Early this summer, as people across the nation flooded streets protesting the killings of unarmed Black people, a wave of support also grew for Black-owned businesses.
At Mercer University, Melody Gervin, a junior majoring in Spanish with a minor in chemistry, saw what was happening and wanted to get involved.
“I thought, we have so many Black students at Mercer who have started their own businesses who we need to support as much as the other brands as well,” she said.
With that goal in mind, she created @black.owned.mercer, an Instagram account that is dedicated to supporting Black-owned businesses and platforms owned and operated by Black Mercer students and alumni.
In her first post on June 5, Gervin underscored the mission of @black.owned.mercer: “Now, more than ever, we need to invest and gear our energy towards black owned businesses. However, it is imperative that we begin with the ones in our community.”
The account, which is nearing 700 followers, has featured businesses in the areas of fashion, food, art and beauty.
Gervin, who is on a pre-med track, isn’t a business owner herself. But she has friends who are and began reaching out to them. She also learned of other Black-owned businesses by people contacting her through the Instagram account.
“Once I created the page, I had people DM (direct message) me telling me to check out other pages,” she said.
Among the businesses promoted by @black.owned.mercer is Rico&Afán, a clothing brand owned by Ricardo Packer, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. The apparel features a new spin on favorite cartoon characters from Packer’s childhood and rappers.
“It’s always good to find and support other Black-owned businesses, especially in today’s climate,” Packer said. “The page allows businesses to get lots of exposure that they otherwise would not get.”
He said he knows of a few followers he’s gotten on his own Instagram profile, @ricoandafan, as a result of the publicity from @black.owned.mercer.
Gervin said the Mercer community has supported the endeavor.
“I was really surprised how much people have supported it, even people who aren’t Black,” she said. “There have been a lot of other races as well who have shown their support.”