to bring new fresh ideas and designs, but when its all said and done....they prefer to do it the way it's always done.
I respect the hell out of Kevin Plank... up until he spoke up in reverence of Trump. How many of us do you see styling in UA? I'll wait.
All those talented folks ... not there anymore.
Adidas... they are another. They set up an office in Brooklyn, NYC and have a calling all designers thing they do. Welp those in charge are not black. However, I will say I know the head dude there who is of Italian descent and he is someone I respect tremendously and know while reactionary, they will do what's best.
However the industry as a whole is not racist, but they aint exactly drowning with black folks in executive positions either.
I promise this isn't too much longer, but I want to touch on a few other things:
Dear Black Folks:
Let's stop looking for reparations. Let's start making up for what our ancestors are owed.
Personally: Side Bar
For those wanting REAL reparations should get the best Black Lawyers in America and sue EVERY SINGLE COMPANY that benefitted from slavery.
This information is easy to obtain. If EVERYONE who supported BLACK LIVES LIVING boycotted every bank who gave slave owners loans, and every business who benefitted from slavery, they'd have no choice but to collectively come up with trillions to cut a check.
Our black outs of businesses should never last one day. Thats silly. I love the intent by everyone. But supporting black business for one day is about as silly as boycotting a business for one day.
What's the point of either??
So change your approach. Don't just go with these made up black out's and boycotts, questions the intent and why.
If we are going to ask for reperations, lets ask for no taxes on our personal and business income for the next 100 years, so we can catch up a little.
What we could do with that would be simply real....but Im getting way ahead of myself.
I'd love for our entertainers and athletes to take the lead. Imagine if both white and black people said they wouldn't support an entertainer unless they supported some black businesses publicly that weren't just their boys.
Theres no limit on who you can support.
We don't need their money. We need their support. A share on Instagram and Facebook. They have the money. We shouldn't have to gift free stuff to millionaires to HOPE they share a picture of them wearing or showcasing out product at 3am when no one is watching.
We need constant support.
Just realize, as much as Michael Jordan whom I respect and revere is doing what is he is now, Jordan is NOT Black Owned. Nike cuts HIM a check. A Big one.. but he is paid by them.
Imagine if Lebron had his own brand, he would make multi billions not multi millions hoping to get to a Billion at some point from Nike.
Now I speak NO ILL WILL towards Lebron, so please don't take anything I said to that point, because that dude is highly respected by me more than anyone else in sports.
He speaks with his money. He speaks with his voice and he acts. I wish more did.
Next: Solutions to make a difference.
My father always said, don't bring him a problem unless I have a proposed solution.
First to Black Folks:
If you have a Black Owned Instagram account of note with a ton of followers, can we have a week where you allow free advertising to your audience? In return, those getting free advertising can reward them after the free time period with business you got from that free advertisement.
We have to work together. This has to go both way's. We have to start that trust with each other if we expect others to trust us.
Tag black businesses on your favorite entertainer and athletes accounts. Let them know they have to join in.
Hell, let them read this. It will take ALL of us. No matter the person, no matter the influence. We have reach we don't even realize.
Parents with D1 athletes.
Simple. Put them in HBCU's. Do you know what kind of damage that would do to a racist structure set up to make TRILLIONS off the backs of mostly black kids, that don't see any of that?
The fact that they fight this and have for so long should tell you, that your child is being used.
We know it's hard, but kids are playing overseas now in Basketball, but imagine if a large contingent of D1 level kids went to HBCU's? They would get money from those same majority white schools to play. The HBCU's would get TV money and the playing field would START to even just a little.
I know this sounds jolting or really radical, but it's not. If you are being selfless this is easy. If you have raised your child right, the decision is easy for them.
Imagine if white parents started doing the same thing academically? The affect we need would be unreal.
They could attend as minority students and the campuses would grow as would the ability to expand campus facilities and buildings.
Dear Black and White folks:
We can do this together....but before I leave I have one more thing to speak on. Ok maybe a few more things.
We need more participation in local government as well as the highest offices. Voting is real and works. I know we don't trust it, but it will make a difference and IF you choose to sit out of the big one which would be a mistake, please make sure you vote or participate on the local level.
I know we don't have the best choice and by no means am I happy about it AT ALL.
It's a choice between a creepy old white dude who may be senile who was responsible for our demise during his earlier career and just says some dumb stuff... often
A Racist Sexual Assault Who Flirts with his Daughter more than his wife.
I know strong words, but this is the one we have to swallow our pride and anger on and maybe we can primary Uncle Joe or hope he picks a viable VP.
Yes it sickens me too, but look what happened when we let our emotions get in the way last time?
We need to stop saying we can't win with a third party unless we ALL come together with others of all races and creeds and find a progressive platform.
Still not sure why PROGRESSIVE is such a bad word, but understand NO politician can hold our values one for one. If we don't force the next administration to do what's needed not whats good for them we can't expect anything to change for the benefit of our kids or those younger than us..
Ok ... politics is where you can lose folks, but I stopped caring a while ago if I lost business due to my beliefs. We should all be able to agree to disagree on politics, unless your politics are rooted in my oppression and demise as a people.
But moving right along... thanks for staying tuned in.
Now lets start down the road to what's really going on.
Dear White Corporate America
If you were for real about making the playing field even heres' a few things you would do and cut to the chase without all the fluff.
You wouldn't give minority businesses the crumbs on Government Contracts.
You would require there be at least as many Black Owned Prime Contractors on a split award than there are white owned businesses.
See way back before footwear or television and radio, I worked in the federal government. I know a ton of inside crap.
Footwear and Apparel Brands:
Instead of doing small collaborations with black designers, giving them mere crumbs to literally design something hot for you and get credit and free kicks for friends and family.
Make them a true partner in the venture. Stop just sending free stuff to entertainers to build up your connection to the black dollar.
Money for programs we really don't know about is cool and sounds great, but change up HOW you do your business. Make sure black folks have a seat AT the table, not around it in the meetings.
Buyers: It would be great if you brought in MORE not SOME Black Owned Brands. Companies that didn't have to be turned down or humiliated by Kevin on Shark Tank first.
Perhaps make a real investment by having Black Owned Fashion brands - which there are plenty of.
Maybe - here's a thought: Create programs where you can have Black brands work with your other brands to cultivate and enhance their own brand.
We know you want a ready made situation, but this leads to the fact that we are not trained the same, dont have the same advantages and we still are fighting to get where others are.
Just expand your black owned offerings. It's not hard.
Sports Talk Radio:
Having black voices who aren't just ex-athletes is important. Some just tow a line and talk and aren't saying much of anything just hoping they can keep their job. All to keep the boss happy.
Locally in the DC area, a station I use to work for WJFK has no Black voices anymore. So when times like this happen, there is ONE perspective and thats IF they even want to touch on it. Why would we want to listen to that as black folks?
I forget, their only care is about white men 25 - 54. I actually had a PD tell us that they didn't care about women listening to us. How crazy is that? Last time I checked there were a ton of women sports fan's and women are the one's who spend the money. However this is the mindset.
While I love the morning show, they are 4 white dudes who only grew up around black folks. They can't speak to what we endure. Again, why would we want to listen to that ALL DAY LONG?
Some ex-athletes - while still black and have the experience of being black they can't relate completely. They are still black of course, but they are removed from the everyday struggles of what we as black people endure.
Thank goodness for folks like Brian Mitchell and Rick "Doc" Walker who don't hold back no matter who is signing their checks.
You are probably wondering why I brought up those examples?
I believe we all must speak on ONLY what we know and not assume how it is in experiences we haven't had.
Those are just some examples that I can speak to because I was in those worlds before footwear and apparel. Im sure many of you can give plenty examples on how corporate white America in your industry could do better by blacks.
Now, some will read this and say, "but what about those of us who are white small business owners?"
First... never make a black topic all about yourself !! lol I kid I kid.
But it's a good question and if you paid attention to the beginning of this diatribe, I said it's important to support not only black business, but those who support black people.
If thats you.. we the black delegation will happily support you. We can call YOU to be a partner on ventures we are awarded or develop.
We know we will need you. We will need those white small businesses who support black people to fill in where we can not provide a service.
Just don't insult our intelligence is all we ask. In my local area, you see generally white districts who are pretty liberal all of sudden putting Black Lives Matter signs in the window, as if they were afraid something might get burned down.
Message to all of you well meaning folks. We aren't about that life. We want to live in prosperity and peace just like you, so again, let this be a movement, not a moment that fades away.
We appreciate the sentiments, and gestures just make it last forever like Keith Sweat.
OK Let's Wrap This Thing Up:
So the last thing I will speak on (I PROMISE) is not gentrification.. so don't get all worried...but it is about the white voice.
Your voice is as important as your money. Speak up. Speak out. We are tired of having to do it. This is another reason we need you.
Imagine having to explain White Privilege 200 times... a day. It's exhausting, but as I mentioned much earlier I don't take part in it anymore, but you can't be afraid to lose friends or family for that matter.
You have white colleagues who have been disowned for having Black husbands and children. Thats not just sacrifice, thats love.
We aren't asking you to take bullets for us... yet. But if you are serious about our equality, our standing in America losing a friend who isn't for us can't be asking too much.
Losing a parent is a little more to ask, but the same thing applies. You may not have a black lover or child, but just imagine if your parent didn't like whoever your love is OR your child.
Who would you choose? Them or your partner??
So I will leave you on a positive note.
Dear White people.
We welcome you to the fight, the struggle and the journey. It took a while, but you are here.
Just realize our trust in you collectively is on unstable ground, and if you abandon us because you got bored, busy or something else there will be no repairing the wall we are trying to let down.
Keep having the conversations and listening. Don't make it about yourself. Don't feel bad for us. Feel angry about what has been and still continues to happen to us.
Most of all, be as upset about what happens to us, than you do when something happens to an animal. We have for far too long felt like if there was a choice, it's your pet before us.
If you can at least TRY to act as we matter more, the relationship between us can begin to be so much better.
If no one has told you yet, we appreciate you. At least most of us. I can't speak for my brother's and sister's who won't trust you ever, but please understand, they are justified in their feelings.
All Black Owned Businesses thank you for sharing and creating lists that feature us. If you got this far without being offended or breaking into tears you are on your way.
Please share this blog as if it were the best meme you ever saw, and keep on sharing it.
Now go spend money... Payday is tomorrow for some folks right?
If you want to see more ROCKDEEP Blogs click here
For more great blogs from the CEO of ROCKDEEP just keep coming back here. If you expect the greatest of journalism this is NOT the place for you.
To find other pieces done on our company.
ROCKDEEP Live Interview - Mark Gray