Culture Makes Profit$

tommy johnson
3 min readJul 2, 2021


We all know that Culture Makes Profits, but where those profits go presents both a problem and its solution. The aspects of culture that make profits are the commercial use of the image, likeness, labor and endorsement of the humans that make-up Black Culture. These distinct cultural assets have a historical legacy of being extracted in-service of economic activity.

In the pursuit of wealth through exploitation, the values that still dominate the world are colonizing standards which commodify people for profit. Although the grinding mill of exploitation no longer resembles the barbaric terror of slave trading, today the age-old exploitative practice looks like corporations, product makers and retailers marketing, selling and trading Black Culture for exponential profits. The common denominator between the Slave Trade era versus the Economic Equity era (that we are entering now) is the assets of Black Culture are monopolized, which has created a world that loves to consume a highly monetized Black Culture. Meanwhile, Black Culture itself is starving economically. The colonizing values of commodifying people for profit undermines well-being, derails environmental safety and accelerates wealth gap for Black Culture at large. When this goes unaddressed, Black Culture remains vulnerable to systemic racism that monopolizes rights to the economic rewards generated by Black Culture’s distinct value creation.

The intent of this written declaration is not to evoke guilt, shame or call-out anyone for their participation in an oppressive economy. Rather the intent is to call-forward corporations, product makers and retailers to adopt a new ethical standard for commercializing Black Culture.

We can look to certification models which by design establish standards and protections for a designated thing. Whether a high school diploma, a restaurant health standard rating hanging in the retail window, a kosher food label in the grocery store or a blue recycling waste bin placed outside your home — these authenticated designations reflect a set of particular values and standards that were certified. At the core of changing the way the world consumes Black Culture requires forging new equitable values that acknowledges the usage of Black Culture’s assets within the supply chain and transfers economic reciprocity to communities of Black Culture at large.

As the Founder of Made with Black Culture, a public benefit company that exists to protect Black Culture from commercial exploitation, appropriation and theft. We are passionate about providing the certification framework for ethical consumption, beginning with Black Culture. In our journey of co-designing the ethical consumerism model with private and public stakeholders, we learned the components needed for companies and consumers to opt-in are:

  1. A stamp or label on product packaging is needed to inform consumers that a specific product was created utilizing non-exploitative standards. In a similar fashion that food based goods are labeled ‘Organic’ to reflect a particular standard for growing food.
  2. Authentic storytelling is needed to transparently highlight brands expressed intent to ethically commercialize Black Culture which improves and deepens consumer engagement around certified products.
  3. A simple and efficient process for Proprietors to certify their consumer goods before releasing them into the market is pivotal for operational execution.

It’s beyond time to disrupt the monopoly on Black Culture’s assets to create shared equity for the stewards, creatives and humans that make-up Black Culture. Addressing racial equity through the lens of consumerism is the low hanging fruit to assign new beneficiaries of profits that are Made with Black Culture.

To join the movement for ethical consumption, register here