Blackout Day 2020: What You Need to Know About the Economic Boycott

On July 7, 2020, #BlackoutDay2020 aims to unite Black people in economic solidarity. We offer clarity on the boycott's origins and how you can support.

Blackout Day 2020 Explainer
Complex Original

What is Blackout Day? Explainer

Blackout Day 2020 Explainer

As the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others have sparked a global uprising against racial injustice, protesters have revisited another avenue to push the agenda—Black capitalism. 

On July 7, 2020, #BlackoutDay2020 aims to unite Black people in economic solidarity through a campaign encouraging participants to support Black-owned businesses exclusively. Similar digital demonstrations throughout the years, namely #BuyBlack and #BankBlack, were established to narrow the wealth gap and circulate resources within our own communities. Leaders like Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. championed these vehicles of Black capitalism, which were the foundation for entire prosperous Black communities, including Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia, and others. 

Today, though countless big-name corporations position themselves as allies of the Black community by donating millions to non-profit organizations, the upcoming #BlackoutDay2020 has the potential to reform the white-dominated economic system. 

Below, we explain the origins of #BlackoutDay, how its meaning morphed into what it is in 2020, and how you can support it. 

What is #BlackoutDay2020, and How Did It Begin?

In March 2015, three Black Tumblr users—Mars Sebastian, T’von Green, and Nukirk—created #TheBlackout, a 24-hour digital celebration of Blackness using selfies to showcase the community’s beauty, pride, and history. After its inception, the online movement erupted on other social media platforms, where participants posted and shared other media (gifs, videos, etc.), in addition to selfies. While #TheBlackout initially served as the tag, the alternative #BlackoutDay quickly became ubiquitous for Sebastian, Green, and Nukirk’s new idea. 

According to the official Tumblr page, the trio conceived #TheBlackout in response to the lack of positive spaces for Black people to be represented and welcomed. “We want to show that Black History is happening today, right now,” they wrote. “That we are all Black History.”

Over the past five years, co-creators Sebastian and Nukirk (Green left in 2016) have continued to organize and advocate for the Black community beyond selfies. However, in a Twitter thread, Sebastian explained that they are not behind the upcoming #BlackoutDay2020, the boycott taking place on July 7, 2020. 

Okay, hi.

Now that I’m cooled off, I’d like to give a more detailed picture of what is happening with #BlackoutDay. So on our IG and @theblckout, we acknowledged the July 7th #BlackoutDay2020 was happening because we essentially had no choice. Our site was crashing with q’s.

Organized by Texas resident Calvin Martyr, founder of the Blackout Coalition, #BlackoutDay2020 is a one-day social media campaign of economic solidarity to fight racial injustice. The call to action asks the Black community to avoid purchasing for 24 hours, and if they must, to buy from Black businesses exclusively. “In order to break free from the chains of financial servility, we will organize days, weeks, months, and years if necessary when not one Black person in America will spend a dollar outside of our community,” the site reads

Why is #BlackoutDay2020 important?

Though the #BlackoutDay originators’ movement was co-opted for this new iteration to exist, Black people are encouraged to support it. Why? Because redirecting Black Americans’ over $1 trillion spending power has the potential to cause a noticeable impact on a white-dominated American economy. 

According to a 2019 Nielsen Report titled “It’s in the Bag: Black Consumers’ Path to Purchase,” African-American consumers’ spending power is continuing to grow. However, advertising to Black people has declined by 5% between 2017 and 2018, and marketers “simultaneously ignore the lived experiences of Black consumers that define Black culture.”

For centuries, Black wealth and affluence have been a threat to white supremacy, one that racists have always felt the need to destroy and devastate. Case in point: the brutal violence of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street massacre in 1921. Thus, if #BlackoutDay2020 can help Black Americans become aware of and wield their economic power, they can redistribute wealth and gain greater economic agency.

How can people support #BlackoutDay2020?

Primarily, boycotters should only spend their money with Black businesses, including but not limited to clothing brands, grocery stores, restaurants, salons, etc. What’s more, there are several lists of Black marketplaces circulating online to help point consumers in the right direction, including We Buy Black and My Black Receipt

For those adversely affected financially by the pandemic, Martyr suggests alternatives to opening your purse: 

Don’t let this movement fizzle out! Our voices have to be heard until things change. #BLACKOUTDAY2020 #theblackcoalition

Have people criticizized #BlackoutDay2020?

While there isn’t direct backlash for Martyr and the movement, Black anti-capitalists have long since expressed that the “buy Black” method won’t lead to true liberation. Their argument? Capitalism is racist by design; therefore, operating within it is irrelevant. Changing those schematics will also require political narratives that extend far beyond the scope of Black commerce. Also, some Black-owned businesses do not want to be pigeonholed as targeting just their own. Alysia Sargent, co-founder of the dating site Go Dutch Today, told NPR’s Code Switch that she fights the notion that her business is just for Blacks. “It’s important for us to be as diverse as possible so that we are not labeled as ‘the black dating app,’ because that’s not our goal.”

When is the next #BlackoutDay of this kind?

In an interview with CBS-affiliated KHOU-11, Martyr said he plans to extend the one-day campaign into several future “Blackouts” that will last for longer periods, even years. But in the meantime, you can follow the hashtag #BlackoutDay2020 on socials to stay aware of ways you can support Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs now and moving forward.

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