Black Culture: For Commercial Use

tommy johnson
4 min readFeb 15, 2021


It’s no secret that Black Culture is a highly commercialized commodity.

When commercial use goes wrong, it looks like the knee upon George Floyd’s neck, quietly draining Black Culture of all its fond creations. Like the police officer in Minnesota who was captured on camera committing murder, the commercial exploitation of Black Culture looks like global consumption generating infinite gains for everyone except the stewards, creators, and makers of Black Culture itself.

It’s unethical to take from Black Culture without replenishing its resources. You’re not doing us a favor by simply mainstreaming the image, likeness, labor or endorsement of Black Culture, and leaving it there. It’s unethical to borrow Black Culture assets for commercial use without sharing returns with the stewards of Black Culture. We know our value and are coming to take our IP back.

Before I offer a solution for how you can operationalize “ethical consumption of Black Culture,” please allow me to reintroduce myself (in Jay Z voice).

My name is Tommy Johnson. Africa is my descent. I’m a father, community organizer, social engineer and light worker who cares most about organizing Black America for economic progress. You can check my life’s work at Originals Nation — a nonprofit organization that comprehensively addresses the economic inequities reinforcing systemic racism. As Founder & Lead Contributor of the national community advocating for economic equity, I focus on identifying and executing solutions that cultivate economic sovereignty for the Diaspora.

You may have noticed soundbytes or popular articles that proclaim that Black Culture spends $1.2 trillion annually. This statistic is misleading and leads you to believe that Original People, the humans that make up Black Culture, are doing well. Plus there’s odd and suffocating study that predicts the ‘Median Wealth of black Americans will fall to zero by 2053.’ This racialized contrast is confusing and conveniently ignores the historical truth that the commercial use of Black Culture has generated $570 trillion globally since the end of the slave trade. (Source: NY Times).

For inspiration to both mitigate and adapt to a better system of economic reciprocity, we turned to another movement in ethical consumerism: Fair Trade certifications. The Fair Trade movement is based on a simple idea that products bought and sold everyday directly impact the livelihoods of farmers. Fair Trade authorities certify transactions between farmers and companies to ensure the people making Fair Trade Certified goods work in safe conditions, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods, and earn income that empowers and uplifts their communities. The Fair Trade model brilliantly achieves sustainable and equitable trade relationships to mitigate commercial exploitation.

Similarly, products that are Made with Black Culture are bought and sold daily; and these transactions directly impact the well-being, environmental safety and income realities of Original People. Whether buying a pair of J’s, sending money on CashApp, listening to Lauryn Hill or watching the Super Bowl, consuming these staple products today does not transfer economic value to Black Culture — the driving force behind the market prominence of these products.

Always keep in mind: (1)The world does not move without Black Culture’s distinct and influential creativity. (2) The commercial use of Black Culture generates whopping economic gains hoarded by corporate capitalists that reinforce systemic racism, with their sense of entitlement to freeload. (3) Reparations must happen.

The world owes a lot to Black Culture. Psychological wins alone like glamorizing the Culture are lip service and pedestrian to us. You must go beyond cutting checks to the talent and brokers, and include a check to Black Culture in the deal also.

It’s beyond overdue time to consume Black Culture — Ethically.

So what does that actually entail? Like the Fair Trade model, ethical commercial use of Black Culture must involve upholding sustainable and equitable relationships that transfer economic value to Black Culture, thereby disrupting systemic racism. This model requires centering Black Culture and reshaping trade relationships to financially uplift communities of Black Culture. We can begin Ethically consuming Black Culture by coupling acknowledgment with economic reciprocity.

Imagine utilizing the Adidas Yeezy sales or Clubhouse equity to fund a Universal Basic Income program that ensures the well-being of Original People. When we build racial equity into daily consumerism, we can create shared value for the product maker, the conscious capitalist, the value-based consumer and Black Culture as a stakeholder.

The team at Made with Black Culture have given life to a certification process, trading mark, and marketplace to establish the needed infrastructure for you to consume the products Made with Black Culture that you love — Ethically.

Want to take your next steps with us? Request an invite to the Made with Black Culture universe to get started.

Be intentional about restoring equity.