1 March 2018,
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As Black History Month comes to a close, we should pause and take perspective about it and steps we can take to celebrate Black History beyond February. Supporting local, black-owned businesses in Illinois is one way to celebrate Black History Month throughout the remainder of the year.

A Short History of Black History Month

From its earliest inception as “Negro History Week” in 1926, Black History Month has become an annual celebration of the societal impact that black American figures have had on science, cultural practices and social reform both domestically and abroad. Black History Month has become one of America’s most prolific cultural occurrences since its formal beginnings in 1976.

Marketing During Black History Month

Innumerable companies celebrate Black History Month through advertising campaigns. But, according to a 2005 Washington Post article, Black History Month and advertising generally does not mix well.

The Heineken Campaign

Take, for example, the 2012 Heineken art competition that coincided with Black History Month. According to the rules of the competition, users were encouraged to like the Heineken page on Facebook and submit art that served as a “representation of black history and the spirit of the Heineken brand.”

In the case of Heineken, though, many criticized that it appeared as though the historic accomplishments of black Americans served only as the backdrop to Heineken’s advertising, a complimentary factor through which the company was able to generate traffic. For Heineken, though, this wasn’t just an ordinary marketing—this was a competition that celebrated the Heineken brand and then Black History Month.

While some marketing campaigns avoid a specific push towards their own products—such as Allstate’s 2016 “Worth Telling” campaign—many advertising campaigns put out under the guise of “celebrating” Black History Month by larger corporations have often been at the expense of smaller black-owned businesses.

This begs an important question: “Who ultimately benefits from Black History Month advertising campaigns?” The beneficiaries to these ad campaigns are very often not black entrepreneurs or black-owned businesses, but the corporations sponsoring campaigns which “celebrate” Black history.

Celebrate History by Supporting Black-Owned Businesses in Illinois

With business in mind, it becomes particularly important to acknowledge the presence of black business owners, and to support local black-owned businesses in Illinois that would otherwise be swept under the rug by larger marketing campaigns.

In Illinois alone, nearly 100% of businesses across the state are small, locally-owned businesses with less than 500 employees; of these small businesses, nearly 12% of them are owned and operated by black Americans.

In the spirit of Black History Month, Illinois’ locally owned black businesses deserve to be recognized and supported year-round, and we have compiled a list of resources for finding a black-owned business near you.

With February nearing an end, how can we ensure support and revenue for black-owned businesses during the remaining months of the year?

Finding Black-Owned Businesses in Illinois

Social Media

The best way to find a local black-owned business in Illinois is, not surprisingly, right at your fingertips: your phone. In the age of social media apps like Yelp! and Facebook, finding businesses in any industry (food, clothing, legal services, etc.) that is black-owned and operated is easier than ever. Often, many businesses will advertise their services in sponsored posts that often go viral on their own accord—particularly in the food industry. By browsing Facebook or searching for local black-owned businesses, finding a new small business to support can be done in as little as 60 seconds.

Business-Specific Resource Guides

While a Google search of “black-owned businesses near me” can yield satisfying results, websites which specifically highlight black-owned businesses exist to help make the search even simpler and, perhaps more appealing, specifically local. Some examples of website which highlight black-owned businesses in the Chicagoland area are:

• Black Owned Chicago
Support Black Owned (Illinois)
Black Chicago Eats

Local Highlights

Like Facebook, many online publications and bloggers are now highlighting the accomplishments and specialties of black-owned businesses across Illinois and in the Chicagoland area. Some of these include:

Shoppe Black
Nikki and the City’s “Black Owned Businesses in Chicago”

The next time you and your loved ones decide to eat out, shop for clothes, or require services from a small business, consider supporting your local black-owned businesses.

In the age of digital advertising, your patronage and sharing of their pages has the potential to make an impact on the market and increase the presence of black-owned businesses in Black History Month and beyond.

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