Ten dollars may not change a company's profit margin, but some hope that it could change a few minds.
That notion was the catalyst behind the One Large project, a Black business spending initiative launched in May by poet Joy Katz and University of Pittsburgh assistant professor and head of performance Cindy Croot.
The duo, who met in New York before relocating to Pittsburgh, had received a $1,000 grant from The Sprout Fund with a mission to “activate a space within the city.”
“Rather than choosing a sculpture garden or a piece of existing art or another kind of space, we thought: Why don't we use the grant money and send people into Black-owned businesses? So we divided the grant into 100 equal bits to give to people, and had them pledge to spend money either in Pittsburgh or in a home community anywhere on earth in a black-owned business and document their experience,” said Katz.
With artists from Pittsburgh to Cairo taking part in the month-long experiment, results varied wildly.
Some dropped a single Alexander Hamilton in a local restaurant or barber shop.
Others spent far more with Black physicians, consultants and florists, including a woman who bought all of her wedding flowers from Posy Flower Design. An Egyptian participant changed the $10 bill into an Egyptian pound that was spent with an immigrant farmer.
Croot and Katz said putting a few extra dollars into the system made the experiment a success, but the true accomplishment was in spotlighting just how few and far between Black businesses were in some areas.
“One of the major outcomes was how difficult (the experiment) was,” said Croot. “People had a really difficult time finding Black-owned businesses and they would email us saying, ‘Where do we go? How do we find them?'”