Part of AALBC.com’s mission is to help support Black-owned websites. Historically, I’ve focused on sites related to books including, publisher sites, authors sites, and even other bookseller sites. I support other booksellers, because no single site can possibly cover all the great Black books available, and each site brings a unique perspective to how they cover Black books.
As the number of large Black-owned websites that cover Black books began to decrease, I expanded the scope of websites that I supported to include Black-Owned Magazines and Black-Owned Newspapers. While newspapers and magazines do not cover Black books as deeply, or as frequently, as a dedicated book site would, they still are important platforms for Black writers and their books.
Many of our Black-owned newspaper and magazine websites began publishing less original content or shutting down. So I decided to open up my support to include even the largest Black-owned sites. In 2013, I compiled a list of the top 10 sites and called it the crude but traffic generating name, “The 10 Best Damn Black Websites Period!”
I discovered during my research many of the most popular websites focused on Black culture were not Black-owned. It became clear, Black people are not profiting from the great wealth generated on the web—even when the content is directly related to Black culture.
Perhaps worse, I found the most frequently visited websites owned by Black people were enjoying great success by providing very salacious, celebrity driven content. Comments in reaction to an article in Black Enterprise celebrating the success of one such site, MediaTakeOut, illustrates this point:
“Black Enterprise should be embarrassed to do a story praising this man [MediaTakeOut’s Founder, Fred Mwangaguhunga] like he is some type of role model for the black community. Did you even look at his website before writing this article? It is extremely racist against white people, very degrading to black people, homophobic, and constantly making fun of people. I don’t know when publishing this type of offensive trash on a low budget website became worthy of so much praise, or how the lies on his site can be considered “celeb news”. Black Enterprise just lost a lot of credibility and better realize that Media Take Out is an embarrassment to black people.”
“When I think of minstrel websites such as MTO, BlackPlanet, BET, and WorldStarHip (actually, all of their clones, quite frankly), and the collective devastating effects of ZIP COONERY on our people, I think of the UNCF slogan: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
These comments were not cherry picked to make my point but are reflective of the overall reaction to the article, (Black Enterprise, June 21, 2011, “Former Lawyer Succeeds Online as Man Behind MediaTakeOut”).
MediaTakeOut is not alone. In fact, as far I can tell, Worldstar Hip Hop, is the most frequently visited Black-owned website, but their content is arguably even more prurient than MediaTakeOut’s.
Fortunately, the World Wide Web is vast and there is plenty of room for all types of websites. However, because of the dominance exerted by a handful of extremely powerful corporations, independent, Black-owned websites that produce serious content are crowded out and are effectively rendered undiscoverable.
As a result, when it comes to informing Black people of important issues, determining how Black people are portrayed in the media, and sharing in the wealth that is created on the web, Black people are largely excluded.
Some Black folks take great pride in our dominance of #blacktwitter, but no one mentions how little we profit from that activity or even asks how Twitter actually serves the Black community. Many websites have turned to Facebook to bring visitors to their websites; they built large Facebook followings, only to have Facebook tell them that organic reach has ended, and that they must now must pay to reach the audience they worked so hard to build.
If we are to regain our agency and share more equitably in the revenue generated on the web, we must make this happen ourselves. AALBC.com’s contribution is to help spread the word about hundreds of popular Black-owned websites as well as sharing detailed information about our Top 50 Black-Owned Websites.
We all can do something to help increase the influence, revenue, and quality of Black-owned websites. The solution is quite simple:
We Must Patronize Black-Owned Websites:
- Identify one or two websites that you like and visit them regularly,
- Leave comments on their articles and engage on their discussion forums,
- Subscribe to their publications,
- Send them feedback,
- Buy their products, and
- Share their content with others
The solution is not more engagement on social media—that just enriches social media at our expense. The solution will not come from government legislation—they are part of the problem and any potential solution will come after the damage has been done.
There is still a wealth of interesting content on the web. Indeed I trust AALBC.com is contributing to that wealth, but it will not continue if the current trends persist unabated. If we don’t determine what is important, then someone else will do it for us.
The power to increase Black ownership and control on the World Wide Web is in our hands. Lets use our power!