As Black History Month is launched, we reflect on unsung heroines like Caroline Hunter, an employee at Polaroid in Cambridge MA.
In 1970, she co-founded the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM), a little-known group that launched the first anti-apartheid boycott of a U.S. corporation. A bench chemist, she worked on the gel that rolled onto Polaroid film in the instant camera. She accidentally discovered that Polaroid equipment was being used to create ID cards and passbooks for the South African Regimes Apartheid system. These passbooks came to symbolize the institutionalized racism of apartheid’s oppression: during an anti-passbook demonstration in 1960, sixty-nine people were killed in the “Sharpeville Massacre”.
Caroline Hunter grew up in segregated New Orleans during the height of the civil rights era. She studied chemistry at Xavier University and was recruited by Polaroid right out of college in 1968. She learned about South Africa from reading Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton’s 1948 novel about injustices in that society, in high school. After learning more about apartheid and the passbook laws she convinced Ken Williams, a Polaroid photographer, to push the company to cut ties with South Africa. PRWM was formed.
Early fliers posted around the corporate campus read “Polaroid imprisons black people in sixty seconds” and explained how the company provided photo ID systems to the South African government. The PRWM eventually presented Polaroid with three demands: that the company stop all operations in South Africa, publicly denounce apartheid, and donate all past profits from South African sales to African liberation movements. Polaroid first denied that it had dealings with South Africa and when this was proven false, refused to meet the demands.
Polaroid prided itself on its progressive record. It was known for focusing on diversity in its hiring practices, especially with African Americans and women, and for its internal upward mobility. Polaroid eventually sent a fact-finding mission to South Africa, which returned recommendations that led to “An Experiment in South Africa,” where the company would continue to do business there and push for changes, arguing that it did more good within the country than from outside. Their local agent was made to institute wage increases and promotions for black workers. Polaroid also backed educational initiatives and job-training schemes for black South Africans. This improved employee salaries, but largely ignored the legal nature of apartheid.
In the meantime, according to Hunter, Polaroid increased the pressure on her and Williams. They were surveilled, and some of their coworkers felt uncomfortable being seen with them. They were warned that their activism could imperil their jobs. At a large rally on October 27, 1970, the PRWM and their new partners called for an international boycott of Polaroid products until their demands were met. It was the first call to boycott an American company for its dealings in South Africa. The PRWN and its allies also stepped up their pressure campaign on Polaroid and Hunter was fired “detrimental to the best interests of the Company.” (Williams had already resigned in protest.) The two continued their campaign from outside the company. Soon the Polaroid boycott movement spread to new arenas, and others took up the cause. “What started as a grassroots effort,” Hunter said, “led to legislative activity, led to stock and corporate challenges, led to asking cities and pension funds to divest.”
Polaroid kept up its public relations campaign. It made several large donations to local African-American advocacy organizations, as well as those in South Africa that supported black education. After a year, Polaroid declared its experiment was working and vowed to continue its “engagement” with South Africa. But in 1977, a reporter at the Boston Globe discovered that Polaroid’s South African distributor was still secretly funneling Polaroid products to the apartheid regime. They were making dummy sales through a Johannesburg pharmacy, repackaging the equipment and film into unmarked cartons, and selling them to the government. The resounding outcry and embarrassment forced Polaroid to finally admit that their experiment had failed. The company ceased all sales in South Africa in 1977, and the PRWM declared victory.
Despite its failure, the Polaroid experiment served as the blueprint for corporate engagement with the South African government. In 1977, Leon Sullivan, a Baptist minister, civil rights leader, and board member at General Motors, formulated a set of principles for U.S. corporations operating in South Africa called the Sullivan Principles. Sullivan got hundreds of companies to sign on, but eventually concluded that the approach hadn’t worked. He called for a total boycott of South Africa in 1987.
It would be several more years before other American corporations followed Polaroid’s path and joined the boycott. In parallel, universities divested from companies doing business in South Africa, and athletes and musicians boycotted the country. Finally, in 1986, Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act over President Reagan’s veto, imposing sanctions on the South African economy. Pressure from the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement helped topple the apartheid regime, which fell in the early 1990s.
The PRWM was never more than a handful of employees, but they leveraged their position within the company and their ability to forge alliances into an effective pressure campaign. They used Polaroid’s carefully sculpted image as a progressive and innovative technology company to their advantage. They also modeled a form of workplace organizing that sought democratic control over their firm’s conduct and operations. In a 2010 documentary on the anti-apartheid movement, Hunter makes this point in simple but explicit terms: “As workers we had a right to say what happened to our labor.”
Hunter was invited to give the keynote at the Dr. Effie Jones Memorial Luncheon at the AASA National Conference on Education, and received the Dr. Effie Jones Humanitarian Award from the AASA – The School Superintendents Association on February 14, 2014. She also received the 2012 Rosa Parks Memorial Award from the National Education Association for leading the effort that led to sanctions against apartheid in South Africa. The South African Partners presented the Amandla Award to Hunter in 2012, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association presented her the Louise Gaskins Lifetime Civil Rights Award in 2011. Nelson Mandela thanked her in person when in the US.
The Governor announced that, starting today, individuals aged 65 and older, certain workers, and people with certain underlying conditions are eligible to get the vaccine. Please continue to check the State’s website for the full list of eligible groups. Eligible New Yorkers can find locations near them and make appointments online at vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or by calling 877-VAX4NYC for assistance in multiple languages. Because the supply of vaccine is very limited and will fluctuate daily, appointments will be given based on availability. Additional sites are coming online every day, and we encourage all to check the website regularly or call the City’s hotline.
Remember, with rising cases and hospitalizations, we must also remain vigilant and continue practicing the strategies we know work to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Board of the NYC Affiliate Chapter of NFBPWC-NYC stands with our National Organization in condemning the events of January 6, 2020 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
For the full statement, please click here
The new Board met the member body for the first time and discussed their priorities for NFBPWC-NYC in the upcoming year.
While this was also a social event, we had prepared a short agenda that included a minute for each Board member to introduce themselves followed by a minute to each member to introduce themselves. We requested everyone to include a special project that that they would like to engage with and a concern they have regarding business and professional women, especially as a result of COVID. We ended up in an animated and engaging discussion that has given us a lot of ideas to chart the roadmap ahead.
We are a sisterhood who believes in our Constitution and the right to peaceful protests and protesters.
Our organization stands for equal rights for all, and advocates for those rights. It is unacceptable that in 2020, the business and professional world continues to Not be inclusive of women, especially Black Women and Women of Color.
We stand with those who are outraged by the murder of yet another unarmed black man, Mr. George Floyd, at the hands of a police “officer” who swore to protect us and our property.
We are happy that the charge of Third Degree Murder has been upgraded to Second Degree Murder for Derek Chauvin. And that the three who were dressed in blue who watched this murder occurring, have been charged with Aiding and Abetting the Second Degree Murder of Mr. George Floyd.
We understand that the outrage displayed and the protests are due to an accumulation of the historic racism and inequality Black people have been experiencing in our country over the last 400 years.
We are disturbed by the clearing out of a park of a peaceful group, abiding by the rights granted by our Constitution to peacefully protest, so the President can take a walk to an empty church for a photo op. And….that park is now closed.
We are appalled by the taking over of the peaceful protests by criminals and looters who take advantage of people’s pain for their own use.
We are encouraged by the many police around the country who have shown their disgust for what happened to Mr. Floyd, and their support of peaceful protest. For the others that continue to use tear gas, shoot into crowds, and continue the brutalizing of Black People, they must go!
We encourage, no we demand, that police throughout this country dissolve the “blue line of silence” and speak up when they see their fellow “officers” participate in illegal and racist behavior.
We continue to be optimistic, and hope you are too, that change is coming. If it’s change that you want, please “go” vote and get others to vote. There’s a primary June 23rd and the election in November. Let’s make sure Black Lives Matter. We need to ensure Black People have access to the same opportunities that White People have!
In the meantime, raise your voice however you see fit. If you want us to do more as an organization, please let us know.
If you’d like to be part of a new “rapid response team” where we develop statements so they can be sent to media outlets and social media in a timely manner, (another committee handles distribution) please let us know.
Executive Board, NFBPWC-NYC
June 6, 2020
1. We are launching a $100+ million loan program for small businesses. The loan program will focus on supporting small businesses that were less likely to receive federal loans, especially women and minority-owned businesses, and very small businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Learn more at esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.
2. New York is extending sales tax interest and penalty relief through June 22, 2020. This extension will provide additional support for to 89,000 vendors who had returns due in March. These small businesses file their taxes quarterly and annually, and have taxable receipts of less than $300,000 in the previous quarter.
3. The Mid-Hudson Valley and Long Island could be ready to begin Phase 1 reopening as early as next week. The timing of Phase 1 reopening depends on the continued decline of hospital deaths, among other metrics. See where your region stands on the Regional Dashboard, and remember that how fast we reopen depends on how diligently we take precautions that reduce the spread of this virus.
4. The number of total COVID hospitalizations continues to decline. Total hospitalizations fell to 4,844, from 5,187 the day before. The number of new COVID hospitalizations fell to 225, from 246 the day before. Tragically, we lost 109 New Yorkers to the virus yesterday.
5. Reopening New York must be done responsibly. If you are in a region that has started to reopen, be sure to know your rights as an employee (or your responsibilities as an employer). New Yorkers can call the Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 if they believe their employer is not following PPE, hygiene or social distancing guidelines as more businesses begin to reopen.
6. Reminder that you can still enroll for health insurance on the New York health plan marketplace. If you lost your job or health coverage, or are uninsured, you can enroll in a plan today at nystateofhealth.ny.gov. You may also qualify for health care coverage from Medicaid or Child Health Plus through the marketplace.
7. CVS Pharmacies will open 36 drive-thru testing sites throughout New York. Starting today, New Yorkers can find their nearest CVS drive-thru site locations in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Staten Island, or Inwood. The state also announced a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7,000 more tests per week. If you have symptoms — please get tested.
8. Vote for your favorite “Wear A Mask” PSA. We received 600+ submissions in our Wear A Mask NY Ad Contest. Watch the video finalists, the honorable mentions and vote for your favorite at wearamask.ny.gov. Tonight’s “Deep Breath Moment”: Back in March, New York-based fashion designer Christian Siriano answered the state’s call to produce face masks. Since then, he and his team have distributed thousands of masks to health care workers, and our office has been in regular communication with Mr. Siriano. I am beyond grateful that he, and many others in the fashion community, stepped up to help New Yorkers in need.
The 2020 New York Primary Election is now only a few weeks away, on June 23!
Make sure that you have successfully completed your absentee ballot application so that your vote counts!
All you have to do to request your absentee ballot is input your contact information then select “Temporary Illness” for COVID-19 as the reason you are choosing to vote absentee.
TruFund Launches $5 Million COVID-19 Relief Fund to Support Disadvantaged Minority and Women-Owned Businesses!!!
TruFund’s small business COVID-19 relief fund is a follow up to its Small Business COVID19 Response Survey launched on March 16, 2020. The fund will include grants up to $10K (to qualified applicants), no application or closing fees for loans up to $75K. Loan interest will accrue at 3% and payments may be deferred for 9-12 months. These funds may be used for operating expenses.
Fill out the survey below to receive the application!
The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act
As you know The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) was signed into law by the President on March 27, 2020, allocating $349 billion to small businesses and private, non-profits through multiple relief programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
The CARES Act made some changes to the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program. Highlights of the program include:
- Available to small businesses to cover economic injury resulting from the disaster.
- Provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million with an interest rate of 3.75% and a maximum 30-year term.
- EIDL Loans are processed directly through the SBA.
- Applicants may request a loan advance of up to $10,000. Funds will be made available within three (3) days of a successful application, and this loan advance will not have to be repaid. This advance may be available even if applicants were declined or still pending. Current applicants must fill out a new application even if a previous EIDL application was submitted. Applying for the advance will not impact the status or slow the existing application.
- Business owners can apply using the link below.
For further assistance with this loan program, please contact the New York Women’s Chamber at email@example.com
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Highlights of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), authorized by the CARES Act, include:
- Loans of up to $10 million with an interest rate of 0.5%.
- Small businesses with 500 or fewer employees—including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors—are eligible. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries.
- Funds are provided in the form of loans that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
- PPP loans, unlike EIDL loans, are processed through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating. A list of participating lenders as well as additional information and full terms can be found at www.sba.gov.
- The program will be available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020.
- PPP loans will be available starting on Friday April 3, 2020. Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. We encourage you to apply as quickly as you can because there is a funding cap.
- Business owners can find the link to complete the application below:
NOTE: An applicant may receive an EIDL Loan and a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program as long as the basis for the loans are different.
Northern Manhattan Emergency Recovery Fund
New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in partnership with Congressman Adriano Espaillat, have launched a $10 Million Emergency Recovery Fund for Northern Manhattan small businesses and non-profits.
To qualify, businesses must be located or serve the Washington Heights, Inwood and Hamilton Heights communities, can demonstrate at least a 25% loss in revenue, been in operation for at least six months, non-profits must be an established 501(c)3, and small businesses must be a brick and mortar establishment with a maximum of 100 full and part-time employees.
El hospital, New York-Presbyterian, en asociación con el congresista Adriano Espaillat, han lanzado un fondo de recuperación de $10 millones de dólares para auxiliar a las pequeñas empresas y organizaciones sin fines de lucro del Alto Manhattan. Para calificar, las empresas deben de estar ubicadas o servir a las comunidades de Washington Heights, Inwood y Hamilton Heights. Además, deben comprobar que el negocio ha perdido al menos 25% de sus ingresos, que ha estado en funcionamiento al menos seis meses, que las empresas deben de estar ubicadas dentro de un establecimiento físico con un máximo de 100 empleados a tiempo completo o parcial. Las organizaciones sin fines de lucro deben de estar registradas bajo las regulaciones pautadas del 501(c)3 .
NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Program is Now Open!
To help small businesses deal with the impact of COVID-19, the City has launched the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Program. This program is available to New York City businesses with fewer than 100 employees that can demonstrate at least a 25% decrease in revenue as a result of COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for an interest-free loan up to $75,000.
- Be located within the five boroughs of New York City
- Demonstrate that the COVID-19 outbreak caused at least a 25% decrease in revenue
- Employ fewer than 100 employees in total across all locations
- Have been in operation for at least 2 years
- Demonstrate ability to repay the loan
- Have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgements
Las empresas con menos de 100 empleados que han visto disminuciones de ventas del 25% o más serán elegibles para los préstamos de interés cero de hasta $ 75.000 a ayudar a mitigar las pérdidas en ganancias.
Las empresas deben:
- Ubicarse dentro de los cinco condados de la ciudad de Nueva York
- Demostrar que el brote COVID-19 causó al menos una disminución del 25% en ingresos
- Emplear 99 empleados o menos en total en todas las ubicaciones
- Demostrar la capacidad para pagar el préstamo
- No tienen los privilegios fiscales pendientes o juicios legales
Small Business Grants Program
Facebook knows that your business may be experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve heard that a little financial support can go a long way, so we are offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time.
Up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries where we operate will be able to receive the grant. To be eligible to apply, you must:
- Have between 2 and 50 employees
- Have been in business for over a year
- Have experienced challenges from COVID-19
- Be in or near a location where Facebook operates
The Small Business Relief Initiative
GoFundMe has partnered with Yelp, Intuit QuickBooks, GoDaddy, and Bill.com to provide small business owners with the financial support and resources needed to continue running their businesses during and after the coronavirus crisis.
As part of the Small Business Relief Initiative, GoFundMe, Intuit QuickBooks, Yelp, GoDaddy, and Bill.com have each donated to the Small Business Relief Fund.
Grants are limited to $500 per person!