Facebook is launching a three-month "Season of Support" initiative for small businesses — starting with a campaign to highlight Black-owned businesses, which are closing twice as fast as others during the pandemic.
The #BuyBlackFriday initiative includes toolkits and other resources for Black-owned businesses, new Facebook app features encouraging people to share posts supporting these businesses, as well as a weekly Friday show featuring owners, entertainers and musical artists.
"Black-owned businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, wrote in a Thursday blog post announcing the new initiative. "But we know that millions of people want to help."
The campaign runs from from October 30 through November 27, the retail industry's Black Friday. Facebook (FB) will spotlight a Black-owned entrepreneur on the live #BuyBlack Friday Show each week, and the company is also offering events and resources through its app and a Lift Black Voices hub.
Black-owned businesses can request a toolkit to amplify the #BuyBlack campaign, and later this month Facebook will release a #BuyBlack Friday Gift Guide featuring products in a variety of categories.
Facebook in June announced a broader $100 million initiative to help support Black communities, and it has set a goal to spend at least $1 billion with diverse suppliers beginning next year. In August the company launched a $40 million grant program for Black-owned businesses, and new user features include an option on the Businesses Nearby tool for companies to self-designate as Black-owned.
In her blog post, Sandberg pointed out that during the pandemic Black-owned businesses have closed at twice the rate of White-owned businesses, which has already forced more than 100,000 small businesses across the country to permanently shut down.
Studies show Black entrepreneurs have struggled the most to stay in business as they typically have less reserve capital and receive less aid from banks and the federal government.
Meanwhile, the lockdowns have enabled retail giants like Amazon (AMZN), Walmart (WMT) and Target to dramatically increase their profits, due in part to reduced competition. And retail and consumer goods analysts expect US consumers -- wary of large crowds and the risk of catching Covid-19 -- to do more online shopping than ever before this holiday season.
That environment will be "immensely challenging" for small businesses and Black-owned businesses in particular, Sandberg wrote.
"We will be working closely with the US Black Chambers, an influential network of Black entrepreneurs, to encourage people to #BuyBlack over the holidays," she added, "and we are confident that millions of people will want to join in."
Still, Facebook has not been immune to the world's reckoning with racism. This summer a Black manager at Facebook and two other Black people who applied for jobs there filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for alleged discrimination.
July brought a boycott led by the social justice group Color of Change and the media activist group Free Press, whose supporters took issue with how Facebook has policed hate speech and misinformation on its platforms. The controversy grew after Facebook did not take action on a series of racially charged posts made by President Donald Trump, including one that said "looting" during the racial justice protests that erupted after George Floyd was killed would lead to "shooting."