Lanny Smith’s Actively Black is Doing What Larger Corporations Aren’t—Investing in Black Communities

The death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minnesota police officers had companies and corporations promising to do better when it came to the betterment of Black people.

Three years later, not much, if anything, has changed on that front. That’s why former professional basketball player Lanny Smith started his sportswear company, Actively Black, in 2020 after the police killing of Floyd, when many companies pledged to promote diversity and invest in Black communities.

Smith’s company is reportedly worth $30 million. Last year, Actively Black brought in $5.6 million in revenue as they utilized a rotating cast of Black designers. Ten percent of the company’s sales were reinvested to take care of organizations that support social justice, mental health, and physical health in our Black communities.

“A lot of these sports apparel brands have profited off of Black talent,” Smith told CNBC Make It. “[The companies] have profited off of the consumerism from the Black community. And I felt like they hadn’t adequately reinvested back into the Black community.”

According to Smith, Actively Black has made donations (more than $500,000 in all) to programs such as the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, The Liberation Fund, Black Kids Code, Our Own, and Families United.

“My thought process is, if we’re donating at this type of percentage, what happens when we are the multibillion-dollar brand and we’re donating that type of money back into our communities?” Smith said. “We can have a real impact.”

Yet, another positive that comes out of the company is its willingness to bring on Black creators that the larger industry may be ignoring or haven’t yet discovered.

“Giving opportunities to Black talent, Black photographers, Black videographers, Black designers, Black marketers,” Smith said. “Giving these opportunities, even for employment and for talent, that they may not get in other places is very important.”