Leslie Mac and Marissa Jenae Johnson created the subscription service Safety Pin Box intending to teach white people about racial justice, but they have always been honest about their main objective.
“Our goal is to move resources from white people directly into the hands of black women who are on the front lines of doing liberation work," Mac said.
For $100 a month white people can be sent the Safety Pin Box, which includes three tasks meant to help customers learn, analyze and take action against racial injustice. Each month has a different theme.
“One month we might be covering black incarceration, or the police or last January during inauguration month our theme was 'Not My President,” Johnson said.
September’s theme was black reproductive justice and came with suggested reading material, questions to help subscribers self-analyze and then asked the customer to give a financial donation to black-led organizations confronting reproductive justice issues as a way to take action.
Customers can also get a digital subscription for $25 a month or share a box for $50.
Mac and Johnson would not disclose their profits or how much is spent on operational costs. Since the company’s launch, where the money goes has been part of the criticism, which the founders said in itself is racist.
“We're just two black women trying to not just be compensated for the work that we do, but also build sustainability into the work that we think is really important in the world," Mac said
One of these critics was YouTube personality Jeff Holiday, who had posted a video earlier this year about the subscription service.
“There is nothing more efficient to be weaponized for monetary gain these days then perceived persecution or something that has social clout. And unfortunately as uncomfortable as it is, and I wish it wasn’t the case, race is something that we profit off of these days. And it goes off both sides too," he said.
On their website, the founders are clear that Safety Pin Box is a business and not a charity, and they said in 2017 they have donated $150,000 to black women doing work in the black liberation movement.
“In 2017, black trauma and racial animus is always right around the corner. And so we've been able to capitalize on those moments, in our opinion for good, because it just means more money we're able to transfer over to black women,” Mac said.
People can apply to receive a donation from Safety Pin Box on their website. How much is given and the number of recipients receiving donations depends on how many subscribers there are each month and can vary.
"Applicants will just apply and, you know, write a little blurb about what they do or what their place is in the work that we do. Whether that's raising black children, whether you're a community organizer whether you're going to school," Johnson said.
Some of the donation recipients are featured in each box. Three women were featured in the September box, where they were able to share information about their work and also share their answers to questions like, "What's one thing you wish white people would stop doing?"
The tactics behind the Safety Pin Box was also one of Holiday’s criticisms.
“White people then push that there’s an overwhelming white narrative and that gets people even more pissed off, and more racial tensions and suddenly they are on both sides just going ballistic,” he said.
Holiday said he thinks the service could use more compassion.
“You don’t build love and respect with someone through shame," he said.
But Mac and Johnson stand by their company
“I think we've still come up against this notion that we're, like, too hard on white people or we're not building bridges or whatever it might be. And from our perspective I think if you talk to our subscribers you'll hear the benefit that they've seen in having, kind of this tough love approach to their interactions with us," Mac said.
Check out these related Circa stories:
A triumph over hate: Meet the former skinhead behind 'American History X'
As Confederate monuments topple, some question why this former U.S. senator is left out
Active prosthetics in Russia are helping children with their mobility