On February 26th 2019, Solange Knowles, one of the most prolific artists of our generation, leveraged her platform to breathe life back into one of the first homes for Black people on the web, BlackPlanet.
By visiting blackplanet.com/solange, fans can explore the latest artistic venture from the Grammy award winning star from the comfort of a platform we all feel nostalgic for.
Over a year ago, I penned a piece on HelloBeautiful, How Black Hollywood Is Failing The Black Press, exploring how the difficulties of working as a Black journalist becomes exasperated by the prejudice we face on red carpets and the propensity for Black talent to trust white outlets with their stories and breaking news over us. The article went viral, sparking industry wide conversations about the importance of Black press in preserving our narratives.
The moment made its way to the eyes and ears of some of Hollywood’s A-Listers, with BlackTreeTV journalist Jaleesa Lashay asking actor Sterling K Brown about the invisibility of Black journalists in the press room for the Sag Awards.
Actor and comedian Lil Rel also tackled the issue head on, telling audiences at the MTV Movie Awards that he would always look to speak to Black journalists first on the red carpets he attends to bridge the discrimination gap.
With numerous examples of Black stars coming forward to express their support and dedication for the Black Press over the past couple of months, Solange’s partnership with BlackPlanet is a buildup of a year’s worth of momentum.
BlackPlanet was launched in 2001 when the Internet was still infantile and computers weren’t pocket sized or convenient. Within the realm of endless possibilities for content, creator Omar Wasow sought to carve out a unique space for Black voices and Black connections online. Keep in mind, Wasow’s stroke of genius precludes the mammoth social media era kicked off by MySpace (2003) and Facebook (2004.).
As always, Black people were ahead of the trend, forecasting that one day we would all look to create little webpage extensions of our personalities and lives on the web. In the height of BlackPlanet’s reign, we all immediately became web designers before we even knew the career existed—creatively using copy and paste HTML code to customize our pages with our favorite songs, patterns and designs.
Beyond our personalized content, BlackPlanet formed its own online community, chock-full of opportunities to share news and gossip, build friendships, and most importantly, make love connections with a stranger.
As social networking exploded into an Internet phenomenon, fickle audiences migrated to mainstream platforms, forgetting the sacred temple we had built for our memories and conversations in our own online tribe.
This is why Solange’s desire to collaborate with BlackPlanet, the Black owned digital arm of the Urban One family, is such a pivotal industry shift.
For once, mainstream outlets had to flock to a Black owned URL to find the latest project from a Black star. In a normal news cycle we are chasing the latest Twitter Trend, today, Black folks owned the conversation first. If this triumphant moment is a any indication to how Black celebs and Black press can work in tandem to drive the culture forward, the future looks bright and gorgeous AF.
Keyaira Kelly is a writer, producer and professional talker for iOne Digital. You can find her work at @keyairakelly on Instagram & Twitter and at KeyairaKelly.com.