Juneteenth is a celebratory holiday that marks Black emancipation and as over a century has passed by, Black people have continued to unpack what exactly freedom for the community looks like.
Dumi Maraire, known as hip hop artist Draze, is a firm believer that with freedom there has to be economic freedom and with his platform Building Black Wealth, he is a part of further opening the gateway for support of Black-owned businesses. As a longtime businessman, Draze is helping to open the door for Black innovators and their companies by pushing the envelope with his platform to showcase Black-owned businesses that are typically unseen.
“[Building Black Wealth] is always trying to showcase a different side of what you may not always see all the time with Black businesses,” Draze tells AfroTech. “This year we’ve got a toilet paper company. We’ve got a Black skateboard company owned by a young Black girl. It’s always trying to showcase the breadth, the width, and the depth of African American innovation and ingenuity.”
In 2020, the Seattle native released his song “Building Black Wealth” which hit over 2 million views on Facebook and lyrically foreshadowed what we now see with the boost in the movement of supporting and investing in Black-owned businesses. The viral track transformed last year around Juneteenth into what he calls “the first live Black business marketplace” which similarly to QVC, viewers tune in live and can buy products immediately.
This year, the Facebook Live event will be hosted by boxing legend Laila Ali, who partnered with Draze to help grow Black entrepreneurs’ businesses by bringing in new audiences to their brands.
The virtual marketplace is an opportunity to increase their number of customers, with the vision of getting their products on the shelves of companies like Target and Walmart.
Ali is no stranger to entrepreneurship as she started her first business at 17-years-old and now juggles many hats ranging from being an author to a home chef. Along with being a multi-hyphenated entrepreneur, she is an avid advocate for supporting small businesses.
“I understand how tough it is to take a business from a concept to an actual product or service you can monetize,” Ali shares with AfroTech. “Small businesses usually don’t have a big marketing budget. Anytime I can help bring awareness to other small businesses, I jump on the opportunity because it is one of the many ways I can be of service to others, which simply makes me feel good.”
A plethora of Black-owned businesses are making any products a consumer can think of, but a lack of mainstream exposure sets limitations on people buying into these companies. One of Draze’s main intentions for Building Black Wealth was to be a part of putting an end to the broken record of people of all races being unaware of what Black-owned companies are innovating and selling.
“Let’s stop giving people an excuse to not support our businesses,” Draze says. “Let’s connect the business with the consumer immediately and let’s give them a point of transaction. That’s what [Building Black Wealth] does. We connect you with the business that you didn’t even know you needed to know existed.”
Building Black Wealth’s business marketplace makes shopping for Black brands accessible and allows customers to become cognizant of the vast options to purchase from. Last year, with the support of Building Black Wealth’s platform, 25,000 viewers tuned in and all of the businesses a part of the live marketplace doubled their sales during the show.
“I feel in order to grow our communities and empower ourselves, we need to support each other on every level, so that we can strengthen our economic status overall,” Ali says. “I lead by example and use my blog and social media platforms to create content around small businesses and Black businesses.”
A part of what makes Building Black Wealth’s marketplace successful is how it provides a space for the Black innovators to share the background stories behind their businesses. Connecting to the audience through origin stories is what makes the event not only special, but also inspiring for both Black entrepreneurs that have been in the game and those that are upcoming.
“You just start to see the tenacity, strength, wisdom, innovation and creativity in these people,” Draze says. “And, the fact that a lot of these people are specialists or self-taught. That always blows me away. When you get that opportunity to hear their stories, that is transformational.”
The second annual Juneteenth Building Black Wealth Marketplace will take place on Saturday, June 19 at 9:00 a.m. PST on Ali’s Facebook page.