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Black History Month 2021: Making Good on Promises to do Better

If 2020 was the year for brands to take a stand on issues of racial equality and justice, here’s to hoping 2021 is the year they put one foot in front of the other and march forward with big, measurable strides.

As the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor reinvigorated and fortified the Black Lives Matter movement — and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 health crisis hit minorities particularly hard — the past few months have given birth to a reckoning of sorts for fashion purveyors.

Black boxes were posted, police brutality was bemoaned and pledges were made.

The bold statements and promises of retail and fashion juggernauts and small players alike have garnered praise, skepticism and, at times, well-due criticism.

But time will tell.

So far, we’ve seen a number of big and small brands take steps toward making good on their commitments to take up the mantle of everlasting change. Nike and Adidas — who last year shared a retweet that symbolized a handshake and affirmation that ending racism should take priority over cool kicks — have been among the boldface names to pledge hundreds of millions toward the upliftment of Black people in America. Meanwhile, Nordstrom and Macy’s have made public promises to make significant room on their shelves for Black-owned business — with the latter becoming the largest retailer to sign Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge. And, on a national political stage, the United Sates has sworn into office its first Black, South Asian and woman vice president, Kamala Harris.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see Black History Month initiatives roll out from retailers that run the gamut — including Neiman Marcus, Kith and DTLR — as well as brands like Under Armour, which this year is collaborating with Black Baltimore-based photographer Devin Allen on a line. Even emerging fitness industry forces like Peleton are getting in on the action: Four Black artists teamed with instructors from the fitness company to create 18 apparel and accessories pieces to honor Black History Month.

At FN, we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to our commitment of championing diversity across all areas of the footwear business. For Black History Month, as we’ve done for the past four years, we will amplify the voices and stories of Black movers and shakers who are making their mark in the shoe industry and who are worthy to be recognized all year round.

Emphasis on the “all year round.”

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