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Aurora James, Nicole Ari Parker & More Stars Celebrate Black-Owned Brands at First-Ever Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala

The Fifteen Percent Pledge and founder Aurora James held its first benefit gala on Saturday night in New York at the famed Public Library. The evening was a celebration of the organization’s progress since its founding in June 2020 in order to help boost Black brands by holding retailers accountable as they commit to dedicating 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned labels.

James, who walked the carpet in a Christopher John Rogers ensemble, told FN, “We’ve spent so much emotional capital over the past two years having these tough conversations every single day, and partnering with major corporations and also working to hold them accountable, that it’s nice to come together and celebrate the accomplishments and experience a sense of joy.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Aurora James attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala on April 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Fifteen Percent Pledge)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Aurora James attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fifteen Percent Plege

Companies that have made the pledge include Gap Inc., Nordstrom, Kith and Macy’s, among others.

Guests included Joan Smalls, Paloma Elsesser, Tamron Hall, Rosario Dawson, Laura Harrier, Allyson Felix, Selah Marley, Cameron Russell, Peter Do, Dominique Jackson and more. All attendees could be seen in various Black designers as the dress code was #BlackTieBlackDesigner. Many of which wore James’ footwear brand, Brother Vellies, as well, including the evening’s host actress Nicole Ari Parker.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Nicole Ari Parker attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala on April 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Fifteen Percent Pledge)
Nicole Ari Parker attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala wearing Sergio Hudson and Brother Vellies heels.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fifteen Percent Pledge

Felix praised James for her work in championing diversity in fashion, telling FN, “As every one is looking to buy Black designers [right now], it just shows how we need more representation. What Aurora is doing and what this is all for is really going to push things further in that direction.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Allyson Felix attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala on April 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Fifteen Percent Pledge)
Allyson Felix attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fifteen Percent Pledge

Though there’s still much to be done in the fight to close the racial wealth gap in the economy. James said to create large-scale change, there needs to be accountability. With the gala, she aimed to inspire some of those retailers that haven’t yet committed to reconsider.

“We really want to focus on some of the biggest retailers in this country that haven’t yet committed to the pledge like Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Kroger,” James explained. “Because if we kind of can have all of those companies also commit to taking the pledge alongside of our current pledge figures, we’ll be able to drive $1.4 trillion in this economy to Black-owned businesses. So that’s really the North Star.”

Inside the gala, Dapper Dan presented Stacey Abrams with the Inspiration Award for leadership in the community as a politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, author and Black entrepreneur.

Dapper Dan was in attendance with Gap to celebrate the Fifteen Percent Pledge and spread the word about  his first NFT collection in collaboration with the retailer that launched last week. On April 2, the NFT experience kicked off with a 48-hour One-of-a-Kind DAP GAP digital auction, featuring single-edition digital art designed by the designer himself, as well as and a special-edition physical DAP GAP varsity jacket signed by Dapper Dan. The auction closes on April 4. All proceeds raised from the auction will be donated to the Fifteen Percent Pledge.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Dapper Dan attends the 2022 Inaugural Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala on April 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Fifteen Percent Pledge)
Dapper Dan attends the 2022 Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala, wearing his DAP GAP varsity jacket.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fifteen Percent Pledge

Tamron Hall, meanwhile, honored supermodel Iman — who wore custom Sergio Hudson — with the Industry Pioneer Award for her leadership in the community as a model, actress, entrepreneur and for her powerful work as a philanthropist.

The Fifteen Percent Pledge Benefit Gala was held in partnership with Instagram, the evening’s exclusive social media platform sponsor.

To see all the celebrity arrivals at the event, click through the gallery.

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