Issa Rae Partners With American Express to Promote Black-Owned Businesses

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Issa Rae wants to make it easier for consumers to find Black-owned businesses. The “Insecure” star is teaming up with American Express and U.S. Black Chambers to promote ByBlack, the first nationwide certification program for Black ownership. “Black businesses are American businesses,” Rae tells me. “I think it’s one thing to support them during a very specific time when you feel guilty, but we’re beyond that. To support these businesses year-round, and to know what you’re supporting and actively making an effort to do so, is extremely necessary. To have a platform that can allow Americans to easily find Black businesses is such a necessary change.”

Black-owned businesses in the U.S. generate $150 billion annually, according to USBC. A study from American Express in May found 44% of consumers seek out Black-owned businesses. ByBlack also includes member access to education and funding resources. “Just to be able to have an entity like American Express shine a light on Black businesses in this way is incredible,” Rae says. Her own health and beauty line, Sienna Naturals, was recently certified. She’s also a partner in Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, a coffee shop chain that has three locations in the Los Angeles area. “We’re looking at our fourth,” says Rae, who’s also aiming to open a full-fledged restaurant. “Sooner than later,” she teases. “It’s happening.”

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As for the entertainment industry, Rae says Hollywood has made strides toward diversity and inclusion, but it has a ways to go. “In the last five years there’s been more of an effort behind the cameras, but even that’s still limited,” she says. “It’s like one hire or two hires isn’t enough. You have to think deeper. And you have to think like, how can you give people experience to grow in the industry as well? If you are hiring PAs of color, then make sure that they’re on track to be able to get promoted and get those hours. There’s just so much more to it.” usblackchambers.org

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