Sharon Chuter has a message for corporate America: Pull up or shut up.
Chuter, a Nigerian-born beauty veteran and the chief executive officer and founder of cosmetics company Uoma Beauty, has created a grassroots campaign, the goal of which is to raise awareness of the lack of black employees — especially those in leadership roles — at American corporations.
“Let’s talk about the issue of economic participation,” Chuter said. “Every single brand and every single company has an Equal Opportunity Employment policy. All these brands are now standing in support and donating, meanwhile, within their organizations they don’t actively employ black people. They have no black leaders.
“We need to move this conversation forward,” she continued. “Every single person cannot push it to be somebody else’s problem. Racism in our society is systemic, it’s been built in everything that we do. I think this is a great opportunity for every single person to look at their own actions and go, ‘how can I be better,’ as opposed to, ‘we’ve never been part of the problem.'”
Pull Up for Change launches its #PullUpOrShutUp campaign on social media today, June 3. The campaign calls for any and all companies who have shared statements of solidarity with or donations to the Black Lives Matter movement to publicly reveal the percentage of black people they employ and further specify the number of black employees in leadership positions.
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The campaign also encourages consumers to join in on holding companies accountable and refrain from buying products from the companies in question for the next 72 hours.
“Corporations tend to absolve themselves like it’s somebody else’s problem,” Chuter said. “Your million dollars is good, but you know what’s better? Providing employment so that these issues can stop.
“Don’t give me hush money. Give me my right,” she continued. “Don’t give me charity, give me the opportunity to participate. I’m a human being, I want to work. I don’t want to be sitting there in the ghetto so that you can keep giving money to Black Lives Matter to bail me out from jail. I want to go to work in the morning just like you guys do.”
Chuter has been an active participant in the Los Angeles protests. Over the weekend, she was shot twice with blank bullets, she said.
“They shoot you with blanks but it still hurts like hell,” Chuter said. “I got shot twice on Saturday for doing nothing. I was just in my car. I’m not even an aggressive person. By the way, I’m 5 foot, 3 [inches]. I’m size zero. I could not be threatening to any police officer, even if I was charging at you. I look like a little, 12-year-old child. They aimed at me and shot at me twice.”
Chuter launched Uoma Beauty in 2019 as an inclusive cosmetics company and “Afropolitan” beauty brand. Uoma has partnered with Know Your Rights Camp, the organization founded by Colin Kaepernick, and Black Lives Matter. Uoma has asked its employees to protest alongside both organizations during this time.
Pull Up for Change began posting on its Instagram handle today. The campaign, said Chuter, is not “a naming and shaming exercise,” but a “feedback exercise.”
“This is an exercise telling companies, ‘this is an opportunity for you to do the right thing,'” she said. “History will judge where you stood, regardless of your race. It is all our problem. It is up to each and every one of us to determine how history’s gonna see us. Is it gonna see us as people who did nothing or is it gonna see us as a people who when the time came, we stood up and we made change? Future generations can be grateful to us for this because they won’t be talking about this crap we’re talking about right now.
“This is not a black fight,” she continued. “This is everybody’s fight.”
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