Ava DuVernay continues to fight the good fight.
The day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the filmmaker and female founder will lead the third annual National Day of Racial Healing. The celebration — involving a live-streamed event filled with speeches, conversations and performances, as well as smaller in-person meet-ups throughout the country — honors “our common humanity,” according to the event webpage, and aims to inspire participants to take “collective action toward a more just and equitable world.”
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DuVernay is working with the woman-run nonprofit W.K. Kellogg Foundation to coordinate the event, by way of her own foundation, the ARRAY Alliance. And she’s bringing some serious star power to the day: actress/activist Eva Longoria, musician Melissa Etheridge and political rising star Stacey Abrams are all expected to take part, among other celebrities.
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In addition to her philanthropic work, DuVernay continues to thrive as a storyteller, as she is one of a rising number of successful black directors. She has a bright future ahead of her, too, thanks to a recently inked $100 million television deal with Warner Bros. And she accomplished it all while shining a spotlight on creatives of color.
DuVernay’s push for representation on- and off-screen stands to benefit women entrepreneurs of color, too — a group that, we’ve found in our reporting, often faces a disproportionate number of challenges when starting and running a business.
For instance, women entrepreneurs of color often have trouble when comes to accessing startup funding. Minority-owned firms are less likely to receive loans than their white-owned counterparts, according to research from the Minority Business Development Administration. And when they do, those loans are for smaller amounts, and carry higher interest rates.
And then there are difficulties with branding the business. A few years back, I interviewed Funlayo Alabi, the founder of Shea Radiance, a Baltimore business that sells skin and hair care products made with shea butter. Though its products are designed for use by people with all skin and hair types, Alabi told me — as several others did — that she can find it difficult to appeal to clientele outside of the black community.
“We’ve had to change our messaging and packaging a few times, to appeal to a more diverse demographic,” she said during our talk, recalling the “warm, natural, earthy” look of the original packaging. “We found that ‘non-black’ potential customers looked at the colors, the shea butter and the fact that the owner is black, and assumed the product was not for them.”
While we’re seeing a growing number of success stories, it’s clear that women entrepreneurs of color still face more obstacles than most. Hopefully, events like the National Day of Racial Healing — and women like DuVernay — will spark action toward a more equitable world, in business and beyond.
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