Black Lives Matter just announced an important initiative for 2017

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The co-founders of the Black Lives Matter organization and New York-based ad agency J. Walter Thompson are teaming up to launch their first big project of 2017 that's designed to galvanize small, black-owned businesses throughout the U.S.

Backing Black Business is a directory that draws data from Google Maps and directs users to locally owned black businesses that might not come up immediately when running typical Google searches. Using the website, which is currently in beta, is fairly straightforward. After entering a city or zip code, Backing Black Business populates a map with a collection of nearby black businesses, directions to their physical locations, and links to their website and Yelp pages. The site also provides a directory of online retailers and non-profits, and will allow users to submit businesses not yet listed to be added to its maps.


2017 will be a year "about building black power" for the movement, according to a statement. The ad agency will be helping them on strategy and events.


The project comes at a time when retail initiatives like Small Business Saturday are gaining in popularity as a response to events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors made a point of emphasizing the importance of black entrepreneurs.

"Right now, we need to invest in black businesses more than ever," Cullors said.

J. Walter Thompson, which is providing its services pro-bono, reached out to and initiated conversations with the organization. Earlier in the year, the agency's chief communications officer filed a lawsuit against the company accusing the now ex-chairman-CEO of incidents of routine racism and sexism.