Shaquille O’Neal is lending his considerable muscle to a campaign to help get Black businesses back onto their feet.
The retired NBA great, broadcaster, DJ and sometime rapper is partnering with American Express on the “Coalition to Back Black Businesses,” a newly-formed grant program intended to assist Black-owned small businesses in their post-COVID recovery.
“Small businesses need our support now more than ever. Black businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Shaq tells Billboard. “You tell people, ‘stay in you house four months, don’t leave don’t go out.’ It’s a shame 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, but in these Black communities with Black businesses, a lot of people have lost their lifelong jobs. I’m happy to support the first ever Coalition of Black Businesses.”
The Coalition launches with a $10 million commitment to fund a grant program over the next four years. A portion of the grant will also fund leadership development and business mentoring.
“Not only are we giving money,” notes Shaq, “but we give mentorship to help get their businesses to the next level.”
Eligible Black small business owners, including music enterprises, will be considered for a $5,000 grant.
Applications open today at webackblackbusinesses.com with a tight turnaround; the deadline for submissions is Sept. 21. The Coalition will then randomly select 280 “finalist” applicants, who will be notified via email by Sept. 22 to complete a more in-depth application, due Sept. 28.
Also, special consideration will be given to women-owned businesses, which will make up at least 25% of the awarded grants, organizers say.
The historic Coalition marks the first-of-its-kind partnership between four major Black chambers: the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., the National Business League, the National Black Chamber of Commerce and Walker’s Legacy.
The health emergency has crippled the live entertainment space, and put a dent in the calendar for the foreseeable future. Shaq’s own live events are, like most other shows on the planet, on hold.
“I definitely want to bring that back. We just have to make sure everything is safe,” he tells Billboard. “I hope we can get back to reality soon. We’ll see what happens in 2021. Who knows.”