PORTLAND, Maine — The first woman of color to be crowned Miss Maine is using her platform to promote black-owned businesses during Black History Month.
Carolyn Brady said the goal is the lessen the economic inequality many people of color face.
"I have committed to buying black for the entire month of February," Brady said.
Twenty days into Black History Month and Brady is still going strong.
"I think it just shows how far we've come in our state as New Englanders and as far as racial progress," Brady said.
One of those businesses she has been frequenting this month is Rwanda Bean in Portland.
"Carolyn, the minute you meet her is an instant friend and supporter," Danielle Graffius said.
Rwanda Bean started about eight years ago when Mike Mwenedata moved to Maine from Rwanda. He is currently in Rwanda and Graffius told NEWS CENTER Maine that the company gives back to Rwanda with every cup of coffee.
"50% of all the coffee proceeds we reinvest directly back to the farmers and their families," she said.
This includes health insurance for farmers and education programs for children.
Brady can relate to Rwanda Bean's mission as an immigrant herself. Her grandparents are originally from the Caribbean.
"As an immigrant American, I think we are really focused on how commerce and how our progress relates to future generations as well as our past," she said.
According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, black Mainers make about $13 an hour on average, whereas white Mainers make an average of more than $18 an hour. Brady said it's important to close the gap regarding economic inequality.
"I think if we have the opportunity to choose where we put our dollar and we can invest in a way that gives back in the long term that's a really important thing to do," Brady said.
She said she's trying to go to black-owned businesses all over the state and next week she'll close out Black History Month in Camden. You can follow her #BuyBlack initiative on her Instagram @MissAmericaME