ATLANTA — As a recent Kennesaw State University engineering graduate, Benjamin Tomlinson has the first-hand experience of the economic hardship shared by many students. He’s also a passionate advocate for Black-owned businesses.
That’s what inspired him to launch Black2School, an initiative that supplied 100 students with boxes of essential school items donated by Black-owned businesses.
“I understand the struggles of what it means to be a college student and being financially challenged sometimes and not having essential items,” Tomlinson said.
Black2School was a natural extension of his other project, the Our Palate Network, an online database of Black-owned businesses.
Our Palate Network, with its partners, the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, and the Religious Studies Student Forum, filled 100 boxes with donated black-owned products and distributed them to Georgia State students in a back-to-school event on Aug. 26.
Tomlinson said he wanted to help Black-owned businesses reach larger, more diverse audiences. The Black2School event allowed him to build on the Our Palate Network while supporting students.
“Black2School fuels both my natural affinity toward the college community as well as being an advocate for Black businesses,” Tomlinson said. “College students have an opportunity to receive essential items, but they can also support Black businesses.”
The donation boxes contained Symphony Chips, True Laundry detergents, and The Honey Pot Company feminine hygiene products, among other items.
Shelby Horton, president of the Georgia State Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, said her nonprofit organization’s members personally benefited from this event by receiving feminine hygiene products in the donation boxes.
“The Honey Pot is for anyone, not just Black women, and just by supporting it, you are pouring money into the Black dollar,” Horton said. “This project is bringing more education to the Black dollar that Black women and men need to equally advance in the economy.”
“Buying Black-owned doesn’t mean you aren’t supporting any other race; you are just uplifting the Black dollar,” she added.
Sheridawn Peden, a Georgia State graduate student and a Wellstar Ethics Fellow who is president of the Religious Studies Student Forum, said Black2School was crucial to the Georgia State campus. With Atlanta coined as the “Black Mecca of the South,” she said she sees a great need to promote these minority-owned products.
“People want to support Black-owned businesses,” Peden said. “So, what better way can we do that by having this event here on campus.”