For years, McDonald’s has toted itself as being “365 Black” in an effort to show consumers they support the African-American community every day of the year. But during this year’s Essence Festival, the fast food giant unveiled new messaging that turns the focus on its customers and is aimed at celebrating African-American excellence and spawning a movement that sheds light on our successes: Black & Positively Golden
“This is our renewed commitment to the African-American community and a way for us to really stand up for something that’s more than just about a campaign,” Lizette Williams, Head of Cultural Engagement & Experiences for McDonald’s Corporation, told us at a company breakfast during the festival. During a press conference the day before, Williams said Black & Positively Golden is the largest African-American-focused campaign launched by McDonald’s in 15 years.
“When we were designing it, we talked to tons of consumers, tons of African-American consumers. We heard from them what was important and what they cared about. People are about brands that stand up for what they believe in and the narrative that we’re facing in this country right now, it was just the time to have positive, uplifting conversation that inspires Black excellence so that’s what Black and Positively Golden is about.”
During the 25th Anniversary Essence Festival, McDonald’s, who’s been a sponsor for 16 years, leaned heavily into its new movement. At the breakfast, guests were able to create their own custom Black and Positively T-shirts, choosing from adjectives like resilient, bold, brilliant, and, of course, golden.
During the We Shine panel, La La Anthony, Dana Chanel, Nicole Walters, Jewel Burks Solomon, and Jade Ashley Colin, led a panel discussion on entrepreneurship. And throughout the weekend, singers Jazmine Sullivan and Kierra Sheard also uplifted the crowds with their performances at the McDonald’s booth.
When asked how McDonald’s will be carrying out this movement beyond the festival, Williams shared the 13-year running Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour, which is free to the public, is a part of Black and Positively Golden now, as is the company’s longstanding partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. At the Festival, McDonald’s gave away two $10,000 scholarships to college freshman.
“We look for college-age HBCU talent that really are about the same thing, causes we care about and the community they serve, above and beyond educational requirements. Students that really aspire to something bigger and better for themselves and for their communities are important to us,” Williams explained.
Thinking back to McDonald’s longstanding entrenchment with the Black community as a whole, Williams shared how she grew up in the Bronx at the height of the crack epidemic in the ’80s and McDonald’s was the only fast-food place her mother would allow her to go to alone. It was also the only restaurant where you didn’t have to order food through a bullet-proof glass window.
“It’s always been the safe place. It’s always been the meeting place. McDonald’s was showing up in these neighborhoods before any other restaurants would even come in,” Williams said. “That’s what we’re about. We understood the power of the [Black] consumer, the power of the network, and giving back to these communities as well. Our African-American franchisees are actually giving back to those communities and that’s always been just such an integral part of the McDonald’s narrative and our own history with African-Americans. This is a continuation of the story. It’s nothing new. It’s a refresh.”