I Love Black People harnesses technology to inform and protect Black communities.
It’s technology and digital media to the rescue as a Black technology startup by two Howard University alumni is taking on the responsibility of making the Black community feel safe and protect Black lives globally as reports of incidents of racism are on the rise. With the Black Lives Matter movement at the fore and the ripples felt the world over, this tech platform is a welcome solution in the fight against acts of discrimination based on the color of one’s skin.
I❤️Black People co-founders Christopher Mapondera and Sinclair Skinner established the site two years ago as a global network for, by and of the Black community worldwide. Their mission is to have members and supporters recommend Black-owned and Black-friendly businesses to help invest in purposeful decisions as to where Black dollars are spent.
Using Technology For Good
I❤️Black People is also an effort to help save and protect Black lives, whether in their own neighborhoods, new environments or traveling near and far. The company’s U.S. spokesperson Jarvis Houston shares, “It’s very important that we create a vehicle to protect Black people and save lives…that’s just the world we live in today.” If you’ve experienced racism when traveling locally or internationally or had the feeling that staff at a business appeared unwilling to serve you based on your race, I❤️Black People hopes to be the app and service to lay those worries to rest.
“The platform now has 50,000 members worldwide with thousands of people recommending businesses everyday owned by other Black people to ensure the Black community is spending their dollars in the right place,” shares Houston, who admits global response to I❤️Black People has been encouraging.
By tapping into current technologies (think GPS and mapping), the app provides a database of Black-owned and Black-friendly businesses under eight essential categories: legal, transportation, finance, education and childcare, health, beauty, accommodation and food. Consider it an extended electronic version of sorts of the original Green Book, an annual guidebook for African American travelers first published by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green during an era when discrimination against African Americans in the U.S. was widespread.
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Both Mapondera and Skinner are also cofounders of BillMari, the largest pan-African bitcoin wallet provider using blockchain technology and among the most successful bitcoin companies in Africa. The two entrepreneurs combined their business acumen in building this platform that is tech-based and crowdsourced.
Extending the Digital Reach
Though the platform was initially leveraged to protect Black people from racism, the new voting campaign at I❤️Black People is the vital next step. The co-founders quickly dove into their pre-existing network to mobilize Black voters to make a difference by pushing for voter participation through mass registrations and absentee ballot requests. “We were able to coordinate the first-ever of its kind Black business #GetOutTheVote drive communicating to African American people throughout the country about voting on election day with our nonpartisan program,” says Houston.
Business owners registered on the app are giving out smart t-shirts with QR codes that can be scanned via mobile phone to access helpful early voting information, find state-specific instant voter registration, mail-in absentee ballot information, and information on the Black political agenda.
The smart t-shirts aren’t a fashion statement but rather an act of empowerment. The innovative design connects users in the fight against racism. Funds raised from the sale of t-shirts are then allocated toward the purchase of even more smart t-shirts and the development of the digital platform for broader outreach, especially in swing states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
“People like that we think about issues that are important and we are not asking for anything. We are only telling them to recommend Black businesses that they know, to speak about issues that are important in their community. Our long-term plan is to engage the Black community about issues that are important to them, such as Black history in schools, reparations, economic equality. That’s one of the main pillars of I❤️Black People,” says Houston.
Strategizing for the Future
After the voting campaign, I❤️Black People will continue to crowdsource and build its membership base. Supporters and members of the service can participate by becoming brand ambassadors and volunteers to recommend businesses within their communities and neighborhoods for other Black people to visit and support. The network includes 400 ambassadors and 14,000 businesses in over 200 cities.
“We will work as a policy vehicle with people of the African diaspora as a whole to make sure that the people in office actually pass laws and make policies that are important to us. We will use our membership base to harness and communicate that,” shares Houston.
On the future of travel and the Black Travel Movement in the time of a pandemic, he shares: first, be safe, and second, be educated before going to any country, especially as a solo or new traveler to that area.
On that front and at the community level, Houston sees I❤️Black People focus on a few different efforts. “One is to continue saving lives and making sure that Black people go to places similar to the Green Book that respects them and the Black diaspora. Two is supporting Black businesses because some of these have failed or not recovered since the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s important to support them. And three is to educate the Black community about really important policy and agenda items that are important to them so they have an organization that is nonpartisan that is talking about these issues and working to push the people that are in office to pass laws that will save lives and provide the economic vehicle for us to survive.”