The Dating App Prioritizing Black Love Year Round

When it comes to the discussion surrounding safe spaces, not many people think to include the dating app sphere. However, the proliferation of platforms providing a place where you inherently feel safe, respected and understood is still a much-needed conversation — and it’s been proven by the overwhelming response to BLK.

Launched in the summer of 2017, BLK was created by the Match Group — the parent company of other dating apps like Tinder and OkCupid — with young Black singles specifically in mind. Since then, BLK’s been downloaded more than 4 million times and has become the fastest growing app in the Match Group family, which the app’s Head of Marketing and Brand Jonathan Kirkland said “speaks to the fact that BLK was something that the community needed and wanted.”

Related | Ijeoma Oluo’s New Book Is More Than Required Reading

Granted, Kirkland said that amidst this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, BLK’s main focus has shifted this past year from “just dating” to building a community hub where Black singles can connect and feel supported, all while having an “outlet for these big conversations” with others who understand the true depth and scope of these ongoing discussions.

“With a lot of other dating apps and general market apps, the focus on Black people and Blackness only happens when there’s an issue like BLM or George Floyd or Breonna Taylor,” as Kirkland explained. “And even with those, it’s only the big ones that make the news. It’s not the local man who was shot that didn’t make it to CNN.”

He continued, “A lot of other companies were standing in solidarity with the Black community… But at BLK, we’re always Black. That’s our focus, that’s our lens, that’s who we are. And it’s not just during a key cultural moment, or Black History Month, or something else in the calendar where it’ll make sense.”

Kirkland added that one of their biggest goals now is ensuring that BLK continues to be an app where Black women in particular feel safe, respected and desired, before citing a 2014 OkCupid study which found that Black women were liked at far lower rates than women of other races.

Related | Portraits of Black Men Who Marched for George Floyd in Harlem

“Black women are considered the most ‘disliked’ on dating apps,” he said. “They get the least amount of right swipes. Even on general market apps, Black men are swiping less on Black women. There’s definitely a huge void there, as well as a lot of discrimination on the general market apps.”

One person who’s unfortunately all too aware of this is BLK user Taylor Smith, who explained that on other dating sites, people will often “swipe left just because you’re a Black woman.” After all, while the 23-year-old has used other apps like Hinge and Tinder in the past, her experience on these platforms as a Black woman often made her feel like “there was no point” as she was always “either neglected or wanted for the wrong reasons.”

“Whether you’re fetishized or a guy wants you to be the first Black woman he gets with, [it’s like] you’re only good enough for a hook-up or only desired for your body,” she explained, adding that on these other apps, many non-Black men would also give her racist compliments like, “‘You’re beautiful for a Black woman'” or “‘You’re the only Black woman I’d ever date.'”

With BLK, Smith said “it’s like you know for a fact that they’re gonna swipe right because you’re what they’re looking for. They’re looking for someone who looks like you. They’re looking for someone with your shared cultural background. So it’s just a sense of feeling desired, beautiful and wanted.”

Related | Lamorne Morris on What It Takes to Be ‘WOKE’

As a Black woman, Smith said having an app like BLK “is important because we do live in a society where the Black woman is the most disrespected person in general — never getting credit for things or never getting told how admirable she is, or how attractive she is. So it’s nice to have guys on a dating app who already love everything about you, and they want someone like you.”

Outside of just dating though, Smith’s BLK experience has also been “really refreshing” thanks to the more real and authentic connections she’s made thus far. After all, as she explained, BLK has helped her find others “who are going through the same societal struggles,” which has subsequently fostered “much deeper conversations about topics that affect our lives beyond the app.”

Though you’re on there to find a “romantic connection,” Smith said it’s allowed her to find a community, as well. “You have members of the Black community who are all going through the same struggles as you. And if they aren’t now, they have at some point,” she said, adding that it’s been nice to not have to explain complex concepts or why she feels the way she does about these big issues that affect every part of her life.

Smith continued, “Whether it’s racism or discrimination, no matter what, these people, they understand you 100%. There’s never a time when they’re like, ‘Oh, police brutality? That’s happening? Who’s Sandra Bland?’ And I feel like when you’re using the other apps, guys will be like, ‘Wait, what’s going on? This is happening? What’s systemic racism?'”

Related | A Witch’s Guide to Manifesting a Better Tinder Match

With feedback like this, Kirkland said BLK will still prioritize user engagement by rolling out a series of new lifestyle and entertainment-geared functions early next year. The hope is that these features will keep emphasizing the community aspect of the app so that users like Smith can continue fostering these “genuine connections” both on and outside the app.

“On BLK, it feels like you have a community behind you who understands these outside things happening in the world, and they’re not closing it off just because we’re on a dating app,” Smith added before concluding, “This is an app where you’re seen beyond the app.”

Welcome to “Sex with Sandra,” a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, “Sex with Sandra” is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photo via Getty

Halsey Announces Black Creators Funding Initiative

Halsey announced via Twitter yesterday that she’s started a new fund for rising and aspiring Black artists on the internet, taking submissions from around the world via the hashtag #BLACKCREATORSFUND. “If you’re an artist, poet, graphic designer, writer, film maker, music producer, journalist, make up artist, or creator of any kind, we want to see your work and want to help achieve your goals,” a flyer for the Black Creators Funding Initiative states.

Related | How Police Abolition Went Mainstream in Two Weeks

The singer has always led young activists by using her platform for good, and most recently was reporting from the frontlines of Black Lives Matter protests in Los Angeles in the wake of the death of George Floyd. While the new fund is still in its early stages, there’s already buzz around the world from creators on Twitter hoping to receive assistance from Halsey to better amplify their work on the internet and IRL.

Halsey’s manager, Anthony Li, clarified specifics of the gifting process via his personal Twitter account yesterday evening. “Starting off, we’ll be gifting funds to black creators, as well as social media posts to help launch their platforms & amplify their art,” he wrote. “Behind the scenes, we’ll be connecting the dots for other black creators, anything from introductions/points of contact or informational help.”

In addition to launching a website for the Black Creators Funding Initiative on June 18, 2020, Halsey also plans to announce the first round of recipients on the same day. She also clarified that she’s funding the entire initiative herself, and will be choosing winners as she lurks through the hashtag for the fund throughout the week.

Photo via Getty

Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Walkout Against Trump Posts

After Mark Zuckerberg’s comments last week about Facebook’s strategy of taking a less hands-on approach to regulating President Donald Trump’s postings on the platform compared to Twitter, employees are publicly criticizing the company — and staging a walkout in opposition.

Related | Twitter Flags Trump and the White House Threats for Violence

When Trump sent out his first several inflammatory tweets concerning the protests in honor of George Floyd last week, Twitter took swift action to label his speech as violent. While the posts were ultimately kept available for viewing, they were only accessible under a content warning — a limit that set Trump off. The platform’s unwavering stance against Trump’s threats was celebrated by many, but caused conservatives to mumble about sanctions on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from immense liabilities and promotes free speech online.

Instead of taking similar action, or at the very least promising it in the future, against Trump’s incendiary speech on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg instead chose to opt for a stance that allowed the posts to stay up. Although it is true that Facebook should not act as an editorial board for its members posts, should it want to safeguard its Section 230 immunity, many Facebook employees are vehemently against Zuckerberg’s inaction.

The New York Times first reported that several employees were preparing for a virtual walkout today to show that they were ready to resign from their positions over the issue. Petitions were allegedly circulated since the incident calling for the resignations of executives, including Facebook’s vice president of global policy and “close friend” of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Joel Kaplan.

Now, amid radio silence in the form of action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, employees have signed off for the day and activated automated email replies that explained their out-of-office status as an act of protest.

Zuckerberg allegedly plans to meet with employees tomorrow for his usual weekly meeting instead of on Thursday. Reports say that he will hold space for employees to question him then on his viewpoint of limiting Trump’s speech as curatorial and ultimate decision to keep Trump’s posts on the platform.

Photo via Getty

Virgil Abloh Roasted for Only Donating $50 to Protesters

Today in the crumbling of the celebrity-industrial complex, cult Off-White designer Virgil Abloh is being eviscerated online for donating a mere $50 to a Miami community bail fund.

Related | How to Support Protesters in Every City

As protests have sprung up in over 75 cities following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others, bail funds are freeing people jailed for rallying against police killings. Dozens of funds raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from via “match me” threads. While everyday people are chipping in between $25-50, celebrities are making hefty donations commensurate with their income. Rapper Noname encouraged her celebs followers to copy her $1,000 donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund: Earthgang, Smino, 6LACK, Jessie Reyez, J.I.D, Rico Nasty, Yara Shahidi, Kehlani, Aminé and others all matched. Chrissy Teigen donated $100,000, then doubled it after being pressed by followers.

Related | Some Celebrities Are Getting it Right

“The Miami community ~ i’m crazy inspired. for the kids in the streets that need bail funds for George Floyd protests,” Abloh posted on his Insta story along with a screenshot of donation receipt for Fempower Mia, a Miami art collective that’s been providing food to and bailing out protesters. “Matching the local energy,” he added.

Given that Abloh’s net worth is reportedly between $4 and 15 million, and his brand is best known for $1,000 sweatshirts and $275 “industrial” belts, his check being the same as unemployed recent college and high school grads or underpaid New York City writers hit people the wrong way.

Trolls updated Abloh’s Wikipedia entry to read “Virgil ‘Cheap Ass’ Abloh” and are flooding his mentions with price comparisons between his products and his donation.

Abloh is also under fire for moralizing about looting, after protesters damaged Sean Wotherspoon’s stores Round Two and Round Two vintage in Hollywood in Miami. “This is fucked up,” he commented on Wotherspoon’s post about his store. “You see the passion blood sweat and tears Sean puts in for our culture. This disgusts me.” Wotherspoon himself replied to a distressed commenter: “I can’t stress enough, our shops are not what you should be worried about… We need our world to change, people should all be treated equal.” Marc Jacobs, after his store was vandalized, also expressed empathy for protesters. “A life cannot be replaced,” he captioned a photo of his graffitied Los Angeles store.

Celebs like Ariana Grande, Tinashe, Kali Uchis, Lil Yachty, Nick Cannon, Jamie Foxx, J. Cole, Michael B. Jordan, Amandla Stenberg, Kendrick Sampson, Porsha Williams, John Cusack, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes, Halsey and more have all actually shown up to protests in their home cities.

Of course, there’s plenty of white celebs who are also doing the least, or worse. Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne et al were roasted for re-posting an Insta story chain post (“Tag 10 people who will not break the black lives matter chain”) instead of donating or turning out to protests. Jake Paul was spotted trashing a store for sport in Scottsdale, AZ (he’s denied he was looting), and Heidi Klum briefly tweeted an “All Lives Matter” graphic before deleting.

Related | Lil Yachty, Tinashe, Nick Cannon, More Celebs Join Protests

Celebrities’ ignorance about the protests adds to growing mass contempt for the rich and famous, already stoked by the pandemic’s clear class divide. Unclear when the revolution will hit Calabasas, but at least we can expect a Notes app screenshot from Abloh soon.

Donate to Fempower’s bail fund here.

Photo via Getty

Twitter Flags Trump and the White House Threats for Violence

Around 1:00 AM EST on May 29, United States President Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize Minneapolis leadership’s response to the current protests taking place in the wake of George Floyd’s death earlier this week. In calling for an end to the looting of businesses, however, Trump not only threatened to send in the National Guard to “get the job done right,” but also directly threatened violence against those participating. Twitter swiftly flagged the tweet, stating that it violated Twitter Rules about glorifying violence, but the tweet remains viewable to users.

Related | How You Can Demand Justice for George Floyd

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump’s since-flagged racist tweet reads in a thread of his rantings. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

The very immediate threat of violence against protestors was evident to the people watching Trump’s tantrum on social media unfold, and takedown reports sent to Twitter seem to have worked. Although the platform allowed the tweet to remain available for click-through viewing, it attached a message to the original reply and disabled link sharing. The phrase “when the shooting starts, the looting starts” originated when it was first uttered by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967 as a racist threat against citizens in the Civil Rights movement.

Related | A Black EMT Was Shot by Police in Her Home

“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” the warning message reads attached to Trump’s tweet. His reaction to having his tweet flagged was, expectedly, not happy — he took aim directly at the company this morning and vowed to enforce an executive order signed yesterday to expand social companies’ liability for its users’ postings under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Once Trump realized his tweet was only available for limited viewing to the public, The White House’s official Twitter account reposted the original message — and then also got flagged for violent speech. The account, which now appears to be as much a mouthpiece for Trump’s tirades as his personal account, calls for Twitter to be deemed a publisher and thus sacrifice its Section 230 immunity.

Photo via