Things were going well for Reuben Canada, a Point Breeze resident and entrepreneur. His ginger, green tea and cayenne pepper beverage, Jin+Ja, is carried by Whole Foods and other stores around Philly. A Walmart buyer was hooked on the drink and was interested in picking up the line. But, the buyer suggested, it would be even better if Canada could get his business formally certified as minority-owned. The buyer referred Canada to the Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC), which is a certifying agency approved not only by Fortune 500 companies, but also by the City of Philadelphia, for identifying minority-owned businesses. He submitted an application. Then, Canada says, things got weird.
He says the regional business certification director, Elizabeth Munoz-Ortiz, told him, "While reviewing your application, I saw your passport photo. Based on your passport photo, it is not obvious that you are of African descent, so we will need additional proof of your African descent." She added, he claims, that the only acceptable form of proof would be a birth certificate of a parent that states their African lineage.